• Edging ever closer to yellow, will Rigoberto Uran once again be a protagonist today? (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
“Never has such a short format been on the menu since half-stages disappeared.” Ever since he took the top job, it’s all part of the spice race director Christian Prudhomme is trying to inject back into Le Tour.
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Cycling Central
14 Jul 2017 - 1:50 PM 

Have you ever seen anything like it?

There’s just 36.5 kilometres of individual time trials in this year’s race (the second and final TT comes on the penultimate day, in Marseille) and no team time trial. Other than the romp along the Champs-Élysées, the thirteenth leg is the only en ligne stage under 150 kilometres. Though Prudy hasn’t just trimmed the length - he’s taken the clippers and given it a ‘number one’ all over! It’s an army-style haircut for what is expected to be a wild war on wheels.

Froome's failure on final slope sets stage for thrilling Tour finale
Chris Froome's failure to hang on in the final stretch of Thursday's 12th stage of the Tour de France has set the stage for a nail-biting finale, as his main rivals have sensed a weakness in the defending champion.

The shortest Tour stage in the last 30 years, this Bastille Day extravaganza has chaos written all over it. Of course, the peloton could be completely knackered after yesterday’s Pyrenean sufferfest and quickly establish an entente cordiale till the Alps. But those reeling after Thursday should be precisely the ones placed under the hammer...

Mountain passes & hills
Km 31.0 - Col de Latrape (1 110 m): 5.6 kilometre-long climb at 7.3% - category 1
Km 46.5 - Col d'Agnes (1 570 m): 10 kilometre-long climb at 8.2% - category 1
Km 74.0 - Mur de Péguère (1 375 m): 9.3 kilometre-long climb at 7.9% - category 1

In terms of climbing, from Sérac d'Ustou, the peloton will first negotiate the longer though slightly less steep side of the Col de Latrape, containing pinches of 14.7 percent. Once crested, a quick 5.5km descent to Aulus-les-Bains follows before the second Pyrenean climb of the Col d’Agnes begins, boasting an average of 8.2 per cent gradient with the steepest sections at 10.6 per cent.

From the top of the Agnes there’s almost 20km of descending, so expect some regrouping before the sting in the tail comes with the start of barely-used Mur de Péguère. The climb from Massat is nearly half as short as that from the direction of Foix but it’s far more difficult, the bike path-narrow section after the Col des Caougnous having stretches exceeding 18 per cent.

First traversed in the 2008 Tour, the Péguère was used most recently in the 2012 edition and for the first time as a categorised ascent. Part of the fourteenth leg, it was also tackled from Massat with the stage ending in Foix, though at 191km the day was almost twice as long. (For the top riders, today’s stage should be done in well under three hours.) 50km in, an eleven-man escape formed that was whittled to five on the slopes of the Péguère; attacking 11.5km out from Foix, Luis León Sánchez claimed a solo win over Peter Sagan, who, on a day his rivals were left behind, was on a mission to mop up more points. (And would later earn the first of five consecutive maillots verts.)

However, it was the histrionics of some saboteurs that grabbed the majority of headlines, with carpet tacks at the summit wreaking havoc on the peloton behind. It was estimated there were around thirty punctures that included defending champion Cadel Evans, and Robert Kiserlovski and Levi Leipheimer both crashed as a result, the former breaking his collarbone. Race leader Bradley Wiggins called a truce on the descent, who changed bikes as a precaution - although that didn’t stop Pierre Rolland attacking anyway, eventually reeled back in and chastised by his peers, for which he later apologised. Tut-tut, Pierre! Ah, those unwritten rules of the road...

“We condemn this irresponsible and dangerous behaviour,” read an ASO statement issued later that evening, “which amounts to an attempt to harm the physical integrity of the riders and the smooth functioning of the race.”

The public prosecutor in Foix opened a preliminary investigation into the incident, later taken over by special branch from the Toulouse and Saint Girons gendarmerie.

Alas, those tacky saboteurs were never found...

Yesterday we saw Team Sky’s Chris Froome vulnerable and perhaps not at his previous Tour-winning best, relinquishing the maillot jaune to Fabio Aru (Astana). Will this be a day he bounces back - or is it a sign of things to come?

Froome shows fallibility at the Tour de France
The sight of the defending champion unable to sprint directly against his chief rivals in the closing kilometres of stage 12 changed the script and enlivened scribes in the Pyrenees.

Christian Prudhomme, Tour de France race director, says:
“Precisely one hundred. In terms of kilometres, never has such a short format been on the menu of the Tour since half-stages disappeared. It'll be a total contrast compared to what the riders witnessed on the previous day, but the terrain will be just as favourable for, I hope, audacious initiatives. Dynamism linked to distance will be joined by a degree of difficulty in the climbs: the Col de Latrape followed by the Col d'Agnes, then finally the Mur de Péguère and its gradients that can reach 18 per cent.”

Finish line: Allée de Villote, at the end of a 180m finishing straight. Width: 5.50m.

Weather: 22°C and mostly sunny at start, 0% precipitation, 60% humidity, wind 9km/h NNW; 25°C and partly sunny at finish, 0% precipitation, 42% humidity, wind 11km/h NNW.

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