The final stage on Corsica but the most scenic. The route twists and turns before heading to the Col de Marsolino, a short but selective climb close to the finish. It could be enough to eject some sprinters denying them a chance to enjoy the finish with a fast and flat approach to the line.
One difference today for race followers is the timing. If you’re planning to catch the finish on TV, see the info below because today’s schedules are adjusted to allow the race to fly back to the mainland.
Stage 2 Review
An early break went and Julien Simon (Sojasun) was left chasing the lead four, “potato-hunting” as they say in French. The leaders didn’t wait for Simon, a useful puncheur who could take mountain points from them. So Simon sat up and a frustrated Sojasun decided to chase down the move but gave up only after annoying many in the bunch.
Later more legitimate work came from FDJ.fr on the Col de Vizzavona when a blue jersey mountain train appeared. The plan was simple: eliminate the sprinters. This meant a smaller group, fewer worries on the descents and less scrapping in the final kilometres. Ideal for team leader Pinot but he’ll need to be vigilant on the flat stages in case the sprinters extract revenge in a crosswind.
Chris Froome put in a short attack on the Côte du Salario, a burst of self-expression. Don’t extrapolate this micro-moment too far but it shows he’s willing to attack rather than play safe and his rivals might hope he’s prone to wasting more energy.
Jan Bakelants (Radioshack-Leopard) was first but the second was more important. In winning the stage the Belgian managed to hold off the chasing pack by just over one second, enough to establish a time gap to take the yellow jersey. He celebrated the stage win but won the yellow jersey and if he leads by one second, he has a good chance to retain the jersey. As an amateur he was tipped for big things after shining in classics and stages races alike – he won the 2008 Tour de l’Avenir – but he’d won nothing as a pro. 2013 didn’t look much better with a knee operation and if he returned to racing in the Tour de Romandie, he sat out the Dauphiné with a fresh knee injury. In his own words it was a gamble that his team picked him for the Tour.
Lower down note one-time GC outsiders Lieuwe Westra, Thomas de Gendt, Cam Meyer, Peter Velits all came in over 17 minutes down, plus four Sky riders were there.
Stage 3 Preview
- Km 12.0 – Col de San Bastiano 3.4km at 4.6% – category 4
- Km 58.0 – Col de San Martino 7.5km at 5.4% – category 3
- Km 75.0 – Côte de Porto 2km at 6.4% – category 3
- Km 132.0 – Col de Marsolino 3.3km at 8.1% – category 2
Saving the best for last? This is the most scenic of the Tour’s Corsican trinity and despite the distance, the hardest ride. Ajaccio-Calvi is 70km in a straight line but a Mandelbrotian 145km along the coastal road. Twice as long… but still short for a Tour stage. A few climbs line the route but rather than imagine these as set piece ascensions, the day is all about the twisting roads, a day when even headset bearings get worked hard.
The roads straighten out for the finish. The key point is the Col de Marsolino, listed 3.3km and steep at 8.1%. The approach to the climb ramps up. The defined climb itself has the final two kilometres above 9%, just the kind of gradient to eject a sluggish sprinter. If you remember Stage 5 of the Giro (John Degenkolb won after a crash on the final corner wiped many others) then the climb to Montescaglioso had was four kilometres long with two kilometres at 9% and this proved fatal for the sprinters’ chances that day.
The Tour de France is like the aviation business, it can only land where there’s a suitably large stretch of tarmac. Just as a flight to Paris will always land outside the French capital, today’s stage finishes far outside of Calvi. A run off the descent of the Col de Marsolino has a couple of bends. Then the race hits a wide road that’s largely straight and slightly downhill for 8km until 1,700m to go where a tricky right-hand bend through a roundabout appears. Under the kilometre flag and then another roundabout to turn right on, always hard to filter through and enough to ensure badly-placed riders can’t catch up.
Will Pierre Rolland and Blel Kadri fight for the mountains jersey? On five points each nobody’s going to let Rolland go too far up the road so advantage to Ag2r and Kadri but a few others can still take the lead. A break should go but it’s hard to avoid another bunch sprint. Radioshack-Leopard now have a yellow jersey to defend and they’ll work with Cannondale to pull the usual chancers back.
Where it’s hard to control is the Col de Marsolino. The final climb comes just 13km from the finish. The road is linear for the most part but not wide. It’s certainly a launchpad for an attack but the roads after make a chase suitable. In other words if Alberto Contador took a flyer then Team Sky could reel him in like a fish.
Unlike yesterday when all the sprinters got eliminated early, this route could see most riders in contention until the final climb where it’s pass or fail. Given this Peter Sagan sits in an irresistible position, able to sprint and climb. But his Cannondale team have tough choices. Chase breakaways early in the day? Set a fierce tempo over the Col de Marsolino to asphyxiate rival sprinters? Save men for the final 10km to chase down moves? Such dilemmas create opportunities for others to profit from so watch Astana’s Francesco Gavazzi, Edwald Boasson Hagen (Sky), John Degenkolb (Argos-Shimano) and especially André Greipel (Lotto-Belisol).
Weather: another pleasant sunny day with temperatures reaching 26°C (78°F) and light breeze from the east meaning a soft crosswind.
Three riders needed medical treatment for dehydration yesterday, complaining of headaches and being told by the travelling race doctor to drink more. Not serious but it shows the heat gets to some.
TV: live coverage for the whole stage again. It starts at 12.30pm with the finish expected between 4.10pm-4.30pm – an hour earlier than usual because the race is flying to the mainland in the evening. Worth watching to see if there’s a fight for the break in the first hour but if not, tune in again for the last half hour.
As ever if you can’t get in TV then you’ll find a corsaire feed from cyclingfans.com.
Note steephill.tv is stopping the links to pirate video feeds but you’ll still find all the other photos and rich content there.
The 10 second spin: the final day in Corsica, the final climb offers a moment of uncertainty, too short for big fireworks but maybe too long for some sprinters so it’s perfect for Peter Sagan.