You won’t win the Tour de France in stage 15, but it’s going to be a very easy stage to lose your grip on the race. The journey from Laissac-Sévérac l’Église to Le Puy-en-Velay is a reasonable 189.5km in length and takes on four climbs. Climbs 1 and 3 are the most interesting though, as both are category 1 climbs; one being 8.9km and 6.4% average gradient, the other 8.3km and 7.4% average gradient.
It is the second of the category 1 climbs, the Col de la Peyra Taillade which is most fierce, hitting stretches of 12.1% and even 14% gradient in the middle. From all accounts this stage is one that has GC contenders a little bit nervous, as anyone who is having a bad day is virtually guaranteed to be found out on the tough and rolling stage.
For the first time we really have rather high hopes for a breakaway this time too. While I expect the initial stages of the race, particularly the first 28.5km to the top of the first category 1 climb, to be very intense as a breakaway tries to establish itself; I would assume that the pace in the peloton will relent a little bit before kicking back into gear at around 50km from the finish.
The key for the breakaway will be how much of an advantage they have when the peloton do begin to really ramp up the pace in the latter stages of the race. This will, in part, depend on how much of an assault the likes of Movistar and AG2R La Mondiale want to make on the yellow jersey of Chris Froome. And if they do make an assault on the yellow jersey, how much will the likes of Martin, Yates, Meintjes and Bennett be able to respond?
Of all the days of the Tour de France so far this is the one that I think a breakaway will most likely succeed in. But as we have seen so far in this year’s Tour de France, the peloton have been very unwilling to let anything go clear. Who’s to say that this won’t be the case again in stage 15?
RoadCycling’s top 5 prediction:
1st: Diego Ulissi
2nd: Stephen Cummings
3rd: Alberto Contador
4th: Chris Froome
5th: Romain Bardet