R I DE RS AT THE READY
You’ve got to hand it to ASO. The Tour de France organisers really are throwing everything at this year’s race. As if the route wasn’t peppered with enough potential banana skins, ASO unveiled another devious plan to force the GC riders to go mano-a-mano in the mountains. Stage 17 already had the makings of a blockbuster day. At just 65km long, it packs in three Pyrenean climbs: starting immediately uphill on the Col du Peyresourde, before covering the Col de Val Louron-Azet, and then the 16km brute that is the Col du Portet to the inish. Yet for one day only, the top 20 riders will also line up in grid formation a lá Formula One to start, depending on their position on GC. The rest of the GC will set o f in waved groups behind, and with no neutralised zone, the racing will be on once the lag drops.
Short stages have proved to be conducive to exciting, attacking racing, and ideally here, a rider or elite group will go gung-ho from the start and cause panic and chaos behind. The reality however, will entirely depend on the make-up of the GC standings at the start of the day. The stronger teams have the advantage, particularly if one squad has multiple riders in the top 20, while others may simply sit up and wait for team support to arrive.
I like that ASO is at least trying out new things and mixing innovative ideas with the classic, traditional stages we know and expect from the Tour. And whether it’s a success or not, you can guarantee everyone will at least be on the rollers warming up at the start of the stage.