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Starting at 13.15 you can follow the hilly second stage of the Tour de France on CyclingQuotes.com/live

Photo: ASO

TOUR DE FRANCE

RACE PROFILE
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NEWS
30.06.2013 @ 13:15 Posted by Emil Axelgaard

The first stage of the Tour de France turned into exactly the crash festival that most had expected - and feared - but it won't be any less dramatic in tomorrow's second stage. A hilly route brings the riders from one end of Corsica to the other in what should be an exciting battle as the sprinters try to survive the numerous climbs while at the same time, the GC riders fear more chaos on the narrow roads. Starting at 13.15, you can follow the entire stage on CyclingQuotes.com/live.

 

For the first time in many years, we could see an early selection in this year's Tour as the riders will already tackle some tough climbing on the second day of racing. Corsica is a hilly island and when ASO plans to take the riders from its Northeastern to its Southwestern corner in a short 156km stage, they have to traverse its undulating interior. The first part of the route is slightly ascending but the climbing gets serious after 63,4km of racing when the peloton hits the bottom of the category 3 Col de Bellagranjo (6,6km, 4,6%). A short descent leads to a long climb which is broken into two by a small plateau at its midpoint and so consists of both the category 3 Col de la Serra (5,2km, 6,9%) and the category 2 Col de Vizzavona (4,6km, 6,5%). From the top, 60,5km remain and they mostly consist of a long, gradual descent.

 

The run-in is punctuated by the steep category 3 Cote du Salario (1km, 8,9%) whose top is located just 12km from the finish. The final 700m of the climb have an average gradient of no less than 11%. The final part of the stage follows a long, winding, slightly undulating coastal road and the riders only deviate from that pattern when they make a short trip inland to tackle the climb. There is a small 500m, 6% climb inside the final two kilometers of the stage which will make the finish even more tricky.

 

It should be another sunny day in Corsica with the temperatures expected to hover around the 25 degree-mark for most of the day. There will be slightly more wind than today which will mostly be a crosswind but should allow for no echelon action. The riders will have a headwind during the final 20km, thus making it much harder for attackers to keep the peloton at bay.

 

Many riders have certainly marked this one out as a breakaway opportunity and so we should be in for a more aggressive start to the race than today where the break went clear from the gun. The intermediate sprint is located only 33km after the start and we could see Omega Pharma-Quick Step make an effort to keep everything together until that point to allow Cavendish to pick up some points and extend his lead over Sagan. They won't spend too much energy though as they could very well need all their manpower later in the stage.

 

Despite the hilly nature, we doubt the breakaway will have much chance for success. Peter Sagan has marked this stage out as a perfect opportunity to get an early gap over Cavendish in the points competition and he is unlikely to let that chance slip away. At the same time, Orica-GreenEdge have set their sights on a possible stage win for Matthew Goss who would relish the opportunity to contest a sprint without the presence of Greipel, Cavendish and Kittel.

 

Hence, Cannondale and Orica-GreenEdge are likely to put in a huge effort to control the composition of the early break and reel it back in later in the stage. Both teams need a hard stage to get rid of the fastest sprinters and we are very likely to see the two teams ride tempo in the hilly middle part of the stage to tire out their rivals' legs and possibly drop them. Greipel and Cavendish will both need all their manpower to get back into contention if they lose contact on the Col de la Serra or the Col de Vizzavona.

 

They will be favoured by the long gradual descent that could allow them to get back into contention, should they lose contact but the Cote du Salario presents itself as a serious obstacle. Despite its short length, it is a really steep climb and we are almost guaranteed to see Moreno Moser hit the front on that small climb in an attempt to send the sprinters out the back door and thus improve the chances of his captain Sagan. Similarly, the short uncategorized rise inside the final 2km could be used to string out the peloton and make the fastest sprinters lose position.

 

The stage should evolve into an exciting battle between the pure sprinters Cavendish and Greipel and Cannondale and Orica-GreenEdge. Cavendish and Greipel are both in splendid condition, having both climbed really strongly in the Ster ZLM Toer queen stage and could make it all the way to the finish. If that happens, they are of course the favourites to win the sprint but tired legs could chance the usual hierarchy among the sprinters. It would certainly be a mistake to discount the duo beforehand - just recall how Greipel survived the very steep Mount Saint-Clair to win his third stage last year.

