In TdF we have the 10th stage the last one before the first rest day. This stage is also the alpine queen stage and the 2nd MTF of the race int the Col de Vars after 188km full of difficulties that should create big time gaps even between the main contenders.
The stage starts in La Chambre and the first climb of the day appears in the 12th km with the amazing climb to the Lacets de Montvernier.
After the cat.2 climb we have a small flat zone followed by a short descent heading to Saint Michel de Maurienne where is placed the 2nd climb of the day a cat.1 with almost 11km at 6.2% also known as La Planchette. The climb will be hard but the descent will be hard to, due to the narrow road
After the descent there is a sprint and starts one of the most famous combos of TdF Col du Telegraphe and the Galibier, where we reach the highest point in this TdF.
But the difficulties don't finish here, we are only in the middle of the stage. After a long descent riders reach Briançon and star the climb to the Col d'Izoard another very well known climb that is frequently used by the ASO.
After the Izoard we have another long descent that will bring the exhausted men to the last climb of the day and also the finish of the stage at the top of the Col de Vars. The climb is not the hardest of the stage but after brutal 170km it will make decisive differences between the GC contenders.
Pacific Tour Stage 11: Medford- Roxy Ann ITT 12.5 km
This is the first individual time trail of the race. This is an uphill affair but it is not as straight forward as it looks. From the start in downtown Medford, the road climbs all the way to the line but the gradient isn't steep enough for most of the climb to warrant a road bike. At the 9.1 km mark, the road surface changes to gravel. This will mean a bike change is necessary for riders on a TT bike, so correct equipment choice is a must on today's stage. Riders that can ride gravel roads will fair better in this time trial even if it is uphill because the gravel is quite thick in some sections.
Tour of the Mountain States stage 16: West Jordan - Salem; 188km
The last week of my gt takes place in Utah. You'll probably know most of the climbs that I'll use, but that's because of the great Tour of Utah, my favourite American stage race, actually does a good job of using the terrain that they have (unlike the ToC and the USA Pro Challenge).
The stage starts in West Jordan, a city in Salt Lake County and a suburb of Salt Lake City, named by Mormon settelers who entered the Salt Lake Valley in 1847 and homwtown of the late Gene Fullmer, a middleweight boxer who beat the great Sugar Ray Robinson and won the middleweight title in their 3rd fight in 1961 (their 2nd fight was a draw and SRR knocked him out in the 5th round in their first fight).
The first part of the stage is mostly false flat, the riders will ride anlongside the shores of the stunning Utah Lake, Utahs largest freshwater lake.
After 83km we have an intermediate sprint in Goshen, a small town mostly known for the Tintic Standard Reduction Mill, an abandoned refinery n 1920, and only operating from 1921 to 1925.
After that we have 37km of false flat/slightly rolling terrain, then the only climb of the day starts, Nebo Loop Rd, 25.2km at 4.5% with 9.3km at 7.2% in the middle of the climb.
The next 15km are mostly false flat, then the (not very technical) descent starts, the final 10km are mostly a false flat.
The stage ends in the small town Salem.
This stage should go to the breakaway, I don't think that anyone will bother to control the race.
Stage 3 of the 2013 Tour of Utah was very similar, they also used Nebo Loop Rd and ended in Payson. The stage was won by Lachlan Morton, 0:34 ahead of GVA who won a reduced sprint for the 2nd place.
I won't post any stages durning the next 3 days, I wish you a Merry Chrismas and happy holidays!
This stage is the first one in the race where the pure sprinters will be almost guaranteed to be there with the peloton at the finish. This should mean that the break won't succeed today in staying away. After following the Rouge River for the first 40 km the riders turn to climb Ragsdale Butte; this is the only difficulty until the finish. The climb of Lookingglass Rd is only six kilometers from the line and this should disrupt the sprint trains enough to provide a messy finish. The attackers and opportunists should also be in the running for victory if a gap of more than 20- 30 seconds develops by the top of the final climb. With few sprint stages in this race, opportunities like this can't be missed.
Now we're into the heart of wintersport season, the wintersport countries come to my mind since, of course, I adore the Nordic disciplines (and biathlon above all if you consider it separate from those contested at the Nordic Worlds). Having done a Giro del Trentino all about linking XC and biathlon venues, and a Tour of Norway which is chocked full of tributes to them, I decided it was time to have another go at a different small stage race, one I did way back when but is overdue a retread. It's not all about the wintersports venues, although I did at one point consider (and may still do at some point) a bit of a "what are the options" series of posts about how to incorporate Nordic and biathlon venues in a wide variety of countries, whether for stage races or circuit races. As well as that, there are a few races I have been considering which would include a site or two from my beloved wintersports as well.
