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Preview: 2013 Tour de France — Stage 14

Saint-Pourcain-sur-Sioule to Lyon (191km)

Saturday, July 13 6:40 A.M. EDT – 11:06 A.M. EDT
Live Coverage sponsored by Clif Bar

What a stage we had Friday! Omega Pharma-Quick Step, Belkin, and Saxo-Tinkoff absolutely smashed it and now it’s time for another day of high speed racing.

We are yet to see a breakaway make it all the way to the finish in this year’s Tour de France, but it could very well happen in stage 14. With seven categorized climbs, it will be close to impossible for the sprinters’ teams to control the peloton and many of the fast guys will most likely get dropped. Cannondale showed its strength on the stage to Albi last week, but do Peter Sagan’s mates have the manpower to do that again?

Many riders are already very tired, especially after Friday’s crosswind-blanketed stage, and the GC riders will hope an inconsequential breakaway gets away early in order to rest their legs before Mont Ventoux on Sunday. Still, with the first 60 kilometers of this stage being flat, we can expect a fast first hour of the race. Everybody knows this is the day a breakaway could make it and without many other chances, the stage hunters can’t really afford to miss out.

The last 30km includes three Cat. 4 climbs. They each have an average gradient of just over four percent and are not more than a couple of kilometers long. These climb may not seem like much, but after two weeks of racing, riders can really make a difference here. It’s a good place for a rider lacking a big finish kick to put in a big attack. With a tailwind in the last 6.5km, a strong rider may be able to solo away to victory in Lyon.

With upwards of 100 riders hoping to hit the right breakaway on Saturday, it’s not easy picking a favorite. Aggressive riders like Sylvain Chavanel (Omega Pharma), Thomas Voeckler (Europcar), Johnny Hoogerland (Vacansoleil-DCM), Philippe Gilbert (BMC Racing), Juan Antonio Flecha (Vacansoleil) all seem like good candidates, but so do riders like Lars Bak (Lotto-Belisol), Pierrick Fedrigo (FDJ.fr), Jan Bakelants (RadioShack-Leopard), Simon Gerrans (Orica-GreenEdge), Tony Gallopin (RadioShack), Michael Albasini (Orica), and the French champion Arthur Vichot (FDJ.fr).

If a breakaway makes it, chances are that at least one of the riders mentioned above are in it. If a breakaway doesn’t survive and we get a sprint in a reduced peloton, look to riders like Sagan and John Degenkolb (Argos).

Follow Mikkel Condé on Twitter @mrconde and visit C-Cycling to read more about stage 14 and see other good breakaway candidates.