• Alpe d'Huez (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
The first nine stages are behind us - the long stretches of flat, the devastation of the cobbles and the intermittent rolling hills have given way to proper mountains.
By
Cycling Central

17 Jul 2018 - 10:35 AM  UPDATED 17 Jul 2018 - 10:37 AM

It will be a rude awakening for the peloton when they read the stage profile in their team bus before Stage 9. Banged-up bodies and tired minds after the grueling cobbled stage to Roubaix now have a totally different obstacle to surmount, the Alps.

The next three stages have the potential to flip the general classification on its head and it represents the first opportunity to sort the wheat out from the chaff. There will be none of this nonsense of a classics rider leading the Tour, Greg van Avermaet (BMC) will be out of the jersey halfway through Stage 10.

The first hors categorie (HC) climb of 2018 looms over the course, the Montee du plateau des Glieres rates as a six kilometre stretch at eleven point two percent, a frightening gradient for even the most accomplished of climbers. That climb will split the race up with over 90 kilometres to go.

It should give a great opportunity for the teams will multiple elite climbers to really take some time on the more isolated riders. Teams like Movistar, Sky and LottoNL-Jumbo will be looking to exploit isolated general classification riders like Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) and Dan Martin (UAE Team Emirates). 

 

Stage 11 is one of the shorter stages of the race and it's either up or down the entire stage. At a mere 108.5 kilometres, the action will be on from the gun as the sprinters ready to try and take maximum points at the foot of the first climb. Then it's into the first of two HC climbs for the stage, with the Montee de Bisanne and the Col du Pre sure to be the big prize on offer for any rider looking to take a commanding position in the battle for the King of the Mountains polkadots.

The finishing climb of La Rosiere is a inconsistent climb, and quite a bit easier than those preceding it in the stage, but no one will be fresh at that point and it could see big gaps form among the contenders.

Alpe D'Huez. The climb of legend within the Tour, the one ascent that makes riders into overnight heroes and household names. 21 switchbacks on the road to the top, snaking its way upwards to the scene of so much Tour de France glory.

Not that the rest of the stage is a cycle round the park, the Col de la Madeleine and the Col de la Croix de Fer are imposing, long climbs where the gradients vary wildly and the average percentage is made kinder by some short descents. Both are regulars at the Tour, with the Col de la Croix de Fer last appearing in 2015 and the Col de la Madeleine in 2012. 

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Much of the action there will be shaped by what has gone before and what the general classification looks like, but there is little reason to suppose that it won't offer some compelling racing action.

Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) said the first nine days of the Tour were very different to what he was used to. 

“Physically there were not the most demanding days but the stress in the bunch was pretty high," said Dumoulin. "It was kind of a weird first nine days to have no mountains at all. It’s definitely another Tour de France from tomorrow." 

“Straight after a rest day, it could be risky to go for it, especially with two very hard days after it, but of course we have to be prepared for everything,” Dumoulin said. “Then there’s the climb that’s six kilometres at 11 per cent. That’s going to be brutal, but it’s at the beginning of the stage.

“I did a recon of the other two days, but not tomorrow. These are going to be absolutely brutal days in the mountains. We’ll know much more about the form of myself and my competitors after these three days.”

The remaining sprint stages are few and far between, with just Stages 13 and 18 looking like potential ones for the fast men ahead of the traditional finale on the Champs Elysees.

If you like mountains, then the rest of the Tour de France is most definitely for you.

SBS will be broadcasting the 2018 edition of La Course by Le Tour de France, with coverage starting from 7.00 PM AEST, that will then be followed by Stage 10 of the Tour on SBS from 9.30 PM AEST (WA, SA, check local guides). 

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