One-day clas­sics spe­cial­ists set to shine at Tour

Kuwait Times - - SPORTS -

With three of five moun­tain ranges be­hind them, the Tour de France pelo­ton will head to­wards the Mas­sif Cen­tral yes­ter­day with op­por­tu­nity in the air. The Vos­ges, Jura and Pyre­nees have been and gone mean­ing that just the Mas­sif Cen­tral and Alps re­main but to­day will likely of­fer a qui­eter day for the over­all con­tenders in­clud­ing race leader Fabio Aru and reign­ing cham­pion Chris Froome.

Not so for Bastille Day hero War­ren Bar­guil, though. The 25-year-old de­lighted the French crowd in Foix on Fri­day by win­ning his maiden Tour stage, on France’s na­tional hol­i­day to boot. But he will have lit­tle time to cel­e­brate on Satur­day as he re­turns to team du­ties.

“The next stage is al­ready to­mor­row for Michael (Matthews) be­cause there’s go­ing to be a sprint,” he said af­ter his vic­tory. The race moves from the yel­low jer­sey bat­tle which raged on Fri­day to the green jer­sey one yes­ter­day and a chance for Aus­tralian Matthews to make up some much needed ground.

Ger­man Mar­cel Kit­tel has dom­i­nated that com­pe­ti­tion so far on the back of five stage wins but Matthews has a chance of clos­ing his 128-point deficit if he can make the most of the next three days over lumpy ter­rain. Satur­day’s 181.5km 14th stage be­gins in Blagnac, the hub of the Euro­pean aero­nau­tics in­dus­try, and ends in Rodez, known for its sheep tripe spe­cial­ity. The bumpy run-in that crests two third cat­e­gory climbs be­fore fin­ish­ing on a steep 570-me­tre climb with a 9.7 per­cent av­er­age gra­di­ent will be too tough for Kit­tel and the other spe­cial­ist sprint­ers. But it’s ideal ter­ri­tory for an all-rounder like Matthews and with 50 points on of­fer at the line to the win­ner, the Aussie Sun­web rider could start to make some in­roads into Kit­tel’s lead. But he’ll have Olympic cham­pion Greg Van Aver­maet to con­tend with among oth­ers. Bel­gian Van Aver­maet won a stage fin­ish in Rodez two years ago, out­sprint­ing world cham­pion Pe­ter Sa­gan in the process. Sa­gan would have been a favourite for Satur­day’s stage but was kicked out of the race last week for el­bow­ing Bri­tish sprinter Mark Cavendish in a pacey fin­ish.

With the over­all con­tenders set to take some­thing of a back seat, there will be a bun-fight to get in the day’s break­away as it has a great chance of go­ing all the way. The sprint­ers’ teams won’t feel the need to chase, nei­ther will the con­tenders’ teams so it should be a large break­away con­tain­ing some top one-day clas­sics spe­cial­ists.

Van Aver­maet and Matthews are cer­tain to be amongst them. — AFP

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