Tour de France - Stage 15 guide: Back to the flat
Mark Cavendish will be glad to be back on the flat in the 193km fifteenth stage of the Tour de France to Montpellier on Sunday after having a bad day in the Pyrenees on Saturday.
Stage 15 – Sunday 17 July – Limoux-Montpellier – 192.5km
Details: With the exception of a small fourth-category climb after 80km, stage 15 is a flat affair – precisely what the doctor ordered after the travails of the Pyrenees. Given the previous day's route, many sprinters who would have other wise contested today's highly likely bunch sprint finale could well be already on a plane home. With the second rest day coming up on Monday there are going to be some very tired legs in the peloton.
Watch out for: Heat, and grape skins on the road. This is the closest the race comes to the Mediterranean and the weather in mid-July is usually baking hot. This is also a big wine region and the whole road to Montpellier is more or less lined by vineyards.
Prediction: With the second rest day in mind, some riders may well try their luck with a break. But this is the last chance for the sprinters to contest a finish ahead of the final stage on the Champs Elysees so it's hard to look beyond a bunch sprint. With Mark Cavendish deep in competition with Jose Rojas and Philippe Gilbert for the green jersey, and the likes of world champion Thor Hushovd and Andre Greipel also in good form, then the head says a break won't stand a chance. But with possible winds and the lingering fatigue from the Pyrenees, there's a good chance a group could stay away.
History: The Tour has visited Montpellier 29 times, the most recent in 2009 where the southern city hosted the team time trial, won by Astana. Had the Kazakh-based team ridden just one second faster, Lance Armstrong – on is return to racing following retirement – would have worn the yellow jersey. As it was, Fabian Cancellara kept hold of it by virtue of having won the prologue three days earlier, despite the two men being tied for time. It wasn't the best day for Bouygues Telecom – the team now known as Europcar saw four of their riders crash on the same bend in the countryside outside Montpellier.