 

If Greipel and Cavendish are sent out the back, Sagan will of course be the big favourite. He crashed hard in today's stage and while the tumble had certainly done some damage to his body, he appeared to be okay when he crossed the finish line. Due to his low placing in today's stage, his yellow jersey ambitions are probably all gone as there are no bonus seconds in the race and instead his target will be to take that elusive stage win and gain an advantage in the points competition.

 

Sagan will certainly benefit from the tough stage as he will have far fresher legs at the finish than his faster rivals. On the other hand, it is in no way a given fact that Sagan will win - even if Cavendish and Greipel are no longer present. While he appears to be leaner and climbs better than he did last year, his sprinting in the Tour de Suisse and the Tour of California has not been on par with his level of last year. He seems to have lost that little bit of top speed that could make the difference between winning and losing.

 

Orica-GreenEdge has not put as much emphasis on the sprints as they did last year but they still hope to take a win with Matt Goss. While they know that their chances are limited in the pure bunch sprints, they have marked out the hillier stages as their most important days of the Tour. Today's stage is certainly one of those.

 

Goss also hit the deck close to the finish today but was apparently okay. He is a better climber than both Cavendish and Greipel and on paper he should be that little bit faster than Sagan in a flat sprint. At the same time, he should enjoy solid support from his tremendous lead-out man Daryl Impey and that could make the difference that allows him to beat Sagan. On the other hand, neither his recent sprinting nor climbing has been up to his previous level and he will have to step up his game if he is to finally land that big Tour win. If the race turns out to be a really hard one, the team has both Impey and Simon Gerrans as back-ups for the sprint and the former could even take yellow as he finished 11th today.

 

Alexander Kristoff got his maiden Tour off to a perfect start as he sprinted to second today and his final power burst against a pure sprinter like Kittel proved just how fast the Norwegian is. This year he has showed his ability to handle smaller climbs as he has finished in the top 10 at both the Milan-Sanremo and the Tour of Flanders. At the same time, he has stepped up his sprinting a further notch and if he survives the final climbs while Cavendish and Greipel are left behind, we would regard him as the favourite to take the win. As he finished 2nd today, he could very well ride himself into yellow and that will be an extra incentive to perform well.

 

Argos-Shimano got their race off to a perfect start with Kittel's win but the big German should have no chance of keeping the jersey. He is in all likelihood unable to survive the climbs and instead the stage is one of those that John Degenkolb has targeted. The German climbs splendidly and should be able to handle tomorrow's challenge. The long power sprint should suit him well but on the other hand his sprinting has not been at its usual level this season. Very often he has lost position in the hectic final and he has not been able to benefit from the very strong lead-out that his team is usually capable of.

 

Edvald Boasson Hagen, Philippe Gilbert, Tony Gallopin, Yukiya Arashiro, Francesco Gavazzi, Arthur Vichot, Samuel Dumoulin, Jose Joaquin Rojas, Ramunas Navardauskas and Julien Simon are all fast in a sprint and are likely to see tomorrow's stage as a good opportunity. They are all rather strong climbers and hope for a hard race that could give them a chance. Against the pure sprinters, they have little chance and they are unlikely to beat Sagan in a sprint but they could all be up there to grab a place of honour if the race has been sufficiently tough. Similarly, Jurgen Roelandts and Matteo Trentin are ready to step in, should the race be too tough for their captains Greipel and Cavendish, respectively.

 

Finally, the battle for yellow deserves a mention. As there are no bonus seconds, the wearer will be determined on count back. As said, Kittel is likely to lose the jersey while Sagan lost his opportunity due to his low placing in today's stage. Kristoff appears to be the favourite to ride himself into yellow but Trentin, Dumoulin, Roelandts, Rojas and Impey all placed well yesterday and could find themselves in the most coveted tunic at the end of tomorrow's stage.

 

CyclingQuotes' stage winner picks: Peter Sagan, Andre Greipel, Mark Cavendish

Outsider: Alexander Kristoff, Matthew Goss, John Degenkolb

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