This article was originally published on Cyclingnews.com.
There are four climbs on this stage that runs through the vineyards of the Hérault and into the Tarn region, although none of them are particularly testing. Yet the rugged countryside does provide the opportunity for a breakaway group. The hardest climbing comes in the middle third, when the riders will tackle the fearsome-sounding Col des 13 Vents (The Pass of 13 Winds) and the Croix de Mounis. Once past them, the route begins to drop down towards Albi, bumping over two smaller climbs on the way. From the top of the second, the Côte de Teillet, there is the best part of 40km into the finish.
Unless those in the break have several minutes in hand, the bunch is sure to be in full flight behind them, the sprinters encouraging their teammates to give all they can in the knowledge that they will be able to ease a touch in the days that follow. The finish will be impressive as it's located adjacent to the Sainte-Cécile cathedral, which helped earn Albi UNESCO World Heritage status two years ago.
With so little for the sprinters to look forward to in the following days, expect their teams to keep a tight hold on the bunch into Albi.
Barry Hoban: "There are some decent climbs on this stage but the GC contenders will be waiting for tomorrow, so I think this is a great opportunity for breakaways. It'll be interesting to see how the sprinters react, as the final kilometres are downhill so they might want to chase. But it could be too late."
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Could the finish in Albi be a good omen for Cadel Evans? The Aussie picked up his first Tour stage win in the city in 2007, although he didn't get a chance to celebrate at the time. Alexandre Vinokourov initially claimed victory in the TT that day but was later stripped of it after testing positive for a blood transfusion.
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