16/06 - Stage 11 - Besançon to Oyonnax - 187.5 km

After a well-deserved rest day, the Tour de France continues with another stage suited for a breakaway to make it all the way.

The route
This is a day feared by many riders. How will the legs respond after the rest day? Many would like to have a quiet start, but this won’t happen. Being a stage well-suited for a breakaway, we can expect a fast and furious fight to make it into that final break. The first 130 km don’t include a single categorized climb. Still, as you can see on the profile, it’s constant up and down. It could easily take an hour before the final breakaway is established.

The intermediate sprint is located in Charcier after 89 km. We might see Peter Sagan trying to join the breakaway in order to gain extra points. However, if Sagan makes it into the break, don’t expect him to drop off like on stage 10. The final climbs suit Peter Sagan just fine. The Slovakian is still without a win in this Tour de France. Today might be the day he finally crosses the line first.

With about 55 km to go, the riders take on the first of four categorized climbs. From here on, it’s either up or down all the way towards the finishing line.

• Côte de Rogna (7.6 km at 4.9 %)
• Côte de Choux (1.7 km at 6.5 %)
• Côte de Désertin (3.1 km at 5.2 %)
• Côte d'Échallon (3 km at 6.6 %)

Côte d'Échallon is the most difficult one of the categorized climbs today. It’s steepest at the beginning, which makes it a great place to test your fellow escapees. There are only 20 km to go from the top, but if the riders think the struggles are over at this point, they will be in for a big surprise!

The finish
After 1.5 km of the descent from Côte d'Échallon, the riders turn left in a sharp 180° turn onto a small forest road. The following 2 km downhill are very technical on the steep and a narrow road. A skilled descender will be able to make a solid gap here. With about 15 km to go, it’s time to climb again. This ascent isn’t categorized by the race organizers, which seems a bit odd. On a narrow forest road, the following 2 km are uphill with numerous parts of double-digits gradients. From the top, the riders continue on the narrow road as they start descending.

Upon reaching Gran Vallon, there is a short uphill part with about 10 km to go. From here on, the riders turn right onto a wider road, which takes them downhill towards the finishing town Oyonnax. The descent ends with about 4 km to go. It’s a bit technical in the city on undulating roads. However, the final 1.8 km are straight-out towards the line.

The favorites
I already mentioned Peter Sagan as a strong contender today. He can, both, win from a breakaway and, if this ends in a sprint within a reduced group. There aren’t really any favorites for a stage like this one, but if I were to mention one, it would be Sagan.

The way I see it, GreenEdge has two very interesting candidates for this stage: Simon Gerrans and Michael Albasini. Both are strong on these kinds of climbs and fast enough to win in a sprint. On the rest day, Gerrans just renewed his contract with the Australian team. It would be some way of paying back their trust in him by winning a stage in the Tour de France the very next day. After his crash on stage 1, Gerrans seems to be getting stronger every day. Stage 12 may suit him a bit better but this stage is certainly not bad for him. Michael Albasini hasn’t really shown much in this Tour de France yet. He hasn’t been able to make it into any of the winning breakaways but he’s definitely been trying. On stage 7, Albasini put in a great effort closing the gap to Peter Sagan and Greg van Avermaet in order to enable Simon Gerrans to sprint for the win. If it weren’t for the strong Swiss, I think the duo would have made it all the way. This proves that Michael Albasini is indeed in great shape. Today’s climb suits him very well and being good on the descents as well, Albasini is my prime pick to win this stage from a breakaway.

More candidates
Omega Pharma Quickstep has been outstanding within the last couple of days. Despite Michal Kwiatkowski losing time on La Planche des Belles Filles, the morale has to be very good at the team now after two stage wins. A rider like Jan Bakelants is perfectly suited for this kind of stage. He’s aggressive, good on the climbs and quite fast in the sprint within a reduced group. I would expect him to have this stage marked in his road book.

The same goes for opportunistic riders like Sylvain Chavanel and Thomas Voeckler. Both are good on these kinds of climbs and especially on the tricky descents. Another strong rider who’s good in this terrain is Giovanni Visconti. The Italian proved to be back in great shape on stage 10 where he was caught with just a few km to go. For Movistar, the main objective is to protect Alejandro Valverde but it doesn’t mean they won’t chase stage wins. Visconti is an excellent descender and the final steep, uncategorized climb, suits him very well. Furthermore, Giovanni Visconti is also very fast on the line.

After Alberto Contador’s exit, Tinkoff-Saxo now has to focus 100 % on stage wins. Nicolas Roche and Michael Rogers are both in great shape now. Especially Roche has a good chance today. On stage 8, the Irishman reduced the main group to just 10 riders when he hit the front on the final steep section. Today’s final suits Roche very well. He may be the one bringing some joy back to the team with a strong performance today.

For other breakaway candidates look to: Lars Boom, Matteo Montaguti, Tom Dumoulin, Alessandro De March, Yuri Trofimov, Arthur Vichot, Luis Angel Maté and Bartosz Huzarski. Like Tinkoff-Saxo, Garmin is out of the GC fight as well. I’m sure they will be eager to make the breakaway today. Especially Tom-Jelte Slagter seems like a very strong contender. The Dutchman is great on the steep gradients and very fast on the line.

If the peloton ends up catching the breakaway and this stage ends in a sprint within a reduced group look to riders like: Michal Kwiatkowski, Ramunas Navardauskas, Tony Gallopin, Greg Van Avermaet and José Joaquin Rojas, not to forget fast riders like Sagan and Gerrans, as already mentioned in this preview.

For live coverage of the stage, go to steephill.tv.