Tour de France Tour de France 2021, Stage 12: Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux – Nîmes, 159.4 km

Because stage 3 wasn't enough, time for another stage that looks both boring and dangerous.
Stage 12: Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux – Nîmes, 159.4 km
The fifth flat stage, and we’re nowhere near done after this one. Prudhomme mentions the possibility of echelons here, but there are hardly any exposed sections... At least the scenery should be nice with the entirety of the Ardèche gorge featuring early on.

Map and profile

Route details
A crossing of the Rhône floodplain preceeds the passage of the Ardèche gorge from its easy side, hence no categorised climbing here. As a result, the only mountain points on offer are in Étoile de Bessèges territory, in the shape of the Côte du belvedère de Tharaux.

The stage doesn’t exactly get more interesting after that. Occasionally, there’s a stretch that isn’t protected by trees, but the odds of echelons are very low contrary to what ASO claims. The intermediate sprint, on a mild incline, comes inside the final 30 kilometers, so it might influence the way the sprinters’ teams manage the early break.

The uncategorised climb inside the final 20 kilometers is the same as in 2019 and looks like this:

Final kilometers

The final 900 meters are identical to those in 2019, but the 2 kilometers before it are different and, frankly, dangerous. The urban nature of the finale reveals itself at 3.2 kilometers to go, with this roundabout that was also seen in 2019.

300 meters on, we deviate from that finale with this tight right-hand turn.

The road remains narrow, with some slight bends before a tight left-hander at 2.2 kilometers from the line.

The picture below comes 300 meters after that. I have no clue what ASO are thinking, this underpass isn’t even mentioned in the roadbook and therefore I have no idea how many arches will be open. Either way, a crash here is too likely for me…

…especially given what each arch looks like up close:

From here, it’s much easier with a wide right-hand turn at 900 meters to go to rejoin the 2019 route, hence the final stretch is the same as the section from 0:17 onwards in the video below. That means there’s a sweeping, two-lane roundabout at 350 meters to go as the final obstacle.

With 200 to go, Morkov dropped off Richeze with Viviani on his wheel. Ewan still came from 5 spots back to win.

Thus illustrating;
Quickstep's leadout is the best.
Not just anybody can win behind that leadout.
The guys who have the speed to beat a capable sprinter with a Quickstep leadout aren't in the Tour any more this year. The sprinters that are here, don't have leadouts to compare with QS, or speed to beat Cav.

Cav's previous win in Nimes was stage 13, and it was his 4th stage win of the 2008 Tour.

This is a done deal.
Let's see if we see a Pereiro here
I mean, it has a chance, get some random person who is 15-30 minutes behind in a small break and play chicken
Otherwise, I think we see mayhem in the final kilometers and Cav doesn't win
The Tharaux is tough enough to drop sprinters, but alas they'll eventually coalesce.
I don't think anyone will even try there. Much more likely for BE and TBV to try and drop the Cavs and Bols on the uncat climb in the final 20 (which looks about as hard, and is a lot closer to the finish).

The 2019 stage seems to have more climbers behind the time gaps than sprinters, though. I can barely remember but did that one have crosswind action?
It seems the only organized sprint team left in the race should be more than enough for Cavendish. Matthews has already said he can't compete with Cav at the moment in the finale and its probably the same for most of the remaining sprinters.