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July 15, 2016 – With a weather forecast for 80-degree temperatures and 20-kilometer-per-hour headwinds, this Saturday’s 208.5-kilometer stage 14 of the 103rd Tour de France (#TDF2016) has all the makings of a dust-up between the sprinters.
#PelotonShorts by John Wilcockson/Photo by Yuzuru Sunada
The opening half of the stage heading north up the Rhône Valley has enough nagging climbs to see a breakaway form, but the last 60 kilometers of almost flat roads is sure to see the break reeled in before a field sprint in the Bird Park at Villars-les-Dombes.
The hottest sprinter at this year’s Tour has been Dimension Data’s Mark Cavendish, with wins in stages 1, 3 and 6, bringing him within five victories of the all-time record of 34 career stage wins held by Eddy Merckx. Cavendish made a massive entry onto the list of Tour stage winners in 2008 at Châteauroux (this image) when the then 23-year-old Manxman put his hands on his head in disbelief as he distanced the peloton’s best sprinters: Oscar Freire, Erik Zabel, Thor Hushovd, Baden Cooke and Robbie Hunter.
Eight years later, Cavendish will be attempting to out-speed another plateau of esteemed sprinters: Bryan Coquard, André Greipel, Marcel Kittel, Alexander Kristoff, Michael Matthews and Peter Sagan. At this stage of the Tour, Cavendish, Coquard and Kristoff have lost their lead-out men, so with a completely flat finish favoring Greipel and Kittel, expect their Lotto-Soudal and Etixx-Quick Step teams to be leading out the field sprint—unless Cavendish can find a way to surprise the favored sprinters, just as did at Châteauroux ’08 to earn his first Tour stage win.