After the Tour's second rest day, stage 16 takes the race from the Massif Central to the foot of the Alps
Coming out of the Tour de France’s second rest day, Stage 16 is a true transitional stage: one that begins in the hills of the Massif Central, and ends on the flat roads of the Rhône valley, at the foot of the Alps.
The race begins in Le Puy en Velay. Soon after the start, the riders face the Category 3 Côte du Boussoulet, which should provide the perfect opportunity for the breakaway to establish itself. About 45km of undulating roads lay between the summit of the Boussoulet and the summit of the day’s second and final categorized climb, the Category 4 Col du Rouvey, on which the break will hope to increase its lead.
With several teams trying to get riders into the day’s big breakaway, the first 90 minutes of racing should be fast, and there might be fractures in the main peloton as riders struggle to adjust after the rest day. If sprinters like Quick-Step’s Marcel Kittel and Lotto Soudal’s Andre Greipel find themselves off the back early, the breakaway will get the leash it needs to ride all the way to the finish in Romans sur Isère.
But if it doesn’t, the 55km of flat to rolling roads along the Rhône will give the sprinters’ teams more than enough time to organise themselves. And with the day’s intermediate sprint just 45km from the finish line, there might be lots of points available in the green jersey competition. Kittel can essentially wrap-up the competition with a sixth stage victory, while Australian Michael Matthews might go on the attack in the hopes of winning both the intermediate sprint and the stage. If he does, he’ll remain in contention (but still need a bit of miracle to defeat Kittel).
With two hard days in the Alps up next, expect the Tour’s GC battle to take the day off as men like Chris Froome, Fabio Aru, Romain Bardet, and Rigoberto Uran use the stage to get themselves ready for the climbing to come. Only a crash or poorly-timed mechanical would cause major changes in the Tour’s General Classification.