Vincenzo Nibali has done his upmost over the last few days to replicate the ruthlessness of his nickname – The Shark. Now leading with one of the biggest leads at this point of the Tour in recent memory, it is easy to forget that some of the other 170 riders still have a reason to race. Today’s 222km roll from Tallard to Nîmes has no categorised climbs and a very gentle 70km tail-end which will set things up neatly for the sprint teams. As per usual, a small breakaway will most likely spend a fair while hanging off the front before things start amping up with 25km remaining.
A return to flat-ish stages should signal the reemergence of Marcel Kittel and John Dagenkolb for Giant-Shimano, but questions will be asked about which is freshest of the pair after such gruelling mountain stages – who rides for who?
Andre Greipel appeared to be coping well during the early stages into the Vosges mountains, but lots more has been asked for him since and it will be tough for him to deliver his best today.
With the French doing so well recently with Tony Gallopin it is easy to overlook the failings of Bryan Coquard and Arnaud Démare when it has come down to the sprints. However, both are only 22 years old and inexperience of positioning at this level has shown through on occasion. But there is still cause for faith in this young duo and today may prove it worthwhile keeping it.
Somehow Peter Sagan is still without a stage win in this year’s edition of the Tour and he seems all to aware of this fact. Cannondale seem to have spent most of their time asking him to cool his jets and avoid burning out in utter desperation for his elusive stage win. Stage 15 is not a typical Sagan target, but it could be an unexpected gift as the weary legs of the sprinters fall victim to Sagan’s superior condition after exiting the mountains.
Simon Gerrans, Mark Renshaw and Alexander Kristoff are all likely to be in the mix come the finish, but none have truly shown enough pace to suggest they will get the beating of the usual contenders.