Before then, it's worth a go at probably the smallest traditional nation of the types of skiing in question, which is Slovenia. Famed for its mighty ski jumpers above all, the country does still have a very solid history in cross-country and biathlon, although its most famous talent in the latter of late, former Individual World Champion Jakov Fak was brought over from Croatia and indeed won his Olympic medals for them. Anyway... I'm sure there's enough time to discuss the various Prevcs, Tepešs, Majdičs and Faks as we go along, along with the impressive cross-sport achievements of Primož Roglič, a former World Cup ski jumper who took up cycling to recover from injury and has now reached the World Tour in his own right.
For the start of the race, however, we are steering clear of those mighty Alps that have yielded that broad history of Slovene sports stars in favour of a start over by the Adriatic coast. For a country as small as it is, Slovenia is an incredibly diverse place geographically, with the climate varying from the scenic, sunny Istrian coast to the high peaks of the Julian Alps, and of course the Slovenes' mighty national symbol, the iconic Triglav, whose three-peaked summits are immortalised in the country's flag. Therefore it's an almost perfect place for a short stage race, allowing all kinds of variations in parcours.
I have chosen that as the majority of the race will take place in the mountains that make up such a significant part of the Slovene landscape, the race should begin in Koper, one of the country's scenic old Italian-style towns along the Adriatic.
No, it's perhaps not as scenic as nearby Piran, but it's a stage start, not finish, so we can be forgiven that. For the most part this is as close to a pure flat stage as you can produce in Slovenia; the country tends to produce just two types of rider. Strong stage racers with good climbing chops, such as Janez Brajkovič or Tadej Valjavec, or riders with a strong sprint finish for races requiring a bit more durability, such as Marko Kump or Grega Bole. As such, this is a stage that will favour a durable sprinter, with a little over 200km and three categorized climbs in its distance. The first is almost immediate, a relatively unthreatening drag up to Petrinje. However it is so early in the stage that we can expect the break may still be forming at this point, so it may lead to a stronger or larger breakaway than you might expect from a first flat stage.
Once we're onto the inland plateau, however, it stays rolling; there are a number of drags and uncategorized bumps, typically very short or simply not steep enough to merit categorization, especially as there have always been racing ties between Slovenia and Italy in the sport, and the Italian short stage races tend to be pretty stingy in their mountains points too. On the way through the stage we pass a number of points of interest, such as the city of Postojna, which is known firstly for a WWII mass grave, and also for one of Slovenia's biggest tourist attractions, an incredible network of caves.
After this there is another categorized climb, before descending into Dolenja Vas (but not the same Dolenja Vas that the Prevc family live in, that one's near Škofja Loka) and then heading into the city of Kočevje, also known as Gottschee to German-speakers, a settlement which became effectively an exclave of Germans after the breakup of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, the remainder of whom retain their Austro-Bavarian dialect to this day, although their numbers are minimal following the aftermath of WWII. After here, the stage gets a bit tougher, though there's no real cause to believe the race will massively break apart. There are a couple of uncategorized hills - both a couple of kilometres at a little under 5% - before quite a technical descent. This leads to the intermediate sprint with 33km remaining in the city of Črnomelj, another city which hosts a mass grave.
After this, the possibility for the sprinters to be foiled (or at least those that remain as the likes of Kittel and Guardini may already have been struggling) is kicked up a notch, with the short (just under 4km) climb to Vrčicah. It averages around 7% but doesn't really have any severe ramps, so the likes of Bole and Kump may well survive this as long as their teams are willing to chase down anybody who takes a punt, seeing as the summit of the climb is just 23km from the finish and there's no real descent, just a lot of gradually downhill rolling terrain broken up with a number of uphill ramps. This could be an interesting first stage, but really there's nothing more for the sprinty types in this race, so there's also a good chance few of them bother to take the start - and with weakened sprinting lineups you can often find unexpected escapes, such as when Daryl Impey won the flattest stage in País Vasco a few years ago. Maybe we're in for that here.
The finish is in Novo Mesto, literally New Town, which now hosts the finish of the Croatia-Slovenia one day race (formerly Zagreb-Ljubljana). It means that it now ends in a reduced sprint typically, beforehand it finished on the punchy climb to the Grad in Ljubljana…
(Mon) rest day
(Tue) stage 9: Siena - Terni
(Wed) stage 10: Spoleto - Recanati
(Thu) stage 11: Jesi - Urbino, 191 km
This stage has it all. Hard climbs, lots of sterrato, even some cobbles at the end. It will shake up the general classification. There are 7 sectors of sterrato, totalling 40 km. Most of them include climbing. The total climbing is 4.700 meters, of which a third will be done on sterrato.
fauniera, the only problem I can see with your stage is that it won't be on a weekend
Well, a couple of the sterrato downhill bits might be considered a bit steep for a GT, but if anybody's going to cross that line it's the Giro.
