This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.
Following a rest day in the Vaucluse, the GC contenders may fancy a quiet day before the time trial 24 hours later. However, all will remember how complicated the finish of this stage proved to be in 2011, particularly for the Schleck brothers.
In theory, this stage should provide a final chance for the baroudeurs. Two of the day's three second-category climbs come early. If the GC riders do sit back, the break should build up a substantial, perhaps insurmountable, lead going over them, as the race leaves the Drôme for the department of Hautes-Alpes. The key to success/staying out of trouble lies on the Col de la Manse.
Two years ago, Cadel Evans and Alberto Contador torched the Schlecks' hopes, attacking hard on the climb, then pressing even harder on the tricky descent made treacherous by rain. Ryder Hesjedal was also prominent that day, helping to set up his then Garmin-Cervélo team-mate Thor Hushovd for victory over fellow Norwegian Edvald Boasson Hagen.
Barry Hoban: "Gap is often the way into or out of the Alps. This time, the stage could be seen as a quiet one in between the Ventoux and the time trial but we saw the Schlecks get into trouble on the descent of the Col de Manse in 2011. I don't expect anything too dramatic but you never know…"
Video: Tour de France stage 16 preview with Magnus Bäckstedt
There are one or two stages where the more skilled and daring descenders might be able to make a difference at the finish and this is one of them, as demonstrated by Alexandre Vinokourov in 2003 and Thor Hushovd in 2011. The twisting, bumpy and narrow drop down from the Manse is not for the squeamish.
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