Eymet - Tuesday's flat stage may have been a stroll in the
Dordogne countryside but the prospect of crosswinds on Wednesday has got the
Tour de France peloton feeling jittery.
Race leader Chris Froome admitted that Tuesday's 10th stage
had been the calmest of this year's race - perhaps of any Tour he'd taken part
in - but he's expecting something entirely different on Wednesday.
The 203.5km route looks pretty flat and should favour a
bunch sprint finish, but talk of the possibility of crosswinds means the
overall contenders will face a tense day in the saddle.
"Any talk of crosswinds gets the whole peloton quite
nervous and everyone will be fighting for those positions at the front,"
said the three-time Tour winner.
"We're going to have to be ready to go to war
Crosswinds are like kryptonite for cyclists as they can be
fatal to a rider's chances of final victory as they cause splits in the peloton
that are difficult to bridge.
Spaniard Alejandro Valverde got caught behind a split in the
peloton in 2013, Froome's first Tour victory, and lost more than 10 minutes
that day, ending his overall hopes.
Wednesday's route from Eymet to Pau is not one where a rider
can make a positive difference, but if he were to be caught out by the wind, he
could lose all hope.
Otherwise, the stage will likely follow a classic pattern,
with a breakaway being allowed a certain amount of leeway before the sprinters'
teams chase them down and set up the bunch dash to the line.
If that happens, it will all be about German Marcel Kittel.
The 29-year-old has already won four stages so far this
year, taking him to 13 in total.
But his performance on Tuesday was highly deflating for his
sprint rivals as he proved far stronger than the rest, making victory seem
And there is a sense that his rivals are starting to lose
"That's his fourth victory, he's the strongest sprinter
at this Tour de France," said Frenchman Nacer Bouhanni.
"He's won four sprints out of five, there's not much we
The one sprint Kittel didn't win was on the fourth stage
when he was held up by a crash in the final kilometre and found himself too far
back to have any chance of catching those in front.
Otherwise, he's simply been on a different level, even
catching Froome's eye.
"He's pretty to impressive, to say the least!"
said the yellow jersey wearer.