Mellow Velo

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Stage 14: Saint-Étienne - Mende, 192.5km

Start Time 12-15CET.

Mende. Croix Neuve or Montée Jalabert, a climb that became mythical in 1995 when the Jaja put Banesto and Miguel Indurain in troubles after a crazy long range team attack from ONCE.
Race leader Miguel Induráin had a 2:27 lead over second-place Alex Zülle, with top Frenchman Laurent Jalabert in sixth overall, more than nine minutes back. This year’s stage route is not the same as then, being 30 kilometers shorter, but it’s just as difficult, with 3,400 meters (over 11,000 feet) of vertical gain. The opening section has some long hills ideal for attacks where 27 years ago Jalabert began a dangerous breakaway that grew to six-strong, two of them his ONCE teammates.
They gained 10 minutes, putting Jalabert in the virtual yellow jersey, as the stage passed through Le Puy-en-Velay and Le Bouchet-Saint-Nicolas.
Jalabert eventually won the stage, consolidated his green jersey, finished almost six minutes ahead of the GC leaders and moved into third overall.

Usually, when Le Tour finishes in Saint-Étienne the town also hosts the stage start on the following day. Three years ago the race travelled on lumpy terrain to Romain Bardet’s birthplace, Brioude, where Daryl Impey outgunned Tiesj Benoot in a two-up sprint.
The route never climbs very high, but the physical demands on the riders will be almost unceasing as they race from Saint-Étienne to Mende. This trek through the departments of Loire, Haute-Loire and Lozère will push the most robust riders into action. Then, on the Jalabert Montée de la Croix Neuve leading up to the airfield above Mende.

The Climbs.

Final Kms.

The riders plunge down a 20 kilometres descent and then it’s time for the Côte de la Croix Neuve.
The middle section of 2 km at 12,8% is simply terrible, so there will be time gaps among the GC riders.. The climb will be topped with only 1,4 km to go, where the road sweeps down to reach the airport above the city.

What to Expect.

The route descends from the gun, but only short, and then the Côte de Saint-Juste Malmont is sure to inspire a flurry of attacks. Following a rolling section, with two short downhills, the next climb appears after 36 kilometres. So the breakaway should form during this opening and is likely to succeed.
Behind, the GC riders will firstly be looking to surviveand limit time gaps, but those with the best legs may force the issue.

In 2015, the French pair of Thibaut Pinot and Romain Bardet, too busy watching each other, were countered and outwitted in the last kilometre by the Britain’s Stephen Cummings.

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