• 24 years young, Julian Alaphilippe is enjoying a brilliant debut Tour de France. (Tim de Waele/Getty Images)Source: Tim de Waele/Getty Images
Perhaps the final opportunity for the escape artist. A win can mean a new contract, a boost to an existing one, and, of course, Tour immortality.
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Cycling Central
18 Jul 2016 - 4:11 PM  UPDATED 18 Jul 2016 - 6:00 PM

This moyenne montagne stage is one tailor-made for the baroudeur-rouleur: those who can ride the rolling countryside all day long, turning a meaty gear, then have enough punch to not just get away, but attack the finale (or win a reduced bunch sprint).

The stage may begin in the capital for toys but the game is deadly serious; there will be no harder day to make the break, for this is the last throw of the dice for those who are not climbers or sprinters. And there will be no-one more determined to make the move than Fabian Cancellara.

At 35 years and after 16 years as a professional, Spartacus has chosen to make this year his last. Milan-San Remo, Flanders, Roubaix, the world time trial championship, Tirreno-Adriatico, Tour de Suisse - he’s won ‘em all; some, many times. He also has 10 individual Grand Tour stage victories to his name, seven earned at Le Tour, and aside from those who have won overall, no active rider has spent more days in yellow, of which he can count 29.

Appropriately, today's stage arrives in Cancellara's hometown of Bern for the very first time. The federal capital of Switzerland and the headquarters for Swatch, Fabian will need to count on his innate sense of Swiss timing to first make the right move, do enough to keep the break away, then have the kick to either drop his companions (the Cat. 4 Côte de Mühleberg, its KOM 25.5 kilometres from the finish looks good) or out-sprint them.

“I bet you can imagine the joy of the local fans if he manages to win,” says the man who designed the course, Thierry Gouvenou. “But it hardly needs saying that he will be well-marked. Whatever happens, the finale will be breathless.”

He's done it before; he can do it again. No pressure, Fabian...


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

“Before the alpine sequence of the Tour, the climbers will enjoy a relative break on the road to Berne that goes through the numerous valleys of the Jura area. The pure sprinters shouldn't hope for too much; indeed, the hill they'll have to climb in the urban final of the stage could prevent the biggest babies from fighting for victory!”

Weather: Bright sunshine. Temperatures from 25-29°C. Light wind, northwesterly over the French part of the stage, easterly to northeasterly in Switzerland.

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