• Some like it hot... Some don't. (GodingImages)Source: GodingImages
Forewarns race director Christian Prudhomme, "Revenges or third rounds are to be expected... only the strongest will have their word to say."
18 Jul 2015 - 4:03 PM  UPDATED 18 Jul 2015 - 6:51 PM

Those you saw feature on Stage 3 to the Mur de Huy or Stage 8 to Mûr-de-Bretagne will be back in action on Saturday. Though unlike the Wall of Huy (1.3km at 9.6 per cent) or Brittany's answer to L'Alpe d'Huez (2km at 6.9 per cent) the Côte de la Croix Neuve is both longer and, on average, steeper: three kilometres at 10.1 per cent.

But that's not all.

Once crested, the Croix Neuve (also known as the Montée Laurent Jalabert, till a French senate inquiry revealed a less than pristine past of its namesake) goes on for another 1.7 kilometres to the finish in Mende, where the Tour has been thrice before and three times has brought us a thrilling finale.

"It's one for the climbing opportunists. And it's got breakaway written all over it." - Matt White, OricaGreenEDGE sports director

From a 200km escape, Laurent Jalabert famously won on Bastille Day in 1995, attacking his breakaway companions early on the climb (also securing his second green jersey and finishing fourth overall). Ten years later, Spaniard Marco Serrano produced another solo winner, also the result of an early escape and also from a move on the Croix Neuve. And, most recently in 2010, Joaquim Rodríguez won his first Tour stage in Mende as the peloton overcame the now Astana general manager Alexandre Vinkourov, the last surviving member of the break, on the day's final climb, before Purito and Alberto Contador duked it out at the finish beside the airfield.

(Three days later in the 2010 Tour, on the fifteenth stage to Bagnères-de-Luchon, Andy Schleck would famously drop his chain on the Port de Balès and later the maillot jaune to Contador. But nineteen months later, at the behest of the Court of Arbitration for Sport and the result of a failed doping test by the Spaniard on the second rest day of that year's Tour, Schleck was retroactively awarded the title.)

So then, the questions are thus… Will a breakaway survive? And if not, puncheur or GC rider - who will prevail?

Christian Prudhomme, Directeur du Tour de France, says:

"Revenges or third rounds are to be expected between those who will have fought for first positions up the Mur de Huy or Mûr de Bretagne. The figures concerning the Côte de la Croix Neuve say it all: three kilometres at over 10 per cent; only the strongest will have their word to say."

Matt White, Orica-GreenEDGE head sports director, says:

"The stage itself is not a really hard day, but when you take into account thirteen really hard days' racing (beforehand)… It can be really hot in that part of France as well.

"You want to have the right guys in that breakaway, because I think a lot of guys can make the break... but a 3K at 10 per cent climb to finish off the day, it's a pretty rude way to finish. It's one for the climbing opportunists. And it's got breakaway written all over it."

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