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Tour de France

Tour de France stage 13 preview: Bunch sprint or breakaway?

The Tour leaves the Alps with a transition stage to St-Étienne in sweltering heat. The sprinters will be hungry to make the most of this opportunity.

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After two heavy days of hors-categorie Alpine action, the Tour de France heads west out of the high mountains. Stage 13 runs between Bourg d’Oisans and Saint-Étienne, covering 192.6 kilometers.

The finish destination has considerable sporting pedigree: the home city team has won 10 French football titles, while it was also the hub of the national cycling industry. Mavic, Vitus, Mercier, and Motobécane all hail from here, as do past cycling champions Giles Delion and Roger Rivière.

What’s on the route

After a gradual descent from the start at Bourg d’Oisans, the race passes through Vizille, the home of Thierry Claveyrolat, King of the Mountains at the 1990 Tour de France.

The third-category Côte de Brié (30.4km) on its outskirts will provide a fighting point for the breakaway of the day if it hasn’t already gone up the road.

The second-category Col de Parménie (79.2km) interrupts the stage’s flat progress through Grenoble and the Isère valley, though five kilometers at 6.6 percent is nothing compared to the recent monsters overcome by the peloton.

There is an intermediate sprint at La Côte-Saint-André (101.7km), which may interest green jersey Wout van Aert if he’s not being protected for a possible pop at bunch sprint glory or on chase duty for race leader Jonas Vingegaard. Either way, he essentially has the points competition sewn up.

Into the Rhône department, it gets a little more rolling. The third-cat Côte de Saint-Romain-en-Gal (148.6km) offers a place to force the pace, if the attackers are feeling really keen.

Fast men hungry for an overdue sprint

However, the subsequent gentle rise to St-Étienne shouldn’t be enough to deter the fast men, who have been starved of opportunities to sprint for the win since day three of the race in Denmark. Remember that far back?

There are many contenders who would love a stage win to shed some pressure. Caleb Ewan, Peter Sagan, Mads Pedersen, and Jasper Philipsen have a chance to get off the mark, while Fabio Jakobsen and Dylan Groenewegen can add to their tally.

However, it depends how the fast men and their teammates, who will do all the chasing, are faring after the Alps – and on the composition and size of the day’s breakaway.

If enough squads are represented, it could swing the balance in the escape’s favor. To throw a few potential candidates out there, Edvald Boasson Hagen (TotalEnergies), Fred Wright (Bahrain Victorious), and Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-EasyPost) will all be motivated to get up the road on this transition stage after near misses earlier in the race.

The last man to win at this regular Tour stopping point, incidentally, was breakaway king Thomas De Gendt in 2019, albeit on a hillier profile.

The temperature will be sweltering, with 95 to 100 degrees (35-38 C) expected. A hot wind will be blowing at 20km/h from the north as the Tour heads west. Whether in the break or the bunch, it’ll be a long four and a half hours on the bike.

Crosswinds are a faint possibility, but it’s more likely Vingegaard, Pogačar and company will have a day that is light on drama before resuming hostilities on the steep climb to Mende on stage 14.