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Stage 18 145.5 km
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Planche des Belles Filles: the battle of the Vosges (3/5)

news28.06.2014Pre-race

© Presse Sports

In the run-up to 4th July, letour.fr will be analysing 5 key stages on the route of the 2014 edition. Of symbolic importance in the development of the race or perhaps decisive with regard to the final general individual classification, they possess the required characteristics for an exceptional sporting show. The return to the Planche des Belles Filles, after a memorable first visit in 2012, promises a battle between the best climbers in the pack. Chris Froome has already taken his marks.

In the run-up to 4th July, letour.fr will be analysing 5 key stages on the route of the 2014 edition. Of symbolic importance in the development of the race or perhaps decisive with regard to the final general individual classification, they possess the required characteristics for an exceptional sporting show. The return to the Planche des Belles Filles, after a memorable first visit in 2012, promises a battle between the best climbers in the pack. Chris Froome has already taken his marks.
 
THE TERRAIN
 
It is a safe bet that at this juncture, the protagonists on Le Tour will already have been slightly scattered by the relief on the stage that finishes in Sheffield or by the cobbled sectors for the one terminating at Arenberg Porte du Hainaut. However, the first confrontation in the mountains remains a moment of truth that reveals the credibility of all the promises made prior to the race by various riders. The Vosges Mountains will play host to this initial uphill battle, which is conducive to attacks throughout the stage, since it boasts a particularly dynamic format with only 161.5 km to be covered. Unlike the first visit to La Planche des Belles Filles in 2012, the route has thrown up an initial sequence of difficulties worthy of the finest Alpine or Pyrenean stages. However, at the end of the day, on the formidable final climb leading La Planche, the race is likely to see a struggle between punchers.
 
SPOTLIGHT ON… CHRIS FROOME
 
The wearer of race number 1 naturally has no trouble remembering that he won his first stage on Le Tour two years ago here on a finish that was new to the race at the time, where he temporarily left his role of ‘super-domestique' to beat Cadel Evans as well as his own team leader Bradley Wiggins. “It was a very special day, one that I'll never forget. Winning a stage on the Tour de France was a great way to make my mark after having managed to keep pace with the best on the Vuelta,” recalls Chris Froome when looking back on this show of force which gave rise to plenty of comments and various interpretations…
 
In a totally different context, striking a revelatory blow on the international stage is no longer of interest to “Froomey”. Instead, in order to confirm his status as the main favourite, he could be looking to distance his rivals on this first date with the mountains. Replying to the questions of letour.fr, the British rider is clearly thinking of making a firm statement on this stage: “This year, it will be the first opportunity for the pretenders to express themselves on the climbs. We'll find out exactly how much strength each rider has in his legs on this stage. There might not be big time gaps at the end of the day, because the final climb is not particularly long. But there will be some big climbs before arriving at La Planche. The conditions are right for it to be a genuine test."
 
THEY WILL NOT BE FAR BEHIND...
 
The stakes will be very high on this 10th day of racing and the gaps, which were more or less negligible in 2012 (the first 10 riders were within 1 minute of the leader), could assume greater proportions in light of the stage profile and the kilometres already covered since the start in Leeds. Among the candidates for the leading places on Le Tour, there will be some of the most pugilistic punchers in world cycling, starting with a Spanish trio whose reputations and ambitions are considerable. Alberto Contador knows the impact on Froome that a success in Sky's own hunting ground could have and will not deprive himself of landing a sledgehammer blow if he is able to do so. Alejandro Valverde, probably at the time in his career where he must go all out to obtain a prestigious result on Le Tour, will want to show the explosive qualities that he again demonstrated in spring on the Flèche Wallonne. Lastly Joaquim Rodriguez, 3rd on Le Tour in 2013, claims to be more focused on the Vuelta but will be keen to honour his reputation as a great uphill finisher if he is still alongside the best in the last 500 metres. Vincenzo Nibali, 4th on this climb in 2012 (7'' behind Froome), must also stay in contact if he wants to remain in with a shout of victory. Since the last visit of Le Tour, the pack has also acquired other punchers to keep an eye on, such as Michal Kwiatkowski, who will also be seeking to finish in the Top 5. Finally, it will be both a sporting an emotional challenge for Thibaut Pinot, who intends to show that he is equal to the best on slopes on which he has ridden for many a year.

The news in pictures

photo28/06/2014 

© Presse Sports

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Will stage 18 change the provisional top 3 overall?

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  • Yes, Valverde will drop down17.86%
  • Yes, Péraud will overtake Pinot21.43%
  • No, the positions will remain the same until Paris7.14%
  • No, but the time trial will modify the ranking53.57%
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