The medieval town of Carcassonne is set to be the picturesque finish to Stage 13 of the Tour de France, and the streets of the town were all ready and welcome to greet their first big sprint finish. That's how the stage profile looked at least, 220 kilometres of mostly flat riding, with only one categorised climb with still over 160 kilometres to go.
However, after Stage 12, it seems that there are a lot more teams and riders keen to fight it out for the win from the breakaway than they are keen for a sprint finish.
This is backed up by history, Carcassonne has never seen a Tour de France peloton sprint for the stage victory. Small group have contested sprints, the last victor in 2018 was Magnus Cort, who proved far too fast for Ion Izagirre and Bauke Mollema at the end of a medium mountains course. The Danish rider may be a likely candidate for the win again, he possesses a good sprint, and is very well accustomed to fighting for wins from the breakaway.
The Côte du Pic-Saint Loup – 5.5 kilometres at 3.6% – is only categorised climb of the stage, and comes 51 kilometres after the race start. If yesterday was any indication, it should be a fierce fight to make the early break, and if a group has been decisively established before then, the climb may be the place to make a move stick. The key may be what the sprinters do, no riders will be keen to ride with the likes of Mark Cavendish and Michael Matthews all the way to the finish, and the presence of one and not the other for the intermediate sprint points out on the road would probably mean that the other's team will chase the move down before the sprint in Fontes with 104 kilometres raced.
Tour de France Stage 13 profile Source: ASO
From there, it's all eyes on Carcassonne and how the race dynamics will form on the run into the crenelated ramparts of the historic town. A slight uphill in the sprint finish may even up the sprint a little for the puncheurs against the pure fast men, especially if it has been a long, hard day in the saddle. The final kilometre only rises at two per cent, so it's still one for the riders with a rapid kick to the line.
It's doesn't quite get the points for the longest road, that goes to the mammoth 249 kilometres of Stage 7.
Watch from 2030 AEST on SBS, SBS OnDemand, with the race coverage starting on the SKODA Tour Tracker from 1955 AEST.