Sprint or breakaway before the showdown in Verbier?
Tour de France 2009, stage 14 preview logo
STAGE 14: Colmar - Besancon
Saturday, July 18
WHAT’S THE COURSE LIKE?
It's a perfect stage for a breakaway, especially as it comes before Sunday's uphill finish in Verbier.
The 199km stage starts with a flat 70km, with two intermediate sprints in the first section, after 29km and 67km. It then includes two category three climbs mid-stage, with other little climbs all the way to the finish in Besancon.
The first climb cruelly comes right after the feed zone. The Cote de Lebetian is 2.4km long but climbs at an easy average of 4.4%. It should be no problem for Mark Cavendish. The second climb is the Cote de Blamont and is similar: 2.9km at 4.9%. Easy but a nice launch pad for a break.
The rest of the stage hugs the Doubs river, with the last real corner of the stage taking the peloton over a bridge to the centre of Besancon. The final kilometre is virtually straight with only a slight curve to the right.
Stage 14 map and profile >>
Estimated finish time – 16:18 BST
WHAT’S GOING TO HAPPEN?
Another quiet day which ends in either a break staying away or a fierce sprint between Cavendish and Hushovd.
Which one depends on the weather, how much the overall contenders want to save their legs and if Team Columbia decided to ride for Mark Cavendish.
Expect the first two hours of racing to be faster than the last two because riders will be giving it everything to get into the right break. Team Columbia and Cervelo will be chasing the breaks so that they can contest the first to intermediate sprints but after that a break will probably be allowed to go away.
If a break build a solid lead, the bunch might let them go, as all the big overall contenders look for one last easy day before the Alps and the first mountain finish in Verbier.
MEN TO WATCH
Mark Cavendish – The young Brit will be on a mission after losing the green jersey and so will his Columbia team mates.
Thor Hushovd – Now in green and probably grinning his toothy grin all through the stage as he tries to pysch out Cav. After his strong ride on Friday he has a slight edge in the fight for the green jersey.
Tyler Farrar – Garmin need a stage win and Farrar could finally get one if Cav focuses on Hushovd too much and leaves the door open.
Bradley Wiggins – Now fourth overall after the retirement of Levi Leipheimer, the 'Twigg' is probably getting a bit nervous as the Alps appear on the horizon. He must also know he has the form to hold onto a top five position all the way to Paris. Go Brad!
Lance Armstrong – Big Tex is also feeling the heat after the French sports minister had a pop but he was quick to reply and will probably be just as responsive if Contador attacks on the road up to Verbier on Sunday. He knows that the showdown begins after the easy ride to Besancon.
Franco Pellizotti – The curly-haired Italian is in the polka-dot jersey after two days of clever riding. Hopefully he won't wear any of those horrible polka-dot shorts.
CW’S TIP TO WIN
We're biased but we reckon Mark Cavendish will get his Columbia team mates, and perhaps a few friends in the bunch, to control the break so he can go for a fifth stage win. He also wants his green points jersey back and could get it if he wins the two intermediate sprints and then wins in Besancon.
WHO’S WEARING THE JERSEYS
Yellow - Rinaldo Nocentini (Ag2r-La Mondiale)
Green – Thor Hushovd (Cervelo)
Polka-dot – Franco Pellizotti (Liquigas)
White - Tony Martin (Team Columbia-HTC)