Stage 16: Martigny - Bourg-Saint-Maurice
Thursday, July 2, 2009 11.00pm
Brandy not included
Following the second rest day the Tour heads back to France via the northwest corner of Italy. Two mountains are on the programme for today, the Col du Grand-Saint-Bernard (24.4 km at 6.2 percent), which separates Switzerland from Italy, and the Col du Petit-Saint-Bernard (22.6 km at 5.1 percent), from which the riders will descend into France again. In between those two mountains, the bunch will race through the famous Aosta valley.
The thin air on the first of the two climbs located at 2,469 metres above sea level after a gruelling long ascent from the very start of the stage will make life difficult for the riders, especially since they hit the next mountain right afterwards. It is a merciless stage - there will be no time to recover.
The finish in Bourg-Saint-Maurienne comes after a steep descent of the Col du Petit-Saint-Bernard - fast enough to provide the opportunity for time gaps as big as those of an uphill finish. Will the GC riders neutralize each other, as well as riders off the front?
Jonathan Vaughters' views
I'm not a big fan of downhill finishes. I guess it’s easier to have the race finish in a town instead of on top of a mountain, but it’s just a bit dangerous, as guys take big risks to catch back on. Christian Vande Velde lost his chance at a podium spot in the Tour in just such a scenario.
The bitterness of the past aside, this will be a tough day through the Alps, and a screamer of a finish. Whether it will be a breakaway survivor or a GC contender with daredevil skills that wins, I don’t know, but this will be a day. Someone who didn't quite recover or ride enough on the rest day will lose out. There’s always one guy that doesn't deal with the rest day too well.
It'll be interesting to see who reacts to the rest day in what way. Every scenario has its winners and losers.