Krško - Kranj (Šmarjetna Gora), 182km
Pavlicevo Sedlo (cat.1) 11,9km @ 5,8%
Jezerski Vrh (cat.2) 5,5km @ 5,9%
Šmarjetna Gora (cat.3) 2,3km @ 11,9%
The second stage of the Tour de Slovénie sees the riders moving into the mountains and a steep uphill finish for the Murito specialists in the bunch. The start is in the city of Krško, another of the many cities around the territories of formerly mixed German and Slavic population that has a WWII mass grave nearby as a permanent reminder of the brutal conflict. It is also the town which contains Slovenia's only nuclear power plant, which is still contracted to produce much of its electricity for neighbouring Croatia, having been built as a joint venture between the two constituent parts of the former Yugoslavia before independence and still joint-owned. It also has a sporting connection, hosting the Slovene round of the International Speedway Grand Prix.
The first half of the stage is flat; it does include some points of interest, however. Partway through the stage we pass through the town of Laško, a scenically-located spa town which is probably best known to most for the nearby brewery which is the largest in the country; Laško is also as a result the name of one of Slovenia's two most famous beers (the other being Union). Shortly afterwards we pass through Celje, the third largest city in Slovenia (after Ljubljana and Maribor) despite a population of only around 40 000 in the main urban centre, before heading through the valleys towards Ljubno.
Ljubno also has a small ski jump often used in national competition; this being perhaps Slovenia's favourite wintersport, most small towns in the mountains have a jumping hill of some scale and this is one of the best known. But then, the climbs start as we head for the Austrian border. First up is Pavlicevo Sedlo, known to the Austrians and subsequently most of the outside world as Paulitsch Sattel, although we're climbing the Slovene side, which is a pretty challenging climb; the overall stats are a little under 12km at a little under 6%, but the final 7km are at over 8%, which at 52km to go should be where the pace begins to build.
Once we're done with the climb, there's a technical and tricky descent during our short detour into Austria; we get to the base of the - pretty steep - descent and turn left to climb the last 5,5km of Seebergsattel, known to the Slovenes as Jezerski Vrh (Lake's Peak) and replete with a great many lacets and hairpins that will help attackers to get out of the mind's eye of the péloton. Cresting with 40km remaining, it's another option to get away, although given the steepness of the final climb it's unlikely to be decisive; this is much like the inclusion of Monzuno and Loiano on the previous Giro dell'Emilia route; two tough climbs backing into one another to soften the legs, then a tense build-up to the final climb.
After Seebergsattel, the descent is almost as technical as the ascent, so riders will have to be very mindful for a while, but once the gradient softens there's not too much of a problem; the riders will then ease their way into the fourth-largest city in Slovenia, Kranj.
Dominated by the Kieselstein Castle, this city hosted a one-day race from 1967 to 2013, won by a number of the best-known local cyclists (Bojan Ropret, Jure Pavlič, Gorazd Štangelj, Grega Bole) along with a few outsiders (Giovanni Visconti the best known). It's an evocative place to Slovenia as the hometown of the father of Slovene literature, France Prešeren, as well as a sporting hub for the country; the ski jumping Prevc family originate here along with Nejc Dežman and teammate Robert Kranjec represents the town's club, road cyclists Bojan Ropret, Tadej Valjavec, Jan Polanc, Luka Mezgec, Matej Mohorič and MTB compatriot Tanja Žakelj, former biathlon star Tadeja Brankovič-Likozar and cross-country skier Vesna Fabjan are also citizens of the city. It's therefore an excellent stop-off for the national sporting tour, although the stage I have set up is not really set up for local heroes like Mezgec to win... Polanc is probably the most likely to give a local success story, having top 10ed the steep wall at the Giro dell'Emilia up to San Luca. That's because the final climb goes around the back of the local ski jump facility to the hilltop sanctuary and hotel complex at Šmarjetna Gora, up a narrow but ridable climb that will tear some legs apart. As you can see from this photo there's a reasonably sized area to contain the race, with the team buses likely staying at the bottom of the climb near Kranj station.
Yes, look at that profile: this is pure Joaquím Rodríguez territory, with the final 1300m averaging nearly 14% of pure agony. The max gradient according to Cronoescalada is 24,5%, which is, well, a long way from being inconsiderable. The idea is that with the stages to come, we need to ensure that there are some time gaps set even if the riders want to be conservative, so here we're going to make sure that there are some gaps opened simply by making the final climb so tough there's no option but for some small gaps to emerge. It's not going to be a "pure" climbing race, so the more limited riders - especially those who specialise in the extreme gradients like Rodríguez or Antón - will need to gain all they can here.
