Where in the world is the Tour?
Stage 15 sees the flattest finish of any of the transition stages in this year's Tour an as a result we may well see a sprint.
Leaving the Massif Central and heading 183 kilometres across the Valence Plain to Valance, the route for Stage 15 is mountainous in the first half before dropping down in the second half with just the one category 2 climb, the Col de l’Escrinet, to mix things up.
The last time the Tour headed up the Escrinet was in 2009 when Mark Cavendish hung in with the leaders over the climb to take the sprint finish in Aubenas.
With the flat 60 kilometres that come after the 7.9 kilometre, 5.8% gradient Escrinet this should prove adequate time for the sprinters' teams to line up for the run in to Valence.
Team bus tactics:
With such a lack of sprinting stages in this year's Tour, the quick men and their respective teams are clutching at straws and with the closest thing they will have seen to a flat finish since Stage 7 and the last time they'll see such a finish till Paris, Valence will be a big target for the likes of Etixx Quickstep, Giant Alpecin and Lotto Soudal.
One element working in the favour of the sprinters is the location of the intermediate sprint, 5 or so kilometres before they head up to the Escrinet so they should be relatively close to the front for the climb, giving them good position for the 60 kilometre push to the finish.
If the sprinters don't seem to fancy it the the stage is ripe for a breakaway, especially with three low category climbs coming in the first half of the day. If a group of six to ten riders builds up a lead of ten or so minutes by the time they reach the Escrinet then look for them to go all the way to the finish.
In the mix in every sprint of the Tour so far, Giant Alpecin's John Degenkolb will be itching to pick up a stage win,especially with the absence of the team's primary sprinter Marcel Kittel.
Giant Alpecin still have a strong team left in the race and the 26 year-old German's ability to climb relatively well should help him up and over the Escrinet for a good position heading for Valence.
Let us know who you think will be victorious in Stage 14 in the comments section below.
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