22 July 2015

TDF Stage 18 Preview: It's not all about the Glandon

STAGE 18 PREVIEW

Thursday, July 23rd - Stage 18, 186.5km Gap / Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne

What you need to know and my predictions for Stage 18, kilometer by kilometer:
  • Will the riders be happy to get out of those hot hotel rooms in Gap - yes. (And even if it means climbing 186.5km north to do so). 
  • The climbing begins immediately at km 0.
  • The climbing continues on and off for 176 kilometers.
  • We will see more abandons. 
  • The Rampe du Motty at 35 km will break up the peloton and establish several chase groups.
  • By the Col de la Morte (85km) we should know what the stage outcome will look like.
  • We know from Stage 17 that a tour can be lost in a day. A lot can happen before the Col du Glandon. 
  • By 85km the domestiques will be exhausted carrying food and water bottles. 
  • Will Cav and Greipel be in the back - yes.
  • Would I love to see Dan Martin in a breakaway tomorrow - yes, until 85km.
  • Will a solo breakaway stick to the line - probably not. But it could be a Frenchman.
  • Pinot, Gesink, Rodriquez, Rolland, Fuglsang, Talansky and Mollema might do well, but not at all times (or at the same time) on the stage, and none are riding well enough in this year's tour to win. 
  • The GC Contenders should be tight from 100km to the finish.
  • The Glandon is a long 21.7km well known climb for Tour riders. 
  • The final climbs favor Froome and Quintana, who will be next to each other the entire day.
  • Having a teammate for the last 20km will be very beneficial in this Stage 18.
  • There are two power sections before and after the Lacets de Montvernier, this changes the stage from a pure attack type climbing stage to one of mixed ability and steady pace.
  • If anything happens to a rider on the Lacets de Montvernier, a team car will not be able to reach them. It is very narrow. It would be safest if Froome and Quintana can distance the other riders well before hitting this climb, so the road will be less crowded in case of emergency. 
  • Because of the stretch to the finish, neither will be able to shake the other.
  • The finish does favor Valverde or Nibali for shaving off seconds.
  • If Richie Porte or Geraint Thomas can stay close to Froome, they could make an interesting finish to this stage. 
  • Will G win the stage, probably not.
  • Remember, Saturday is the Queen Stage up Alpe d'Huez. 
What it feels like to be there:
The climb over the Glandon is small yet open to the heavens above. Dramatic mountain peaks, large grass fields. Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne is a working man's city with a big autoroute down the center of the glacial valley. The peloton will be using side roads to find the road up the Lacets. I can't wait to see the cars and riders winding up the final climb.
Stage 18 is located in the Rhone Alpes of France
There are a lot of climbs on Stage 18
THE CLIMBS

  • Km 6.5 - Col Bayard (1 264 m) 6.3 kilometre-long climb at 7% - category 2
  • Km 35.5 - Rampe du Motty 2.3 kilometre-long climb at 8.3% - category 3
  • Km 60.5 - Côte de la Mure 2.7 kilometre-long climb at 7.5% - category 3
  • Km 70.5 - Col de Malissol 2 kilometre-long climb at 8.7% - category 3
  • Km 85.0 - Col de la Morte (1 368 m) 3.1 kilometre-long climb at 8.4% - category 2
  • Km 147.0 - Col du Glandon (1 924 m) 21.7 kilometre-long climb at 5.1% - category H
  • Km 176.5 - Lacets de Montvernier (782 m) 3.4 kilometre-long climb at 8.2% - category 2


It's mostly about kilometer 100 to the finish line. And the final road over the Col du Glandon to the Lacets de Montvernier.


A tiny climb at the end of the stage that switchbacks dramatically up a hillside.

Lacets de Montvernier
Great climbs near finish village of St-Jean-de Maurienne, although Le Bourg d'Oisans, Valloire or Albertville are a better location for accommodations. Map adapted by Pedal Dancer
GLANDON - the second to the last climb

West side of Col du Glandon. The long climb goes through that pass in the center, and then down to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne. Photo by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer
Col du Glandon (1924 m) 21.7 kilometre-long climb at 5.1% - category H

That beautiful road in the center is the passage over the Glandon. Turn right to Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne, Left to Borg-d'Oisans. This is the view of the Glandon pass from the Croix de Fer climb. Photo by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer


Read an old blog post:  Col du Glandon and Col de la Croix de Fer - Pedal Dancer®
 

LACETS - the last climb

Lacets de Montvernier (782 m) 3.4 kilometre-long climb at 8.2% - category 2

This does not look like your typical Tour de France road, more like the Giro d'Italia, but I have been looking forward to this climb being featured in the Tour for a long time (this is the first year!).

I climbed this hillside in 2007. I honestly didn't even know its name, I had read about it in an obscure Brit's cycling blog. Searched for it on a Locale Michelin map and barely found the start. It was tons of fun with banked turns. It has an odd location, especially if you are in the Alps to ride the major Cols, but I am glad we took the time to do this climb.

Lacets de Montvernier
Lacets de Montvernier - this is a pretty climb
Lacets de Montvernier road. When you are on it, each hairpin only feels this long.  Photo by Karen Rakestraw of Pedal Dancer®
  • Stage 18 includes the whimsical 18-hairpin climb of the Lacets de Montvernier for the first time. I did this climb (without the preceding 180km) way back in 2007 after seeing a photo of the switchbacks and researching where they were located. Lots of fun, I cannot imagine the caravan or team cars driving up this tiny hillside but am looking forward to the spectacle.
This is me climbing the Lacets de Montvernier 8 years ago. Very narrow, but roller coaster fun.
Read an old blog post: Climb of the month: The Lacets - Pedal Dancer®

I am so happy I finally know the name of this great climb: the Lacets de Montvernier.

RECOMMENDATIONS

An interesting passage I found from an old blog post I wrote in 2010 about the basic fun factor of a climb:
"Looking back over the years, I began to think about the times I experienced the ultimate combo, when pain and fun were so intertwined that I was not aware of either but instead seemed to float on my bike pedals. I recall such times on:
  • Mount Ventoux, France: east side from Sault to the summit
  • Cottonwood Pass, Colorado: from Crested Butte to Buena Vista
  • The Lacets, Alps, France: to Col du Chaussy a short but fun switchback road
  • Col du Soulor to Col d'Aubisque, France: a highway in heaven
  • Hourquettes d'Ancizan, Pyrenees: from Ancizan to the Col d'Aspin
  • Foxen and Ballard Canyon, Solvang, California: vineyards 
These are the times when I never asked "when will this be over," because I did not want the ride to be over anytime soon. That might be the highest compliment to a climb.

MY TOP 20 FAVORITE CLIMBS IN FRANCE - Glandon didn't make the list.

Read an old blog post: My Top Twenty Climbs in France - Pedal Dancer®
My favorite climbs in the Alps: Col de la Colombiere, Col des Aravis, Col de Tamie, Alpe d'Huez, Col de Telegraphe, Col de Galibier, Col d'Izoard.

Link to google map of climb locations
Estimated Finish time: 17:20 CET (11:20 EDT; 9:20 MDT; 8:20 PDT) . Morning coverage begins at 6:00AM in Colorado!

Read more 2015 Tour de France Coverage by Pedal Dancer®