Massive stage Fauniera, that one should decide a lot in the race. After a Christmas break lets continue my TdF.
Tour de France
Stage 11: Dignes-les-Bains - Marseille (175.3km)
After the first rest day, we go to the south with a transitional stage between Dignes-les-Bains and the big city of Marseille in the Mediterranenan coast. This stage is way more easy than the pevious ones, is mainly flat and hasn't top mountain difficulties, the only climb of the day is a cat.4 in La Begude in the begining of the day. This could be an opportunity to the sprinters or a break.
The third day of my five stage Tour de Slovénie should be one of the decisive ones, a short-to-mid length chrono in the country's erstwhile capital and largest city by far. Ljubljana has almost 300 000 inhabitants, which makes it almost ten times the size of the cities thus far; it is still comparatively small by European standards as capitals go, but it is a scenic city which will offer plenty of opportunities for time to be won and lost as well as some nice camera shots especially in the early parts of the time trial. The start is in Kongresni Trg (Congress Square), a highly symbolic location in Slovene history where independence from Austria-Hungary was proclaimed and where independence from Yugoslavia was first demanded. It's also where Tito first addressed the populace, but we'll gloss over that one.
The riders will first loop around the south of the city centre and head back towards it to the east of the river along the narrow, cobbled Stari Trg. This leads to the cathedral and ultimately to one of Slovenia's most iconic structures and locations, the famous Ljubljana Triple Bridge, symbolically linking the Old Town with the modern capital.
We will cross the river into the square and head off the road to the top right of that photograph, which takes us past the highly decorative former Co-Operative Bank building, before some long straights including one passing the Kolodvor, central railway and bus station, from which most medium and long distance travel in Slovenia is undertaken. This will enable the time trial specialists to put down some power and make some gains over the lightweights; some more technically adept riders with punch will be able to go well on the initial part of the route with all the corners, but here it will get more suited to the powerhouses.
Another long straight takes us almost back to where we started, passing the almost brutalist Parliament building close to Congress Square, before a long looping circuit around Park Tivoli.
This leads us around a sizable hill to the west of the city centre which we will circumnavigate without climbing; there are no real roads ascending it, however at the peak of the Mostec part of the hill there is a smallish ski jump popular with the locals, and which hosts an exhibition summer event where people just have picnics and sit in the outrun. Very surreal. This then takes us into the densely populated Šiška district (well, densely by Slovene standards), as we loop eastward around the north of the city before heading due south to meet up with the earlier route past the central station, passing Hrvatski Trg (Croatian Square).
The last thing that now remains is the punchy little climb up to the castle; it's only just over a kilometre long and climbs only around 65m so it isn't exactly a killer, but at the end of an ITT it's a little sting in the tail. This isn't going to stop it being a pure time triallist's stage; if the big teams were to show up I may tip Adriano Malori for it. It's not a long ITT, but it's a five day race, and we don't want to bias things too much. Slovenia is a very mountainous country and that should reflect in the race. However, with a tough weekend to come, hopefully some decent gaps are emerging and some rounded GC guys have some advantages over the purer climbers, to tempt some racing.
The queen stage of the Tour de Slovénie circles around the Gorenjska and Goriška regions; the latter part of the Littoral region along the Italian border, and the former the heart of the Julian Alpine region and including some of Slovenia's most beloved tourist attractions. The stage is between two of these, the preserved medieval centre of Radovljica and the lakeside beauty spot of Bled. There's actually less than 10km between the two, however we're getting from one to the other via a long, mountainous loop with four category 1 climbs.
From Radovljica we head through the valley toward the Italian border, via the railway border town of Jesenice, where the trains for Austria split away. Before we get to Italy, however, we reach the Alpine skiing resort of Kranjska Gora, one of the eight million scenic spots in the region.
The town serves as the base for a wide range of skiing, and is indeed an annual host of the Alpine Skiing World Cup; there is a large network of runs around here as far as the mighty mountain pass that we're headed for, some way from the small town that Kranjska Gora itself actually is. It is likely that a break will already have formed by this point, but if it has not then a very strong escape will be likely to form on the first climb of the day (and if it has, there will be counterattacks for sure) - the most mythical ascent in Slovenia (Mangart is not used in the national Tour, for pedants), the highest pass in the country and a mighty climb in its own right, the savage Prelaz Vršič, known to Italians as Passo della Moistrocca and Germanophones as Werschetzpass. The climb has sections of cobbles and spectacular scenery, along with some savage gradients including the last 6km averaging over 9%.
