July 17 Stage 15: Limoux to Montpellier, 193km (120 miles)
Usually, the third Sunday of the Tour, is devoted to a major mountain stage or time trial, but this year’s stage is a mostly flat run out of the Pyrénées and through the Languedoc vineyards to Montpellier. The sprinters’ team will be working hard to control the early attacks — that will likely consolidate before the race passes the medieval fortifications of Carcassonne’s La Cité, 25km into the stage. And as there’s no racing the next day, the best sprinters’ teammates will be prepared to work hard for their man.
THE SCOOP: The sprinters’ goal is usually to wait and catch the breakaway in the final 10km but with this day’s intermediate sprint at Montaignac, only 46.5km from the finish, that’s where the peloton will probably regroup. Less than an hour later, after racing on 10km of wide boulevards through the Montpellier suburbs, the final sprint should be fast and spectacular.
OVERALL RATING: *
July 18 Rest day in the Drôme region
Teams will stay two nights at hotels in a dozen towns between Valence and Orange in the Rhône Valley, with Team RadioShack the only one sleeping at the next day’s start in St Paul-Trois-Châteaux.