A victory of great panache by Warren Barguil secured a back to back correct prediction for Spokenforks yesterday, tightening his grip upon the polka dot jersey and managing to take France’s first Bastille Day win at Le Tour since 2005. Today’s 181.5km course from Blagnac to Rodez will be a tougher affair to predict than yesterday, rolling terrain lending itself well to the ambitions of the breakaway, though an uphill finish to the day will have caught the eyes of several punchier sprinters and their teams. The first of two Category 3 ascents, Côte du viaduc du Viaur (2.3km, avg. 7%) is followed relatively quickly by the Côte de Centrès (2.3km, avg. 7%), neither of which are likely to cause much of an issue for breakaway or bunch alike. Though uncategorised by the race manual, a following rise is then apparent en route to Bonnecombe, which could potentially prove a useful launchpad as the break begins to fracture late on. The road starts to drop back down to Rodez, while the tension ratchets up ahead of the decisive climb of Côte de Saint-Pierre, which lasts just 570m and averages a tough 9.6%. Expectations are that an elite sprint finish will crown the day’s winner, though this is the Tour de France and life rarely goes to plan.
Greg Van Avermaet has not shown his face a great deal at this year’s race, no doubt hoping to keep himself out of trouble and in good condition ahead of today’s finish, having previously won in Rodez at the Tour de France a couple of years ago. There will be a greater amount of pressure upon the Belgium to perform now BMC’s general classification hopes have left with Richie Porte in the back of an ambulance, but also a greater degree of team support as a result. With stage wins now the team’s main agenda, everyone will be fully aware of how ideal today’s finale is for Van Avermaet and they will do their utmost to control the race especially for him.
Michael Matthews should be motivated on a day which could help him massively in the green jersey competition, as the finish will be his greatest chance of taking a victory with Marcel Kittel firmly out of the picture. His team are on a high as of yesterday’s Bastille Day victory with Warren Barguil and will be hoping to continue their success with another strong showing on Stage 14. His climbing prowess has repeatedly allowed him to showcase how much stronger he is going uphill than many of his rivals, placing him in good stead for the tests expected here. A hard day and a hard ridden finish will favour Matthews, one of the most durable riders outside of the general classification big names, possessing a brilliant uphill sprinting talent to see it off emphatically.
Philippe Gilbert fits the bill well of a potential winner for Stage 14, having the endurance required to follow the rolling attacks and sprint convincingly over the Côte de Saint-Pierre in order to distance his opposition. His greatest strength will be the support, specifically positionally speaking, of his teammates as they guide him through the concluding half of this stage. The competition will be fierce for the win today, though Gilbert has the grit to suffer the punches and emerge sharpest when it matters most.
Diego Ulissi has carved out a talent for this style of finale, so should be looking upon this with eager eyes and serious conviction to be amongst the frontrunners on the Côte de Saint-Pierre. The Italian is not at his best right now, yet should be able to contest this outcome at least, given it being towards the lower end of his toughest career victories. UAE Team Emirates have focused plenty of effort in placing Louis Meintjes well in pursuit of the white jersey, though shall be eager to take a potential stage win by switching their support to the celebrated Italian for the day.
Sonny Colbrelli will no doubt have circled this as a day to aim for since the route was first released, but would surely have liked to be sat before it in stronger condition than currently seen to be riding in. Despite this fact, Colbrelli has done well at major races when somewhat below par by simply riding smarter than his rivals, maintaining freshness for the last push to the line. With limited team support, he may end up becoming swamped by the stronger teams around him late on, so might actually prefer a tougher selection process for the finale.
John Degenkolb does have form for producing brilliantly strong efforts upon late rises to the line, yet is likely to be further down the pecking order in Rodez as a result of lacking form and weaker team support. The German has not been able to produce the level of performance previously seen by him at Le Tour de France, but can expect to edge closer to victory now the race is getting tougher for the more lightweight sprinters. Powerful enough to grind a huge gear over such a short climb, this is well within his capabilities on paper, though has not shown enough up until now to suggest he will take the win.
Daniel Martin has survived his collision with Richie Porte relatively well, though yesterday’s post-race walk to the team bus did showcase just how much pain and bruising the Irishman has suffered as a result of his misfortune. Surprisingly strong yesterday, his teammates have rallied round him to accelerate his recovery as best as possible when riding a grand tour and he definitely looks dangerous enough to challenge for stage honours if the race lends itself to the maillot jaune group. This short and sharp conclusion to the day is ideal for Martin to attack upon, but it is not necessarily likely he will be in a position to do precisely that. If however the battle for the yellow jersey swallows up the day’s smaller moves, then Martin is the most likely to win from such an outcome.
Tony Gallopin, Jan Bakelants, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Ben Swift and Alberto Bettiol could all cause an upset from either a breakaway or simply bursting forth from a bunch sprint when least expected.
1st Michael Matthews 2nd Greg Van Avermaet 3rd Philippe Gilbert