It has featured as a mountaintop finish in recent Tours de Slovénie, although Trije Kralje has seemingly taken that mantle recently; Radoslav Rogina beat the 21yo Jan Polanc there in 2013, Nibali won in 2007 and Przemysław Niemiec in 2005, so there's pedigree. Vršič also serves as the boundary between Gorenjska and Primorska (Littoral), where we take on a very technical and similarly steep descent into the Trenta valley, which leads us to the city of Bovec. Turning right here could lead us into Italy via the Passo del Predil or to the mighty summit of Mangart, but we have more work to do; instead we continue in the valley roads to Kobarid, where the road will turn uphill once more into a brutal ascent close to the Italian border, to the summit of the Kolovrat ridge, a steep ridge that separates the two countries with two parallel roads along it, close to Monte Matajûr. The name of the ridge is the same as that of an old Slavic sun-symbol which resembles an eight-headed swastika; it has, especially in Russia, unfortunately been appropriated via neo-paganism by nationalist and far right organizations, especially following the racist thrash metal band of the same name. Anyway, that's more than enough attention given to such unsavoury people, I'd much rather talk about the mountain. The ascent is rather two-stepped, consisting first of the 5km at nearly 10% into Livek, then a km or so of false flat, then another 5km at closing in on 8%. After a brief plateau there's a similarly steep descent although with relatively fresh tarmac this may be narrow and technical but shouldn't pose a problem. After the descent we don't actually go into the nearby town of Tolmin but instead take a smaller, shorter route into the valley we're headed for, via the spectacular small town of Most na Soči (Bridge on the Soča).
From here we briefly head through Notranjska to get to the base of our third climb of the day, with the third and fourth backing directly into one another. While I may have described Kolovrat as being slightly two-stepped, there's no "slightly" about Bohinjsko Sedlo, which consists of about 6km @ just under 7% from Podbrdo, then a descent, then another 6km @ just under 7% to the summit. With the summit coming at 46km from the line and that 2km @ nearly 9,5% approaching it, this could be where the first moves in earnest are made, although I expect the main GC contenders to wait until the final climb; the likes of Nibali may however consider a move on the descent, unless the riders are too transfixed by the views, for all the way down the descent the riders will have a perfect view down to the "other" great lake of Slovenia, the mighty Lake Bohinj. Larger than Lake Bled, it is less heralded but hardly less scenic and serves as yet another of the great attractions of the country. And who doesn't like a scenic Alpine lake?
From the base of the descent, in the town of Bohinjska Bistrica, we have the final ascent of the day, and it's a savage one, an inconsistent one, and yes, of course those of you who've been around the forum a while knew exactly what it would be... the Pokljuka Plateau. This scenic plateau sits in Triglav Narodni Park, in the shadows of Slovenia's eternal national symbol, and is best known to the outside world for its vast expanses of Nordic trails and, of course, more than anything, the World Cup biathlon centre at Rudno Polje. Fabled for its difficult trails and its comparatively high altitude for a Nordic venue in Europe, it is one of the smallest venues on the World Cup circuit, but is popular with athletes for its challenge. It also throws up some surprising results sometimes.
Unlike what you may have expected, however, I'm not putting the stage finish at the biathlon venue - in fact we're not quite going to it. We are taking the hardest of the three ways up to the plateau (one from Bled, two from Bohinj), via the narrow roads through the village of Podjelje. This is an inconsistent and tricky climb that belies its fairly standard (11km, 7%) statistics, as you can see from the profile:
With maximum gradients of 19%, these slopes should really break the race apart; the summit is at 21km from the line, most of which is descent, so this is where to go for it. In particular on the middle section of the climb; after an initial 1600m at around 7%, a flat kilometre or so leads into 3km at an average of around 11% and a steepest kilometre of 13% - certainly no laughing matter. There's then a flat period before two more kilometres averaging around 8-9% with some ramps of up to 15%; it then becomes more benign before flattening out, then ramping up to a final 500m at 7%. No fun at all, except for those of us who get to look at the views. The descent is initially wooded before giving way to sweeping vistas of the valley below; there are some steep sections in the middle of the descent but much is relatively benign. The steepest ramps are 18%, so riders will have to watch out for those. We pass a few sights on the way down, for example in Spodnje Gorje the riders will cut away from the road down to the absurdly pretty Vintgar Gorge.
I have, however, extended the descent slightly, mainly as after Spodnje Gorje you could go past the LipBled industrial park straight past the castle into town, but where's the fun in that? Instead, the riders will hang a right and pass the small Bled Jezero (Lake) station, allowing us to circle around the side of Lake Bled itself on its southern tip, giving perfect views of the island and basically going all around the top half of the lake as shown in this picture:
For a view from the other side, this photo will show what the riders are dealing with, starting bottom left and circling the lake anticlockwise to the top right. The finish will be on the slight uphill drag of Ljubljanska Cesta.
With over 200km, four cat.1 climbs and such ludicrously good scenery, this one should be a treat. And with the race carefully set up by the ITT and the puncheur finish, and with just one stage to go, this one should see plenty of action. And if it doesn't, hey, let's just send out the helicam.
