Belfort — Porrentruy (97.9mi / 157.5km)
Sunday 8 July
The Tour crosses into Switzerland in stage 8, finishing in the city of Porrentruy. This second straight medium mountain stage promises to be even more challenging than the previous day, as it’s shorter (only 157.5km) but features seven categorized climbs. With some notorious and classic ascents in Switzerland’s Jura Mountains — the Côte du Passage de la Douleur, the Col de La Croix, etc. — this stage smells a lot like the short, explosive run to L’Alpe d’Huez in 2011.
“It’s like a Liege-Bastogne-Liege,” said Tour director Christian Prudhomme. “Obviously it’s shorter, but there’s a succession of steep little climbs around 3-4km long and finishing with a technical descent (of the Col de la Croix) that a rider like (Vincenzo) Nibali, for example, could do well in.”
With a sawblade profile and likely a tight group of riders atop the general classification, establishing the breakaway today will be brutal. Expect hard racing from the gun; this is a day that only the strongest riders can make the escape. Riders with little chance at disrupting the top of the GC, like Sandy Casar (FDJ-BigMat) or Daniel Martin (Garmin-Sharp), could get away, but will likely not take much more than a five-minute maximum advantage, if that. One man the peloton won’t let escape: Thomas Voeckler (Europcar). After his run in yellow last year, the Frenchman will likely have to wait another half-decade to get any leash at all in July.
By the time the GC contenders make it to La Croix — the last ascent of the day, at about 20km from the finish — the race should be torn apart. With a 16km downhill/flat run-in to the finish, two of the sport’s best descenders, Nibali (Liquigas-Cannondale) and Samuel Sánchez (Euskaltel-Euskadi), could escape to the line.
Technical director Jean-François Pescheux said the first foray into the Jura could make the race.
“In my opinion, this could very well end up being the key stage of the Tour! The course is just 157km long, but it has been designed to promote attacks and comebacks,” he said on the race’s website. “If a favorite loses three minutes on the previous day’s final climb, he will get the chance to make amends on this stage.”
Riders will pass Bartholdi’s renowned Lion of Belfort, as they have many times before in the city’s history with the Tour, having hosted 29 times before. Porrentruy, on the other hand, is another of the Tour’s nine first-time hosts, but some previous Franco-Swiss stages have proven decisive. When Verbier hosted in 2009, Alberto Contador put a critical chunk of time into his rivals; and in 1984 in Crans-Montana, Laurent Fignon held onto his gap over Bernard Hinault.