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Jul 24 2014

Le Tour 2014: Stage 18, Pau / Hautacam

Le.  Tour.  De.  France.

The big contest yesterday was for King of the Mountains (Climbing competition) which will likely be decided after today with but a single Category 4 left tomorrow between the riders and the Champs-Élysées.  It is our 3rd and last day in the Pyrenees with a riding rest day and an Individual Time Trial left in play before the customary grand procession where it’s considered bad form for any but Sprinters to attempt to change their positions.

Rafal Majka was able to extend his lead in that contest over the 2nd place competitor Vincenzo Nibali and 3rd place Joaquim Rodriguez after withstanding an early charge by Vasil Kiryienka.  As for the General Classification Alejandro Valverde BelMonte, Thibaut Pinot, Jean-Christophe Péraud, Romain Bardet, and Tejay Van Garderen attempted to improve their positions heading into Saturday’s Time Trials where presumably Nibali is weakest (though pre-Tour that was rated his strongest discipline) with most of the attention on the contest between the 2 young French riders, Pinot and Bardet, none of them to much effect.

On the stage it was Rafal Majka, Giovanni Visconti (:29), Vincenzo Nibali and Jean-Christophe Péraud tied at :46, Allesandro De Marchi (:49), and Pierre Rolland (:52).  Frank Schleck led a group of 9 riders at under 2 minutes including Alejandro Valverde BelMonte, Thibaut Pinot, Romain Bardet, and Tejay Van Garderen.  In the General Classification it is Vincenzo Nibali, Alejandro Valverde BelMonte (5:26), Thibaut Pinot (6:00), Jean-Christophe Péraud (6:08), and Romain Bardet (7:34).  Everyone else is over 10 minutes behind.  For Points it is Peter Sagan (408), Bryan Coquard (233), Alexander Kristoff (217), Marcel Kittel (177), Mark Renshaw (153), Vincenzo Nibali (149), Greg Van Avermaet (147), and André Greipel (143).  Everyone else is 38 points behind.  In the In the Climbing contest it is Rafal Majka (149), Vincenzo Nibali (118), and Joaquim Rodriguez (112).  Everyone else is 46 points behind.  In Team competition it is AG2R, Belkin (26:43), Movistar (52:30), Sky (56:55), and BMC (59:33).  Everybody else is over an hour behind.  In Youth it is Thibaut Pinot, Romain Bardet (1:34), and  Michal Kwiatkowski (30:41).  Everybody else is 55 minutes or more behind.

Today’s 90 and a half mile stage from Pau / Hautacam is really about the last chance for a major shuffle.  If Nibali can emerge with anything like the margins he now holds any Time Trial speciallist will be hard pressed to make them up.  There are 80 points available in King of the Mountains so there’s at least the theoretical chance of movement, after today there are virtually no points left.  Peter Sagan would have to have something catastrophic happen and might win despite that.  You can expect Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet to battle to the end in the Youth competition.

This stage looks easy only in comparison to yesterday, 2 Category 3s and 2 Beyond Category.  The Sprint Checkpoint is after the 2 Category 3s.

Distance Name Length Category
Km 28.0 Côte de Bénéjacq 2.6 km @ 6.7% 3
Km 56.0 Côte de Loucrup 2 km @ 7% 3
Km 95.5 Col du Tourmalet (2 115 m) Souvenir Jacques Goddet 17.1 km @ 7.3% H
Km 145.5 Montée du Hautacam (1 520 m) 13.6 km @ 7.8% H

The Col du Tourmalet is legendary and they are going up the hard side.  It is long and steep, a little less than 3 km of 10% gradient.  Montée du Hautacam is, if anything, even worse.  It’s only marginally shorter and has a full 3 km of 10% gradient plus.  The finish is up hill, don’t expect to see a sprint.

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