This is my optional 5th stage; the real life Tour de Slovénie has sometimes been 5 stages but is typically only 4. The four stage version of my race would be perfectly acceptable, with a flat stage, a puncheur finish, then an ITT and a mountain stage on the final weekend. This version, inclusive of this special attraction 5th stage, however, would see the final weekend being the big mountain stages and then this.
When discussing the potential ways the norms of cycling could be shaken up to create a different spectacle, the pursuit race, modeled after that developed in the introduction of the Gundersen method to the Nordic Combined in the 1980s and subsequently applied to both biathlon and cross-country skiing. Certainly it offers attractions; the combination of riders having to go it alone or strange bedfellows having to chase down a leader could create some really unusual and interesting racing, but we've never really managed to come to a consensus on how it could be introduced realistically into pro cycling. Put it with a Grand Tour and it creates a situation where stragglers are starting long after the front line competitors have finished; put it on a flat course and you're only benefiting those who you would expect to be benefited anyway.
I have used the pursuit race twice in the Race Design Thread to date, same as how Lupetto utilized the Cross-Country Sprint format in order to shake up early-stage racing. Both were different. The first was in my Deutschland-Rundfahrt, where it was part of a stand-alone stage; the morning would be an ITT on the Nürburgring, and then in the afternoon a pursuit race doing 3 laps of the circuit starting from their ITT times; with the course being hilly I thought this could work but would have to be separate from the rest of the race. The other time was in my short Liechtenstein-Rundfahrt, where riders would take on a short intermediate stage, an ITT, a flat crit with generous bonus seconds, a hilly stage, and then finish off with a hillclimb of Malbun starting on their GC times. You see, I believe the pursuit race COULD work in modern cycling, but only in short stage races; and only where the course suits. We see some pretty exciting racing in the Tour of Japan's 11km Mount Fuji hillclimb stage; these Mass Start mountain stages are said to be quite popular in Japanese non-UCI racing, but the annual Fuji hillclimb is about the only one we know in the West.
Where a race has been climber biased and not had an ITT, I think you could get away with a flat pursuit race to finish; elsewhere, however, I think a hillclimb is the best way to go because the benefit to any "pack" that arises is minimised and therefore the one-man-and-his-machine side of the race is developed more; it's hard to have domestiques because anybody who is up there with you should theoretically be an equal threat to victory because they're already up there, unless it's been a flatter race to date and somebody who isn't a climber is ahead of a teammate who is blistering through the field.
The climb I have chosen for this is (surprise surprise) the route up to the Pokljuka biathlon stadium. There's basically a kilometre from the start looping around Bled itself, and then the following profile:
As you can see, it isn't a pure climber's feast like the Malbun hillclimb was, and therefore the riders should be a bit more all-round, as while there's that 6km @ 8% or so in the middle of the climb, and including some tough lacets and a max gradient of 18%, if somebody is gaining big time on that part of the climb, they will then need to protect it on some false flat that suits more tempo-grinding climbers. However, 20km uphill is plenty of time for some riders to make some real gains when riding alone, more so than if the same climb was done as a mountain top finish, and the spectacle is likely to be more interesting than an MTT. All riders over 20 mins back on GC can start in a wave, like happens in the Tour de Ski's Alpe Cermis hillclimb, to decrease the wait issue; they then have the choice of rolling in in the autobus and keeping their GC positions relevant, or going for the stage win (in the form of the fastest isolated pursuit time, as is done in the Tour de Ski on Alpe Cermis and also in the Toblach-Cortina d'Ampezzo stage).
If you look at some of the Tour de Slovénie GCs of recent years, you can see how this could format. Last year the ITT was under 10km so riders were very close to one another, however take the 2014 GC:
You've already got a bit of a race building, as Zakarin will want to use his TT power to catch Machado before the steepest ramps; Rabottini, Koren and Bongiorno will inevitably end up together, but will Koren want to carry the stronger climbers? Should pre-ban Rabottini help pull Koren up the climb in order to have the help in the final 8km where Zakarin and Machado will have the advantage over him? If they dither, will the Caruso/Yates duo catch them? What of Chris Horner, starting at +2'15 with Radoslav Rogina just behind? In 2013, the gaps were bigger, but that would mean that almost nobody would have any help and it's a pure head to head:
2012's would have been a straight head to head battle on the final climb between Janez Brajkovič and Domenico Pozzovivo starting just behind him; after that the question would be whether Koren could hold his minute's advantage on Pires, Rabottini and Nerz who are all stronger climbers.
