“It's quite a lumpy day,” said Daryl Impey about the seventh stage of the 100th Tour de France, from Montpellier to the capital of the Tarn department, Albi. “I think we've got a team that can defend the yellow jersey for another day but it's a bit of an uncertain sort of stage. On a good day, I can survive with some of the climbs so we'll definitely be fight to the end to try and defend it one more day.”
His appraisal reminds us that, although we're not yet in the mountains, the terrain en route to Albi is far from easy. There are four categorised climbs but it's a day of constant undulations and it'll test the legs as the race nears the end of the opening week.
The roads can be narrow and the twists and turns add to a recipe for anxiety of the GC riders. By stage six, one general classification hope had quit the race because of injuries sustained in a crash. Jurgen van den Broeck would not be the last to fall either for, on the road to Montpellier other GC hopefuls – Joaquim Rodriguez, Nairo Quintana and Janez Brajkovic – were also involved in incident that scratched off some skin and reminded us all that the Tour can be lost even if a rider has the best form of their lives.
A day before the Tour's arrival in the high mountains, it's difficult to predict how this stage will be contested. It'll be hot and the peloton will again be nervous. The GC riders are doing what they can to survive, the sprinters have had their chances and now might be the time for opportunists to come knocking...