|Stage Guide||The Bike|
The Col de la Madelaine is 19km long at an average gradient of 7.9%.
By now a select group will have formed at the front.
At the rear the strugglers will band in a gruppetto, with their only goal to make the time cut, determined by the winner's finishing time plus around half an hour more.
On a day like today, there is nowhere to hide and therefore it will be a case of every man for himself.
By the time the gruppetto is halfway up the climb, the leading group will be tackling the 25km descent.
Normally one rider will be captain of the gruppetto and he will be getting time checks from his team.
His very important role is to ensure that the group stays inside the time limit.
It is not unusual to see this group of riders swapping off turns on the flat sections of the stage, as if they were in a breakaway at the front of the race.
This is all in an effort to finish inside the crucial time limit.
The leaders will be in ones and twos playing catch up on the descent and taking major risks on every corner.
It is an opportunity to either increase the gaps or catch up time wherever possible.
Riders can reach speeds of up to 100km/h going downhill, so a fast, technically-good descent can mean an advantage of valuable minutes.
On a 25km descent this represents a good opportunity to make some gains.
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