• The final week... Who's got the valentia? (AFP)Source: AFP
Valence has its derivation from the Latin word 'valentia', meaning strength or capacity. Rather apposite, don't you think, given today's stage draws the curtains open to the final week of racing?
19 Jul 2015 - 5:02 PM 

Until now known only as a finishing point at Le Tour, Mende having hosted stage arrivals in 1995, 2005, 2010, and most recently yesterday, when MTN-Qhubeka's Steve Cummings spoiled la fête française on National Mandela Day, this time it serves as the start town of Stage 15; today also marking the foray into the final week of racing.

And, as the parcours continues to head east through the department of Lozère and of the region of Languedoc-Roussillon in southern France, destination Valence, capital of the Drôme department, Sunday July 19 will also be one of three - at the very most - final opportunities for a breakaway specialist or sprinter to win.

"I can't see too many teams giving so much chase coming at the end of the second week." - Matt White, Orica-GreenEDGE head sports director

As race director Christian Prudhomme says, the wind, should it blow hard, will present the only real obstacle till a likely mass sprint, for the stage profile is nothing to write home about. However many of today's sprinters are also some of the best Classics specialists - think John Degenkolb, Alexander Kristoff and Peter Sagan - so, if the wind does whip up, the GC riders will need to stay as attentive as those vying for stage glory.

Five years ago, in the neighboring city of Bourg-lès-Valence, Mark Cavendish claimed his thirteenth of 26 stage wins to date.

Valence has its derivation from the Latin word valentia, meaning strength or capacity. With one already in the bag, will the Cavendish of today bring the fortitude, mental and physical, to find success once again?

Christian Prudhomme, Directeur du Tour de France, says:

"All the conditions should be set for the sprinters' teams to work hard before a bunch finish in Valence. The day's course doesn't make this stage the hardest of the event but what many might predict could be troubled when the pack enters the Rhône valley, where wind can be a real nuisance."

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

"I think it's very similar to Stage 13 (to Rodez, won by Greg van Avermaet). They'll be breaks going, for sure, and if teams are happy with the composition of the break...

"It's probably not going to be a day for Cavendish or Greipel. When you look at the sprinters we've got here, a lot them will be marking each other out, so I think it'll definitely be a day for the break.

"They'll be a lot of teams who haven't got so much to do after the Pyrénées, and they'll be making today really aggressive. I expect a really aggressive first hour, and once the break goes, things will be calmer after that; I can't see too many teams giving so much chase coming at the end of the second week."

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