Hopefully the potential for the format in short stage racing isn't totally lost on people; it would be a worthwhile experiment for a smaller .1 type race, I think, and the Tour de Slovénie is a good place for it because it's short enough that the gaps won't be too big for the format to work, the country offers varied enough terrain that there's a range of options to take for it, and the fact that the country has such a strong pedigree in the Nordic sports means they are not only familiar but happy with racing in that style.
And, of course, they're finishing in Pokljuka, somewhere where they also compete in God's chosen sport. I will do that "cycling and the Nordic venues" series of posts one day, I swear.
Stage 12 will be one of the most important in this TdF. This stage is a the first ITT of the race and surely will make big gaps between specialists and the others who have more difficulties in this kind of effort. The time trial will be long, almost 60km and pancake flat, connecting Martigues and Arles and will be raced in large roads without much technical difficulties. It's the perfect chance to someone like Froome dig a big gap or someone like Quintana loss the time won in the mountains
Tour of the Mountain States stage 17: Orem - Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort; 167km
The stage starts in Orem, a town in Wasatch County.
The first 16km are mostly flase flat/slightly uphill, then the Alpine Summit climb starts, 17.7m at 5.1% with a max. gradient of 11%, a pretty decent first climb.
Te following Descent isn't very technical, but features a few nice hairpins.
After the descent we have 36km of false flat, then an intermediate sprint in Herber City, the hometown of the greatest American collegiate wrestler of all time, Cael Sanderson, a 4 time NCAA Division I champ and the only man who went undefeated in official matches with more than 100 wins (he went 159-0 in college). Sanderson also won gold in freestyle Wrestling at 84kg at the 2004 OG, the guy's an American amateur wrestling legend.
After Herber City we have a little bit of rolling terrain, but those aren't real climbs, they are pretty short and not very steep.
Then we get the next real climb, Guardsman Pass from Park City, 13.8km at 6.4% with a max. gradient of 14.2%, a pretty hard climb.
After Guardsman Pass we have a long descent and 5km of false flat, before the final climb to the Snowbird Ski and Summer Resort starts, 12.1km at 7.5% with a max. gradient of 11.8%.
You might wonder why I've choosen to have the finish in Snowbird and not in Alda, the climb would be longer, right? Well, the next stage is even harder and right after Snowbird he have a long section of false flat before Alda, about 1.4km at 3.8%. That could be bad for the race, with a hard stage 18 still to come nobody would attack before the false flat and we'd get a passive and boring race, so i's probably better to have the finish in Snowbird.
I also like Snowbird because this year we withnessed Joe Dombrowski's rebirth, he destroyed everyone on the climb and was finally able to show as a pro that he's a huge climbing talent and I've always had a soft spot for Joe, if an American rider admits that his favourite race is the Giro and not the Tour you almost have to like him.
It's a pretty hard stage and the final climb will do some damage, but stage 18 will be even harder.
I'll give you a hint, it's not a MTF...
This stage is the longest of the race but should be filled with tactical racing if there is a strong wind on the coast. The stage starts out in Eugene and finishes in Corvallis, these are the two big college towns in Oregon. Along the way, the riders will ride the Oregon coast for around 55 kilometers between Florence and Waldport. The final 100 km is due east for the first half then turning north east for the final 50 km. The wind should create echelons and if a team feels like splitting the field on the coast, the chasing groups will have to work very hard to pull the front group back by the finish with a strong tailwind at their backs. The way I see it, the only thing to discourage aggressive racing today would be the the long section of tailwind after the riders leave the coast. With the length and position in the race of the stage, riders could also use the 4th category climb of Alsea as a springboard for a late attack in a small group due to everything being harder two weeks into a Grand Tour.
The race starts at the state capital and finishes in downtown Portland, Oregon's largest city which has a huge cycling culture. This stage is sure to be one that the sprinters marked in their road-books but it might be a little hard to control towards the end of the stage. After the climb of Dorland Rd., the road becomes undulating and winds its way into downtown Portland. This will make it hard for one team to control the bunch and will also be hard for the peloton to see any breakaway riders ahead of the field. A fast downhill shoots the riders out right before the line making it a fast finish.
We are now in the most Northwestern tip of Oregon. This is the second individual time trial of the race and the first flat one. This comes after the second rest day on Monday so some legs might not respond the best to the effort that is required to produce a fast time. The only grade of note is the -7% soon after the riders leave the start house. The stage mostly follows the Youngs River for the majority of the stage but finishes on the banks of the Columbia River. This is the first of five days for the GC riders in the final 6 days of racing. After a mid-race rest, this stage will reshuffle the GC.
