The first mountain stage of this year's tour packs in a bit of everything. The stage is long at 216 km and features six categorized climbs. The course starts out in Limoges, where stage 3 finished and heads east to the early first category 4 climb up Côte de Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat. From there the course turns southeast and continues through rolling hills till it turns south at Saint-Angel. At 135 km the gradient starts to kick up with the run into the long near 4% gradient category 3 Côte du Puy Saint-Mary at 142.5 km. The intermediate sprint follows immediately after the first climb at 144.5 km. The road continues to climb to the second category 3 to Col de Neronne. There is a bit of rest descending down after the climb till the final push over the last 35 km of the race which faces two consecutive category 2 climbs up Pas de Peyrol and Col du Perthus followed by the category 3 climb up Col de Font de Cère. The course then descends into Le Lioran before the road kicks up again for the last km to the line.
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Like stage 4 there will be a prevailing cross/tailwind for the majority of the race. In the first 40 km the wind will be more cross till the course turns more southerly where that cross turns into a tail wind. Again the wind speed is very low so the riders will not feel much in the cross but it should help the overall speeds a bit. Humidity will drop throughout the course and the temperature will increase from 20 degrees topping out at around 26 before dropping a bit as the road heads up the last few climbs.
Early on there could be a couple of breakaways but all GC teams will be marking each other knowing the real race doesn't start till the road kicks up at around 135 km. This stage will come down to the last 35 km where there are two category 2 climbs of Pas de Peyrol and Col du Perthus followed by the category 3 Col de Font de Cère. The final km into the finish is also an incline so riders looking for the win will be looking to push high watts/kg on these section. To put it in perspective climbers will be hitting 5.5-6.0 watts/kg on the categorized climbs. Big gains can be made about 1 km from the top of the first categorized climb of Pas de Peyrol with a strong 200 meter effort that should gap other riders looking for polkadot points. If there is a strong descender this could be a good place to make a move, but an attacker will need to reserve quite a bit in the tank for the second climb up Col du Perthus. In this climb there is a section just under 200 km into the race where a rider could attack, rest ,then re-attack a few times over 750 meters (something we have seen from Froome in the past). This could put significant time gains into a leading group. That being said the climb is still 15 km, a technical descent and final categorized climb from the finish, so it's doubtful a GC rider will go this early. On the final categorized climb a sustained 1 km attack around 6.5-6.8 watts/kg at 5 km to go would be the best place to try to gain a bit more time. Most likely though the stage will come down to the last 1 km into the finish in Le Lioran where there is a nice incline for a lead group to fight it out for the stage. Try zooming in on the Time Analysis tool below from 200-205 km by clicking and dragging across the two category two climbs. Here you can see where shorter big efforts can do some damage to the field.