July 15, 2011
Stage 13 Preview: 152.5 km Pau to Lourdes
Stage 13 sets up as a bit of a palate-cleanser for the GC riders, fresh from the first big all-you-can-eat hurt buffet of the Tour.
The major feature of the stage is the Col d'Aubisque, an hors categorie climb that could put some of the GC pretenders to shame. The summit comes with 35 kilometers to the finish, so there will be ample opportunity for a regrouping on the descent to Lourdes. Two other categorized climbs are on tap: the 3rd Category Côte de Cuqueron at 42.5 km is short and steep, and could be a spot for a breakaway, and the 4th Category Côte de Belair, which comes at the end of about 8.5k of rising road, even though the official climb is just 1 km.
The intermediate sprint comes between the two lower category climbs and Col d'Aubisque, at 82.5 kms. This is one of the stages where Philippe Gilbert might be able to make up green jersey points on Mark Cavendish, either through Cavendish falling off the back on the big climb, or through Gilbert making a break on the long descent.
It's doubtful the course will rip the yellow jersey from Thomas Voeckler's shoulders; that's more likely tomorrow as the race heads up to Plateau de Beille. Arnold Jeannesson of FDJ wears the white jersey, Sammy Sanchez the polka-dots, and Cavendish the green jersey for Stage 13.
Stage winner is likely to be somebody like Stage 12 winner Sammy Sanchez or French champion Sylvain Chavanel, a strong rider well back in the GC who can get in a break over the Aubisque and help it stay away from the chasing field all the way down to Lourdes.
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