Montpellier to Albi (205.5km)
Friday, July 5 6 A.M. EDT – 11 A.M. EDT
Live Coverage sponsored by Clif Bar
This is another tricky stage. On paper, it looks good for a breakaway to survive, but in reality it will be difficult to keep the peloton at bay. Four categorized climbs won’t make the sprinters’ day easy, but with more than 100 kilometers to go from the top of the hardest climb, most of them should be able to rejoin the peloton.
Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) crashed late in stage 6 and had to chase back on; that probably cost him the stage win. The Manxman had to spend a lot of energy getting back into the group and in the end, he ran out of power. Cavendish was furious after the stage and screamed out loud as the entered the team bus. Usually Cavendish is good at using his rage to motivate him and that could very well be the case on Friday.
The day’s Cat. 2 climb, the Col de la Croix de Mounis, is very steep in the beginning and near the top. Many sprinters, most likely Cavendish included, will get dropped on this climb but they have plenty of time to get back into the pack. With 110km to go from the top of Col de la Croix de Mounis, Omega Pharma should be able to bring the British champion back to the peloton. Lotto-Belisol will be in the same situation and even though André Greipel and Cavendish will be battling each other in the end of the stage, they will be able to help out each other in the chase.
The final 35km should see a headwind, which will limit a breakaway’s chances of succeeding. Cannondale won’t be interested in letting Cavendish and Co. rejoin the peloton, but without help from other teams it will be a tough task. The GC riders will be happy for a quiet day in the saddle before the Pyrénées and the sprinters know this is their last chance before next Tuesday. The missed opportunities for many sprinters during the first stages on Corsica still burn and they will be focused on not letting this opportunity go to waste. —MIKKEL CONDÉ