Stage 7 takes us from Montpellier to Albi,travelling 205.5km.We travel west from Montpellier,in predicted 30 degree heat,which could hamper a few of the riders,especially after a warm day yesterday.
The stage is again “lumpy”.The 1st climb of the day is the brilliantly named Col des 13 Vents,it’s 6.9km at 5.6%,then we have the Col de la Croix de Mounis which is 6.7km at 6.5%.We have a fairly late intermediate sprint after 135km,before the Cote de la Quintaine,which is 6.5km at 4% and the final climb is the Cote de Teillet,which is only 2.6km at 5%.Then a downhill run into the finish in Albi.
The 2nd cat climb is long and steep enough to get rid of the sprinters,the big question would be how long their time gap would be?The first 2 climbs mean that they riders do roughly 7km uphill,7km downhill and then 7km uphill.So 14km out of 21km climbing at an average of about 6.1%,just like in stage 2 the cumulative effect will be too much for the sprinters.
It’s going to be very hot so they will suffer like dogs on the climb and probably won’t be able to catch up.This means that the intermediate sprint point will be very important for Peter Sagan.He will pick up points and his rivals will collect 0 points,of course how many riders in the break will determine how many points he gets.If Cannondale manage to bring back the break then it would go a long way to securing the green jersey.
The stage profile screams Sagan as I would imagine that all the sprinters will be gone but it also looks like a stage where a break could succeed.If the men in the break are all far down on the GC then Orica GreenEdge will be happy to let it go.None of the other teams will be too bothered bringing it back just for Sagan to win the sprint.Edvald Boasson Hagen is in form but Team Sky won’t commit riders to help bring back the break so it could all come down to Cannondale.Of course if the break contains a rider 2 minutes down on GC, then Orica will ride and then Cannondale can help at the end.
A perfect tactic would be to send De Marchi into the break,as he is 1m57secs down.This will force Orica to ride and Cannondale won’t have to help,but I’m unsure if they’d be so bold.
A lot will depend on the make-up of the break,so I would probably avoid betting until in-play,unless Sagan is given big odds.
Other riders that could go well with the faster sprinters away are Cimolai of Lampre,Simon of Sojasun,Gavazzi of Astana,Impey and Gerrans of Orica,Bennati of Saxo,Gilbert of BMC and Gallopin of RadioShack.
The bookies have installed Mark Cavendish as favourite.This is typical of them,but I cannot see him keeping in contact on the cat 2 climb.He lost 10 minutes on the climb in stage 2 and even if he is only 2-3minutes down,I don’t see him bringing it back.None of the sprinters are fans of climbing but they really hate climbing in the heat.
If it all comes back together,then I predict that Sagan will win,Boasson Hagen 2nd and Cimolai 3rd.
If a break goes then contenders have to be:Fedrigo,Boom,De Clercq,Clarke,Veilleux,Roy,Hoogerland,Lagutin,Westra and De Gendt.The last 4 are all the same team so only 1 of them will go for it.
A little extra about the first two climbs.Their average gradients don’t really do them justice,due to flatter sections.
The last 4km of the 13 vents climb is 5.6%,6.2%,8%,5.6%.
The Mounis climb has kilometre long sections at 8.8%,9.3%,8.6% and a final half km at 10.7%.
The sprinters will be way off the back and not be able to get back on,so I firmly believe that Sagan will be the man tomorrow for the intermediate and final sprint.