25/06 - Stage 19 - Maubourguet Pays du Val d'Adour to Bergerac - 208.5 km

After three hard days in the Pyrenees, it’s now time for the fast riders to shine. However, a steep climb near the finish may give us a surprise winner.

The route
Looking at the profile, this stage seems extremely harmless. The sprinters will have this day marked in the road book as their last chance to win before Paris. Starting out in Maubourguet Pays du Val d'Adour, the peloton heads north the entire day towards the finishing line in Bergerac. The weather forecast shows a 50 % chance of rain and a slight crosswind.

We can expect a breakaway to get away early on in the stage. The GC riders want to save as much energy as possible before tomorrow’s time trial. It’s up to the sprinters’ teams to make sure that the break isn’t too big and uncontrollable.

After 175 km on the bike, the terrain starts to get a little hilly. Several small, uncategorized hills are awaiting the riders. In theory, these won’t trouble the sprinters. However, the category 4 climb, Côte de Monbazillac, most certainly will.

The finish
With a little less than 15 km to go, the riders turn right onto D13. The following 1.3 km have a very steady average gradient of 7.6 %. If Cannondale, for Peter Sagan, decides to go hard at this point, I doubt heavy riders like Marcel Kittel will manage to stay in the peloton. Upon reaching the top, the riders continue for almost 2.5 km on small roads before they start on the real descent. The 2.2 km downhill take place on the same narrow road, not leaving many chances for riders to move up in the peloton. Therefore, it’s extremely important to stay near the front on the climb in order not to waste unnecessary energy moving up later.

The final 8.5 km are more or less flat. With 3 km to go, the peloton turns right over the river La Dordogne. From the bridge it’s slightly downhill, which will make for a fast finish. Again, it’s very important to be in a good position at this point, especially with two sharp 90° turns within the last kilometer. The peloton will be stretched out in these turns and it will be very difficult to move up. Only the last 450 meters are straight out. Hopefully, the roads will be dry and everybody will stay upright.

The favorites
This is the last chance for Peter Sagan to win a stage in this year’s Tour de France. Sagan can’t match the speed of pure sprinters like Marcel Kittel and Andre Greipel on Champs-Élysées. Therefore, he has to take full advantage of the tricky finish today. Cannondale has to set a fierce pace on Côte de Monbazillac and continue to go hard on the following false flat part before the descent. It won’t be easy to drop the sprinters, but this late in the race, with so much fatigue in the peloton, it’s definitely possible. The technical last kilometer is also in Sagan’s favor. Few, if any, have better bike handling skills than the strong Slovakian. So far, Peter Sagan has finished in top5 no less than nine times. Today might be the day he finally crosses the line first.

A rider who has already crossed the line first, not only once but twice, is Alexander Kristoff. The big Norwegian has only been getting better as the race has progressed. Despite his weight of over 80 kg, Kristoff is actually not bad on these kinds of climbs. He’s obviously in great shape right now and if he manages to position himself well before Côte de Monbazillac, he should be able to stay near the front and contest in the final sprint.

The same goes for John Degenkolb. Even though Marcel Kittel may not make it over the climb, Giant-Shimano still has a very potent winner candidate in Degenkolb. On stage 11, the strong German won the peloton’s sprint behind Tony Gallopin. The very next day, Degenkolb was in a perfect position to do one better. However, due to Matteo Trentin’s sudden move to the left, Degenkolb was forced to brake and see his chances of a stage win disappear. I’m sure he’s very eager to take revenge today. In theory, Giant-Shimano can let the other teams do all the work in the peloton, justifying it by saying that the finish is too hard for Marcel Kittel. This means, they may have a few riders able to put John Degenkolb in a great position for the sprint. In 2012, Degenkolb won the final stage of Vuelta a España proving that he’s able to win in the last week of a Grand Tour. Look out for him today!

The outsiders
With Peter Sagan desperate to finally win a stage, I don’t give the morning breakaway many chances of succeeding despite the length of the stage and the tricky finish. However, I’m sure some riders will try on the final climb.  Aggressive riders like Sylvain Chavanel, Jan Bakelants and Jens Voigt know this is their last chance to win a stage in this year’s Tour de France. For Jens Voigt, it will most likely be his last chance ever.

For outsiders in the expected sprint within a reduced peloton look to Daniele Bennati, Matteo Trentin, Ramunas Navardauskas, Tony Gallopin, Greg Van Avermaet, Michael Albasini and Paul Voss. Maybe even Arnaud Démare if he feels alright again after his stomach problems. Bryan Coquard should also be able to contest in the sprint. However, he was in the big break on Tourmalet and since this is his first Tour, he might decide to save his legs for the final day in Paris if he doesn’t feel super today.

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