Stage 8 Tomblaine - Gerardmer 161km
Stage 8 takes the riders into the Alps. The first 130km are flat; with the intermediate sprint coming at kilometer 100. The first climb of the day is the 2nd Category Col de la Croix des Moinates. The 7.6km climb, is the days' longest and has a gradient of 6%. The second climb of the day is the Category 2 Col de Grosse Pierre, a 3km climb at a gradient of 7.5%. The descent of the climb starts with a mere 10km to go, so it could be the perfect springboard for attacks. The final climb, La Mauseiane, is a summit finish. The 1.8km long climb will be testing for the riders as it has an average gradient of 10.3%, We will see a select group of puncheurs and GC contenders reach the finish in Gerardmer. My pick is for Peter Sagan to win stage 8, and to take the Green jersey with it.
Stage 9 Gerardmer - Mulhouse 170km
The Action starts as soon as the flag drops as the first climb of the day starts after 3km of racing. This is the 2nd Category Col de la Schlucht, topping off at 1140m. The long descent is swiftly followed by the Category 3 Col du Wettstein, by here most of the sprinters will have been distanced by the leaders. The peloton then has to face the 3rd Category Cote des Cinq Chateaux which comes with 100km to go. After the feed station at kilometre 81, the racing then becomes tougher as the riders start the 2nd Category, 4.1km long Cote de Gruberschwir; which has an average gradient of around 8%. The race has the intermediate sprint, which is placed somewhere of a joke before the hardest climb of the race so far. Said climb is the Category 1 Le Markstein, a 10.8km climb at an average gradient of a mere 5.4%. When the riders crest the climb, there is no respite as they have to face the 3rd Category Grand Ballon, a short sharp climb which will be the highest point of the stage. The riders then face a 20km descent before a 20km flat run into the finish. My pick for the day is Orica-GreenEDGE rider Simon Yates to attack on the descent and take the stage.
Stage 10 Mulhouse - La Planche des Belles Filles
The second Sunday's stage sees the peloton face the hardest stage yet. The first climb is the Category 2 Col du Firstplan, an 8.3km long climb at 5.4%. This is then followed by the intermediate sprint, which will probably be won by a member of a large breakaway. The next climbs are both 1st Category. The Petit Ballon (9.3km at 8.1%) crests at kilometre 55 and the Col du Plarzereasel (7.7km at 8.4%) which crests at kilometre 72. The latter tops off at a height of 1200m. The riders then have some respite in the long descent to Kruth. Then the race starts climbing again, they meet the 2nd Category Col d'Oderen, the summit of the climb is with 57km to go. With 35km left, the riders climb the 3rd Category Col des Croix, this is where he break will most likely be caught, just before the last two big climbs of the day. The first of those is the 1st Category Col des Chevires, a short but very steep climb, that could drop some GC Contenders. The final climb is the Summit finish up the 6km (at 8.5%) long, La Planche des Belles Filles. Fans may remember this is the stage where Bradley Wiggins took Yellow in 2012. My pick is for the same winner as the stage in 2012; for Chris Froome to win and take Yellow going into the rest day.
By Stage 10 I think the leaders of each classification will be:
General Classification: Chris Froome (GBR) - Team SKY
Points Classification: Peter Sagan (SLO) - Cannondale
King of the Mountains: Alejandro Valverde (ESP) Movistar
Young Rider Classification: Michal Kwiatkowski (POL) Omega Pharma - Quick-Step