Since it's a long time since I last posted, I am going to start by doing a 1 day race. This acts as a massive revamp of the GP Lugano, which currently is a race for sprinters who can get over climbs well or punchers, not climbers. There are few climber's one day races, and since the Trofeo Laigueglia, GP Camaiore (when it still ran, still hoping for a comeback), cater for exactly the same type of riders - and also GP Costa Etruschi, although perhaps it is a bit easier, and also Roma Maxima (see note on GP Camaiore) - in a similar early season slot, I feel the beginning of the Italian season (I know Lugano is Swiss, but the people that race it are also very prominent at the other ones I've mentioned) need a 4 part classic season for all: Laigueglia for punchers/hardman sprinters; Strade Bianche for punchers/cobbled classics specialists; while GP Costa Etruschi is mostly for sprinters. Not including Milano-Sanremo, as it is a few levels above these races. GP Lugano is perfectly situated in the midst of Lombard and Ticino alps, so I felt this was the easiest to convert into a mountain classic.
And so, without further ado:
As you have probably already gathered by the flag choice at the beginning and the map now, there are two excursions into Italy.
One is by the Piano Di Noci, right at the start of the race. The break, I expect, should be fomed here. It is not an easy climb at all, almost 8km at 7%. After we the descent, we reach the faboulous Lago di Como, before a stretch of flat totalling about 35km, wherein we re-cross the border into the canton of Ticino, Switzerland and the Lago di Lugano. a bit of rolling terrain takes to the outskirts of the city of Lugano, before another short sectionof flat takes to the second, much more brutal half.
The second half starts off with the Alpe di Neggia: a tremendously difficult 12.2km at 10.3%. Coming halfway through the race, it will hopefully create a very nice selection up front. I would hope no more than 35, maximum 45, riders are together at the top. I expect the group to swell again at the bottom, but it is still 1000m of climbing in the legs in a very difficult 12km exertion.
After a descent into Italy, a short climb takes us back onto Swiss soil.
Following th descent off the long false flat after the said climb, we are in Bieggia. Here, a suburb of Lugano, starts the circuit of Alto Malcantone which we will take twice. In the circuit, a very difficult climb that should strike fear into anyone that isn't named Joaquim Rodríguez Oliver will take them up to the village of Alto Malcantone. It is only 4km short, yet contains no less than 17 hairpins, and an average gradient of 12.5%. A huge selction shoudl come off it, especially as it only 45km from the finish.
A repeat of the climb will mst liekly make the decisive break, but it is still 20km from the finish, so I expect a group of circa 5 will escape, and be shredded in the proceeding bumps. A few km of lfat preceed the fnish in Lugano, on the lakefront.
This is the last stage for the sprinters and there shouldn't be any difficulties to disrupt a final clash of the fast men. The finish of the stage is in Aberdeen and is the self proclaimed "Gateway to the Olympic Peninsula". The town itself isn't the nicest compared to others that I have visited throughout the race but they have a decent harbor and beach.
Tour of the Mountain States stage 18: Sandy City - Solitude Mountain Resort; 210.3km
After a hard Snowbrid MTF the riders will have to ride an even harder stage.
The stage starts in Sandy City, the sixth-largest city in Utah.
After 7.8km of false flat the first climb of the day already starts, Suncrest Drive; 8.8km at 5.3%.
After a rather easy descent and 4km of false flat the riders will climb Alpine Summit, just like on stage 17, 17.7m at 5.1% with a max. gradient of 11%.
After the descent we have 18km of false flat before the intermediate sprint in Charleston, a small town in Wasatch County.
The next 9km are slightly uphill/rolling terrain, then the first really hard climb of the day starts. It's on of the Tour of Utah's classic climbs, Empire Pass from Midway, 11.9km at 8.1% with a max. gradient of 16.2%.
After that we have the classic descent to Park City, but this time the stage continues.
After the descent the riders will ride southwards for about 25km and just like on stage 17 we'll ride through Herber City onca again.
After 145km of racing we get an unpaved climb, Cummings Parkway, 23.2km at 4.1% but it's a pretty irregular climb with a few sections at 11%. The descent on the Snake Creek Canyon Rd is paved, so the fact that the climb is unpaved shouldn't be a problem.
After the descent we only have about 4km of false flat, then the brutal Guardsman Pass form Midway starts, 14.6km at 8.3% with a max. gradient of 19%, that's one hell of a climb, some people say that it's even harder than Powder Mountain.
The following descent is only 6.9km long but steep, the stage finished in the Solitude Mountain Resort, an important ski resort.
I know, having Guardsman Pass and Empire Pass in the same stage is a little bit strange, but I really wanted to make this one really hard, the stage features over 5000m of altitude gain.
This one should be fun to watch, climbing right from the start, +200km long, over 5000m of altitude gain and high altitude, we could see really big gaps on the final climb. We already had the flat ITT's so now the climbers get the chance to attack.
The next stage will be one for the breakaway and shouldn't have an impact on the gc, so the favourites should go all out on this one.