R I DE RS AT THE READY

Procycling - - Prologue - SO­PHIE HUR­COM So­phie Hur­com is sta f writer at Pro­cy­cling

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.

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