TdF: Spotlight on Stage 10


La Pierre-Saint-Martin summit finish the first opportunity for the climbers in the 2015 Tour de France to make time on rivals

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TdF: Spotlight on Stage 10

This year, the first confrontation between the climbers will happen in the Pyrenees with an all-new finish at La Pierre-Saint-Martin where Froome and Contador will take centre stage, as will all the podium contenders.


The opening mountain stage of the Tour is almost always taken on with as much excitation as apprehension. It will be more anticipated and feared this year as it comes after nine days of hilly stages. The change of scenery doesn’t necessarily mean there will be a brutal drop in speed, because the first 140 kilometres in the Pyrenees will be an easy ride.

But the irregular and calf-busting final climb to La Pierre-Saint-Martin will be an invitation for all the climbers who are in need of action or need to make up time to their rivals to attack. Particularly steep in the first half of the climb (2nd and 9th kilometres with more than a 10% gradient), this ascension could split the peloton if it is attacked aggressively.

And it is just the beginning…

A Froome-Contador duel was expected in 2014 but it was cancelled long before the first confrontation in the mountains. Independently of each other, and intentionally or not, Chris Froome and Alberto Contador showed as many signs of their competitiveness as of their small weaknesses that could compromise another Tour de France title.

This first Pyrenean stage might lead them to reveal their assets, especially if one of them has any setbacks while crossing Holland, Belgium, Northern France and Brittany, that could put them at a disadvantage.


Asked to comment on the Pyrenees, the Team Sky leader showed signs of impatience: “It will all depend on how the first week goes, but the race will really begin in the mountains. Should some riders lag behind at this stage, the race could turn out to be really fascinating”.

Sensitive to the nods of history, Froome certainly hasn’t forgotten that it was the first Pyrenean stage on the 2013 Tour, after his victory at Ax-3-Domaines, that he first put on the Yellow Jersey and never took it off until Paris.

Conclusions about Alberto Contador’s capacities to pull off one of the biggest challenges of his career, the Giro – Tour double, won’t be made at the finish line in La Pierre-Saint-Martin. However, his performance on the Col du Soudet pass should provide a few indications. Will he be able to comfortably follow the pace of the men in black from Sky? Will he be sufficiently protected by his Tinkoff-Saxo teammates?


Will his eventual attacks be aggressive enough to rattle Froome and his other rivals for the win? Just until now, the “Pistolero” has attacked with effectiveness, notably against Froome on the key stage of the Ruta del Sol at the start of the season, but also in the Giro.

In his final Tour tune-up race, the Route du Sud, the Spaniard showed particularly strong form in the Pyrenees when he squashed the threat of Nairo Quintana by going on the offensive on the Port de Balès climb, then distancing the Columbian on the descent to Bagnères-de-Luchon.

There is little risk that the battle for the Yellow Jersey will be just a duel between Chris Froome and Alberto Contador. There is however a real possibility of watching a rush of contenders for the seconds and/or minutes to be gained on the first long ascension.

All the top climbers who encountered difficulties in the opening week will have good reason to attack. In 2014, Vincenzo Nibali finished his glorious July with the win at Hautacam, but he also demonstrated his capability of delivering the goods early in the race.

The year before, it wasn’t until week three that Nairo Quintana claimed 2nd place on the Tour, but the Pyrenees could also inspire him. And there are a number of mountain specialists capable of riding strong to La Pierre-Saint-Martin, which include Joaquim Rodriguez, Andrew Talansky, Tejay van Garderen, Wilco Kelderman and Simon Yates.

The French shouldn’t be counted out however with such strong climbers as Thibaut Pinot, Romain Bardet, Pierre Rolland and Warren Barguil.

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