Thursday, August 27, 2015

Tour de l'Avenir: State of the Race & Mountains Preview

The mountains are upon the Tour de l'Avenir and let's do a quick recap so that everyone is aware of the state of the race before all hell breaks loose.

Denmark has won 4 out of 5 stages, so far

...but I wouldn't expect to see them much anymore. They have one climber in Patrick Olesen but even he wasn't in the front group after being split off on the descent on the finish to Cluses. So if you are thinking the Danes will take over the French Alps, then think again.

Most GC riders are within earshot

Riders that will be contesting GC are within distance so the race is still wide open. If starting with Spaniard Julen Amezqueta as the first GC favorite (currently 4th overall at +1'22"), then it is just 42 seconds back to Aleksey Rybalkin (Russia), who was 3rd here last year. Many are looking to be in form so keep your head's up because the attacks will be flowing.

Colombia looks to be strong

...but they aren't a leviathan. They only had two riders in the front group today in Sebastian Henao and Daniel Martinez while German Chavez and Aldemar Reyes were both 2'15" down while potential GC hopeful Rodrigo Contreras was a massive 25 minutes down.

And now, onto the remaining stages...

Stage 5

For a race that had more or less been devoid of mountains, this is going to be a punch in the testicles for some riders. On a course that is just 103 kilometers, roughly 48 of them are uphill. The amount of true flat ground might be around 2 kilometers.

The climbs include, as follows:

Col de Saisies - 13.6 kilometers at 5%
Col du Pré - 12.7 kilometers at 7.7%
Cormet de Roselend - 6 kilometers at 6.3% (the backside of a giant climb)
La Rosiere-Montvalezan - 16 kilometers at 6%

This stage might sound familiar to those acute followers because the same finishing climb as well as the Saisies and Roselend were used in stage 6 of last year's race, which was won by eventual overall winner Miguel Angel Lopez (Colombia). It will be a short but brutal stage that will show any chinks that one might have.

Stage 6

Just two big climbs in this stage that starts from Bourg-Saint-Maurice, which is at the foot of the La Rosiere climb. The gem of this stage is the Col de Madeleine, which has featured in the Tour de France 25 times and is one of the biggest climbs in the Alps at nearly 25 kilometers in length with an average gradient of 6.1%. The climb reaches a maximum of 11% for a stretch while there are extended spots with gradients over 8%.

Following the Madeleine, the race heads back down into the valley and takes in a long false-flat stretch that goes into Saint Martin De-La-Porte, which begins the Col de Beau Plan. The climb heads up for over 10 kilometers at a 6.7% grade before descending right back down into the valley through a slew of hairpins into the hamlet of Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne, which is the same town that the Col du Telegraphe (to the Col du Galibier) takes off from.

It is certainly a stage that could see a breakaway however if a rider wants to test a descent and scare some people, this is a good place to do it on.

Stage 7

Taking off from Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne, the race's final stage gets off to a quick start as the just 3.4 kilometers after the official start, the race starts to go up the Col du Mollard, which is 18 kilometers in length and averages 5.7% gradient. The Mollard is a nice scenic climb that will whittle down the group before a quick descent to Belleville. From there, it is uphill to the "start" of the categorized Col de la Croix de Fer at Saint-Sorlin-d'Arves however it is all uphill from Belleville. The road surface from Belleville to Saint-Sorlin-d'Arves, unless recently repaved, is quite horrible and could catch a few out. Once the climb officially begins, it is 7 kilometers to the summit at a gradient of 8% and over 2000 meters in altitude.

Will over at Cycling Challenge has a nice breakdown of this set of climbs

Then it is a long descent off the the Croix de Fer before coming into Sainte-Marie-De-Cuines, where the riders will tackle the famed Lacets des Montvernier, which were in the Tour de France this year and were heaven for any lover of hairpins. The climb is broken down well by Cycling Challenge and is a very steep climb at an average of 9% while just over 3 kilometers.

Following this climb, it is back down to the Maurienne valley to the town of Saint-Jean-De-Maurienne and the steep ending to a big three days. The climb is 9.5 kilometers with an average of 7% gradient however the last few kilometers have a good kick to them. It is a summit finish and if there are still any GC gains to be made, the cards must be put on the table.

And these 4 climbs are all within 93.5 kilometers. Just in case it wasn't jammed in their enough for you.

All the profiles can be found on the Tour de l'Avenir website however they don't go into great amounts of detail. Cycling Challenge has good write ups on many of the Alpine climbs here as well as many others and you can always go to places such as Strava or climbbybike to get some good profiles.

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