This is a stage tailor-made for the sprinters. Mark Cavendish, Andre Greipel and Marcel Kittel will go head-to-head again and the tricky finish favors the Manxman.
Without a single categorized climb, there aren’t much to say about this stage. The 218 km from Fougères to Tours take the riders southeast into the country and if you had to skip one stage of this year’s Tour de France, this is probably the one to miss. The intermediate sprint is located with 52 km to go and this will most likely be the only interesting part of the stage so far. If the wind is strong enough some teams could try to split the peloton but I doubt it will happen. If so, it will be towards the intermediate sprint.
Contrary to most of the stage, the finish is very difficult. For some reason ASO thought it was a good idea to put in not one but two 90° turns in the last kilometer. The first one comes with about 650 meters to go and the second one with only 450 meters to the line. This means it won’t be a power sprint like last time but it doesn’t undermine the importance of the leadout trains. The peloton will be stretched out significantly in these two right hand corners and you need to be among the first four or five riders into the first corner if you want to win this stage.
The leadout trains are again very important but the tricky finish favors Mark Cavendish. Andre Greipel and Marcel Kittel are both best when delivered in high speed but that won’t be the case in Tours. With the final corner just 450 meters from the line, the ideal scenario would be to enter that corner in second position with one leadout rider in front. Omega Pharma Quickstep messed up last time with Steegmans and Cavendish and they will be eager to take revenge. Also, some idiot sprayed urine on Mark Cavendish in the time trial and if he can convert his rage into power, he will be very difficult to beat.
|The final four kilometers of Stage 12. Click for larger view.|
The tricky final also seems good for Peter Sagan. Nobody in the professional peloton handles their bike like Sagan does and he’s not shy of pushing to get the right wheel when he has to. Like Cavendish, Sagan accelerates very quickly and even though he’s not as fast as Cavendish and Greipel, he should still be able to make Top3.
I think I’ve already mentioned all the joker candidates during the Tour so we are back to repeating a few. I’ve been very impressed by young Danny Van Poppel so far. He’s the youngest Tour debutant since WWII and almost two weeks into the race, he’s still going strong. His leadout man Kris Boeckmans had a bike problem in the final of Stage 10 and despite the crash in front of him, Van Poppel still managed to finish 9th. Van Poppel has a fast acceleration and if he gets onto the right wheel in the final, he could very well make another top performance.
Also, look out for Cyril Lemoine. The French sprinter will be on home soil and in front of his family and friends, he will be extra motivated to do well. Lemoine knows an early breakaway may be doomed but I won’t be surprised if he tries a late attack. If not, expect Sojasun to set up Cyril Lemoine for the sprint. He should know the tricky finish better than anyone else.
Favorite: Mark Cavendish
Jokers: Danny Van Poppel & Cyril Lemoine
For live race coverage go to Steephill.tv
Just like during the Giro d’Italia this year, I once again have the chance to bring you daily “Fly Through” previews from Global Cycling Network. Here is Stage 12: