The 14th stage of the Tour de France will see it’s hardest start aswell. The journey into Mende is rough, in the rolling hills of the Massif Central, which will be the setting for what can be an explosive day. 192 kilometers on the menu, which see the climbing begin after six kilometers only, into a 55-kilometer long section packed with small climbs and descents. Ideal terrain to form a strong breakaway group, some would say.
There’s almost 3500 meters of climbing on this day despite the lack of a major climb. The Côte de Grandrieu (7.5Km; 3.6%; 56Km to go) and the Côte de la Fage (4.3Km; 5.8%; 30Km to go) will be warming things up. In a breakaway possibly see decisive attacks, however in the peloton they won’t do more than to build some more fatigue, before descending down into Mende where the stage will explode.
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The climb to the Col de la Croix Neuve is no stranger to the Tour de France, having been tackled a few times in the last decades. It’s one of the most famous climbs in the Massif Central and for good reason - it consistently delivers good spectacle. Officially, it’s 2.9Km at 10.4% average gradient, a very explosive climb, with gradients that are quite vicious in it’s hairpins, and where drafting will essentially be meaningless. Unlike the efforts of the past days, it’s an anaerobic and explosive climb which will force the climbers out of their comfort zone. This difference in efforts alongside the fatigue can create some damage.
The ascent summits with only just over a kilometer to go, before a fast downhill run-up to the finish line in the local airfield.
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**** Thibaut Pinot