Aggressive, Challenging, Unpredictable: A Preview of Stage 15

Stage 15’s unpredictable profile could continue to shape the outcome of the 2017 Tour de France. – By Whit Yost

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Like many stages in the 2017 Tour de France, Stage 15 offers a profile that’s hard to characterise. Taking the race over 189.5km of the winding, undulating roads of France’s Massif Central, it’s a stage that could see both a breakaway stage victory and more changes to the Tour’s General Classification.

The stage starts in Laissac-Sévérac l’Église and soon after sends the race up a Category 1 climb to the Aubrac Plateau, which should provide the perfect opportunity for a breakaway to escape. It then winds and rolls across the top of the plateau for more than 100 kilometres before descending back down into the Gorges de l’Allier.

But race won’t stay there for long as the riders are soon climbing once again—this time to the summit of the Col de Peyra Taillade, a Category 1 ascent with pitches that hit 14 per cent. Positioned less than 40km from the finish line, the Col could see attacks from the GC group, especially if the contenders sense that one of their rivals is having a bad day—similar to what Team Sky did to Fabio Aru at the end of the Stage 14.

The finale features the Category 4 Côte de Saint Vidal at 13km to go and an uncategorised hill 5km from the finish line, both of which could be the perfect place for any riders left in the breakaway to try and rid themselves of their companions.

Dimension Data’s Steve Cummings, who’s won stages in each of the last two Tours, is a great bet to go on the hunt for Sunday’s stage. Belgians like Quick-Step’s Philippe Gilbert and Lotto Soudal’s Tim Wellens might like their chances on this stage as well.

And don’t be surprised if squads like Team Sunweb, BMC,and Dimension Data bring the race back together for Michael Matthews, Greg Van Avermaet, and Edvald Boasson Hagen, the top-3 riders from Stage 14. These three are strong enough to handle Stage 15’s hilly finale and still have enough left in the tank to sprint for the stage win from a large group.

As far as the General Classification is concerned, it might be a good thing that Aru relinquished the yellow jersey to Froome on Saturday. The Italian’s Astana team has been decimated by crashes and would have almost no chance of controlling race on a stage such as this. Now Team Sky has the responsibility to set the pace, while Aru can sit back, recover, and—if he’s feeling good—perhaps try and claw back some of the time he lost Saturday. That said, Froome seems to have his swagger back and will certainly be ready to pounce if he senses any weakness from any of the men behind him. While this isn’t a day in which the Tour will be won, it could be a day in which someone loses it.

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