2013 Tour de France Stage 20 Preview

Here is an in depth analysis into Stage 20 of this year's Tour de France, which is the final mountain stage of this year's Tour:

Originally I derided this stage as being unimaginative and plain boring. Having studied it further I actually believe it is a fascinating profile which bucks the general trend, here is why:

I always find a new climb an intriguing prospect, particularly a climb which is atypical and presents a unique challenge. Annency Semnoz is just such a climb with 10.7km at 8.5%, that is shorter than both Ventoux or Le Alpe but crucially it is steeper with a gradient of 8.5%.

Furthermore rather than the climb finishing on a crescendo it is the first two kilometres which are steepest and they have some extremely steep ramps, after that it levels out a bit and becomes what we would expect from a Tour de France climb in the Alps. The punishing early gradient combined with the last chance nature of the stage will hopefully encourage riders to strike out for glory early with the knowledge t hat this will be their ultimate last chance before they find themselves riding through Paris.

The stage itself is a mere 125 kilometres in length and it is very evident that the Tour organisers have learned from the experience of the scintillating Alpe d’Huez stage of 2011 and are hoping for more of the same here. The opening 60 kilometres are lumpy and will ensure the GC contenders remain ever vigilant but the action will kick off with the Mont Revard, it is a long drag over close to 16km and it will ensure that the yellow jersey’s domestiques will have earned their pay by the end of the day.

I was originally critical of the design, mentioning how futile it was to place Revard so far from the foot of the last climb, but the profile is deceptive due to its brevity. In reality there is only 30km or so between the summit of the Revard and the climb to Semonz and though the descent will most likely ensure the group at the foot of the climb will be around 50 riders the Ravard does represent a glaring opportunity for riders who have much to gain to attack like Alberto Contador did on the Col du Telegraphe in 2011.

Indeed the major benefit of a short and explosive stage such as this is the fact that the riders will not be dulled by fatigue once they arrive at the pointy end of the race. Instead of the race being decided through a slog up the final climb with the strongest riders winning as we have seen in past Grand Tours, we will see a stage full of intrigue as riders see the opportunity to attack early on and yet still have the ability to hold on due to the short nature of the stage. As in 2011, where the final mountain stage was a similarly short stage featuring the Galibier and Le Alpe, this year’s stage will encourage tactics by the riders with their fresh legs and the last chance saloon being additional incentives to go for it early.

So my predictions will be a similar result to 2011, where the stage was decided by three riders who were relatively high up the standings yet not high enough to worry the riders competing for the overall, most likely as they will attack on the early slopes of the Semonz where the gradients are steep or even on the Revard before. Riders in these positions will most likely be the likes of Pierre Rolland, Joaquim Rodriguez and Thibau Pinot who may not have the overall capabilities to challenge for the Maillot Jaune but can still climb with the very best and wish to inscribe their names in the history of this new and enticing new climb.

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