Preview: 2013 Tour de France — Stage 16

Vaison-La-Romaine to Gap (168km)

Tuesday, July 16 7:25 A.M. EDT – 11:09 A.M. EDT
Live Coverage sponsored by Clif Bar

After the last rest day of this year’s Tour de France, the race continues with a stage made for a breakaway. The GC riders will be happy to get a quiet day in the saddle before the next four mountain stages, and that plays in the favor of a break making it all the way.

It’s another short stage, at only 168 kilometers, and with a demanding start including two climbs in the first 48km, the pace will be very high right from the beginning. A rider never knows how his legs will respond after a rest day and the start of this stage will be a tough restart after the Tour’s second day off.

After 48km the riders reach the top of Col de Macuègne and from here on, the race should settle down a bit. We can expect a breakaway to get a big gap on the following 100 kilometers. A light tailwind will only improve a group’s chances of staying away.

For many riders, this is the last chance of winning a stage in this year’s Tour. Therefore, we can expect teams missing out on the morning break to take the lead in the peloton just to show their sponsors’ names on TV. Cannondale is the team to key off. On paper, this is a good stage for Peter Sagan and if a breakaway gets away without a Cannondale rider in it, the Italian squad will most likely start to chase. Thor Hushovd won his second stage of the 2011 Tour, in the world champion’s jersey, on this finish in 2011. Cannondale didn’t want to chase down the breakaway on stage 14, but today’s profile makes it possible for Cannondale to repeat its stage 7 win in Albi, where it thinned the peloton of the pure sprinters and delivered the Slovak champion to victory.

With 21km to go, the riders face the last climb of the day, the Col de Manse. This Cat. 2 climb is 9.5km long and has an average gradient of 5.2 percent. The climb itself is not very hard, but the descent is, indeed. This is where Joseba Beloki crashed in 2003 and also where Alberto Contador and Cadel Evans opened up a gap of over one minute to Andy Schleck in 2011. The weather forecast shows rain, just like in 2011, and maybe we will see another attack on the yellow jersey. Chris Froome (Sky) lost Tirreno-Adriatico on a rainy, up-and-down stage this year (a stage won by Peter Sagan) and if he and Sky show any weakness, Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) and the Belkin boys have to take advantage. —MIKKEL CONDÉ

Follow Mikkel Condé on Twitter @mrconde and visit C-Cycling to read more about stage 16 and see the best breakaway candidates for the stage win in Gap.