Stage 17 of the Tour de France is the first of two stages in the Alps, with the legendary Col du Galibier playing host to most of the action.
Frustratingly, however, the stage finishes off the descent of the Galibier in the town of Serre Chevalier.
The stage starts from the town of La Mure, with the riders descending for the first 10 kilometres before starting the slow run up to the first climb of the day, the second category climb of the Col d’Ornon.
The climb averages 6.7 kilometres for 5.1 kilometres, and should see the pure sprinters get dropped inside the first 30 kilometres of racing.
If that does eventuate, Michael Matthew will be happy, as a short descent off the first climb leads them to the intermediate sprint point in the town of Allemond, after 47.5 kilometres of racing.
After the sprint point, the riders start the daunting task of tackling the longest classified climb of the tour, the hors category climb of the Col de la Croix de Fer, which is an epic 24 kilometres long at an average gradient of 5.2 per cent.
The average gradient is misleading, with the climb including three descents which reduce the average gradient. With sections in the middle of the climb at over 16 per cent, this climb will be a brutal pre-curser to the main event on the stage, the double climb of the Col du Telegraphe and the Col du Galibier.
The descent of the climb is reasonably simple, however. The road does climb shortly twice, before the riders hit the short valley road before starting the penultimate climb of the Telegraphe.
The town of Saint-Michel-de-Maurienne signals the start of the Col du Telegraphe, which also is the start of an epic 35 kilometres of racing, with the road rising at an average gradient of five per cent of that period.
The Telegraphe itself is 12 kilometres at 7.1 per cent. It is a fairly consistent climb, which should see Team Sky set the pace.
At the top of the Telegeprahe, the riders will then descend five kilometres to the town of Valloire, where they start the major test of the Col du Galibier.
The climb of the Galibier averages seven per cent for 17.7 kilometres, with the first 10 kilometres being fairly changeable, with sections varying from three per cent to 10 per cent. However, the final eight kilometres are much more consistent, with gradients above 8.5 per cent being the norm.
For the first time in the Tour, altitude will play a factor, with the summit of the Galibier maxing out at over 2600 metres. Colombian Rigoberto Uran (Cannondale Drapac) will be in his element at such an altitude.
The Telegraphe and Galibier double was used in the 2011 Tour de France, and featured the leading contenders being scattered across the road at the top of the Galibier, with a long descent and climb to Alpe d’Huez to come.
The first five kilometres of the descent are technical; however, the climb then becomes straight and flowing after that period. If Romain Bardet is still in contact at the top, he will likely attack over the climb and attempt to get a gap in those first few kilometres in an attempt to hold his competitors to the line.
Who knows what will happen today; though whatever does eventuate will be epic. On paper, this is my favourite stage of the Tour, so I’m hoping the general classification men light up both the climbs and the descents.
I expect Team Sky to keep the pressure on all day, and therefore the break will struggle to get away, or stay away until the finish.
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