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The Tour de France peloton will have the chance to recover from three days of climbing and Thursday’s mad dash up the flanks of Alpe d’Huez, as Friday’s Stage 13 will be a traditional transition stage.
The ride to Valence contains just two categorised climbs and no worse than a Category 3, which should give the breakaway riders a chance to catch the spotlight. The two climbs are too far away from the finish line to make a major impact, however, and another bunch sprint is likely.
Many of the top sprinters have already gone home, falling victim to three brutal days in the Alps:
ITV Cycling @itvcycling
Sprinters whose races have been claimed by the wicked first few days of the mountains
Route: From Bourg d’Oisans to Valence.
TV Info: Eurosport, ITV (UK), NBC (U.S.)
Live stream links: Eurosport Player, ITV Hub, NBC Sports App
Expected time of finish: After 4 p.m. BST/11 a.m. ET
Geraint Thomas was the big winner from the first venture into the high mountains, taking two stage wins and increasing his lead at Alpe d’Huez.
Chris Froome, Tom Dumoulin, Mikel Landa and Romain Bardet all survived Thursday’s rough stage reasonably well, while Vincenzo Nibali lost time in controversial fashion following a crash with a motorbike.
The Italian withdrew from the race and was hospitalised after the stage:
Vincenzo Nibali transported to hospital after crash on Alpe d’Huez in the #TDF2018
Suspected vertebra fracture for Italian
Here’s a quick summary of the epic stage:
After all that, the riders will be glad to see the race profile for Friday. The peloton will head for the beautiful Rhone Valley, known for its many vineyards.
On paper, this is a stage for the sprinters, but breakaway riders will like their chances as well. Many of the sprint teams have lost their star finishers, leadout man or both, and after three days of climbing, fatigue will level the playing field. The Rhone Valley region is also susceptible to France’s Mistral winds, which could further complicate matters.
If we do end up with a sprint, green jersey Peter Sagan has to be considered the favourite. With so many big names out of the race already, he’s almost guaranteed a win in the points classification, providing he makes it to Paris.
Arnaud Demare, Christophe Laporte, Alexander Kristoff, Sonny Colbrelli and John Degenkolb are the other consistent sprinters still in the race, and all are capable of grabbing a stage win now that Fernando Gaviria, Dylan Groenewegen and others are out.
Saturday’s stage will be another uphill finish that could suit both the contenders for the yellow jersey and puncheurs like Sagan, and Sunday’s ride to Carcassonne will provide the adventurous attackers with their best shot at a stage win.