• The break on Stage 10 of this year's Tour was a high-powered escape, ultimately won by Michael Matthews of Orica-BikeExchange. (Tim de Waele/Getty Images)Source: Tim de Waele/Getty Images
Ten years ago, on an innocuous stage similar to that of today and at the exact same point in the race, an escape formed that for one man, ultimately him won the Tour de France.
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Cycling Central
16 Jul 2016 - 3:17 PM  UPDATED 16 Jul 2016 - 3:22 PM

Tour director Christian Prudhomme is convinced the day will end in a bunch sprint but with respect, there is as much chance for a breakaway to succeed. A bit of history...

July 15, 2006: On a journey almost identical in profile to that of today’s fourteenth stage and 200 kilometres from the finish in Montélimar (where we begin today), five riders stole a march on the peloton. Their names were Sylvain Chavanel, Andriy Grivko, Oscar Pereiro, Manuel Quinziato and Jens Voigt. Spaniard Pereiro was the best-placed on GC, albeit a massive 28'50 down on overnight leader Floyd Landis.

It was an unthinkable proposition that one of these men could find themselves in yellow by day's end. But when Voigt and Pereiro crossed the line to claim first and second, the peloton was nowhere to be seen; it took a wait three seconds short of half an hour before Robbie McEwen, most likely thinking he would be contesting the stage win (as Mark Cavendish will be today), led home the peloton. Pereiro was leading the Tour. "It's like a dream," he said at the time, in a right state of bewilderment.

"The yellow jersey of the Tour de France is something so incredibly big. Last year, when I won a stage in the Tour, I could already feel how great it was, but today, with the jersey, that's even better. I was dreaming about this, but I never thought it would happen." The bottom line was that Pereiro, who finished in the top 10 the previous two years, should not have been let go, or at least not to such an extent. He now had just one week to defend and the title was his.

As things turned out, he would keep the golden fleece all the way to the penultimate day's time trial before Floyd Landis, with plenty of medical assistance, reversed his half-minute deficit and turned it into a 59-second advantage.

The American would ‘win’ the Tour de France (well, for four days, anyway) before his team announced he had tested positive for an unusually high T/E (testosterone-epitestosterone) ratio after his ridiculous solo performance two days previous, on Stage 17 to Morzine. It would take a further year before the US Anti-Doping Agency found him guilty and rescinded his title on 20 September 2007, awarding it to Pereiro.

Could history repeat itself?

Mountain passes & hills

Km 20.5 - Côte de Puy-Saint-Martin: 3.6 kilometre-long climb at 5.2% - category 4
Km 93.5 - Côte du Four-à-Chaux: 3.9 kilometre-long climb at 4.2% - category 4
Km 101.5 - Côte d'Hauterives: 2.1 kilometre-long climb at 5.5% - category 4

Why not? In cycling, and this Tour de France in particular, it seems that anything and everything is possible. As Voigt said after his stage win in 2006, "It's a question of character. I didn't want to give up; I just wanted it to happen. You just need to force luck on your side."

Or just have The Force.

Of course, the sprinters will have saved themselves in yesterday’s individual time trial, and since the start in Mont-Saint-Michel, the five biggest hitters are all still here: Cavendish, Greipel, Kittel, Kristoff, Sagan. Two - Greipel and Kristoff - haven’t yet won a stage, and they’ll be more than a little antsy. At this point in the race it comes down to experience as much as speed - which all the aforementioned have in spades (only Sagan has not previously won a stage in the third week). And as far as opportunities go, there are at most two chances left before the Fat Lady sings on the Champs-Élysées.

So where does that leave us?

Your guess is as good as ours!

Christian Prudhomme, Tour de France race director, says...

“The sprinters will probably have focused on taking it easy during the previous time trial. Out of several factors, that precaution could condition their speed on the final straight. Add to that the fact that the final corridor could be struck by a strong headwind which should condemn all breakaway attempts.”

Weather: Sunny weather but strong headwind from the north, between 40-80km/h. Temperature from 21-28°C.

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