Place Charles-de-Gaulle, Cluses
Flying Start 12:27 p.m. on D.19 exit to Cluses
Course: Just when it seemed safe for the sprinters to emerge from
riding in the “laughing group” of back-markers, they are tricked. The Alps
are behind them and the opening 20km of stage 18 are completely flat. But
ahead of them is a profile shaped like the mouth of a shark, with 10 jagged
“teeth” marking the hills and valleys of the pine-forested Jura region.
The organizers have categorized seven of them and even discovered a new
Cat. 1 climb, the Col de Richemont (11km at 6 percent), halfway through
the 176.5km stage from Cluses to Bourg-en-Bresse. In all, there is 8580
feet of climbing. Admittedly, it’s not alpine in nature, but the constant
ups and downs, mostly on back roads, make this another difficult day —
especially for the sprinters.
History: Not only has the Tour not crossed this part of the Jura
before, but a stage has never finished at Bourg-en-Bresse, a city of 40,000
famed for its special breed of chickens. The closest similar stage to this
came in 1991, when stage 19 into nearby Mâcon was won by Russian
Viatcheslav Ekimov after a final-kilometer attack.
Favorites: The race leaders won’t be battling for the stage win
in Bourg-en-Bresse because there is the final time trial coming up the
next day. But the climbers that are not in contention should join the more
enterprising “flatland” attackers in a long-distance breakaway. The stage
could go to a rider like Switzerland’s Sven Montgomery, Germany’s Jens
Voigt, Australia’s Brad McGee or Belgium’s Mario Aerts.