Tour de France: on Saturday we tried the Saint-Etienne – Mende stage

When you are in love with cycling, there are worse days at work … Just a few days after the presentation of the Grande Boucle 2022, we decided last October to recognize the 14th stage between Saint-Étienne and Mende, by bike. please explain as closely as possible what awaits the runners and above all direct the spectators to the best places to applaud the champions. From the Loire to the Haute-Loire and then to the Lozère, this is what we have preserved from the route.

Saint-Just-Malmont, a fanfare entrance at 43

With its 7.7 km at 3.9% on average, the climb between Firminy and Saint-Just-Malmont, classified in 3rd category, is not insurmountable even for Sunday cyclists … But after 5 km race after the start in Saint-Étienne, should be the scene of an intense struggle to catch the getaway of the day. On paper, the stage promises the daring, far from the general and comfortable on rough terrain. The suitors will therefore be numerous, but you will have to be strong.

The Yssingelais express

If the getaway has not yet materialized in Saint-Just-Malmont, the crossing of the Yssingelais could be done at high speed, a pity because the landscapes of La Séauve in Grazac via Sainte-Sigolène are sublime. The runners will swallow the kilometers where only the Côte de Vaubarlet (listed by the Tour as Côte de Châtaignier) with its 2.6 km at 7.3% will rise to mark the difference.

A quick descent to Le Puy

From the Enceinte bridge, the peloton will reach Yssingeaux for an intermediate sprint where points will be collected for the green jersey. The next will be a “full throttle” demonstration at Le Puy. If for us the passage to Vaunac and Sarlis slowed down during our location, the runners would have to swallow it like a handful of peanuts at snack time. From Coindet at the heights of Rosières to Lavoûte, the platoon will run at full speed before climbing the Loire Valley, well known to cyclists in Le Puy, which should be done at an average speed of 50 km / h as when Pierre Rolland is seen. (B&B Hotels KTM) last June with three of his colleagues. It is enough to leave us dreaming of our 30 km / h between Lavoûte and Chadrac …

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From Vals the serious things begin …

The odometer marks 89 km and is at the exit of Le Puy where things get complicated for this stage with its “mountainous” profile. For us anyway … The pilots will start a climb between Vals and Saint-Christophe, a step away from Les Chibottes. A ledge before the roads broken by Séneujols, Cayres and then Le Bouchet. The landscapes are sublime, but the platoon will not have time for tourism, especially if the wind blows … In these plateaus, it can be a formidable enemy.

From Chapeauroux to Grandrieu, corrugated iron

From Bouchet-Saint-Nicolas to the New World (Saint-Haon), the descent is a delight. It is even better not to get too intoxicated by the sublime landscapes that open up in the Allier valley, at the risk of losing a bend. The next is more dented in Lozère. The Chapeauroux valley and the Grandieu roads are like “corrugated iron”, to use Laurent Jalabert’s expression. They comprise a succession of small climbs, false floors that have the ability to break your legs and physically wear down even experienced messengers. The Grandrieu coast (6.3 km at 4.1% on average) could also hurt.

And go on and on ….

In Grandrieu things are far from over. With 135km to our calves, it starts pulling. And the road in the heart of the granite landscapes does not reserve a flat meter. We are “on the move” to the foot of the Côte de la Fage (4.2 km at 6%) which could serve as a launch pad for a tough guy on the run. A stone’s throw from Lake Charpal, at 1,442 m, the air feels good before enjoying a dive of about 25 km to Mende at full speed.

The Côte de la Croix-Neuve, a terrible ending

The sign of Mende crossed, we are almost relieved. The journey is over. Well almost. For dessert, the hardest climb of the day, the Côte de la Croix Neuve which climbs to the heights of the population near the aerodrome. Three kilometers with a gradient of 10.2% which becomes a nightmare for simple fans like us after 190 km. For runners, it will be the moment of truth to wait to raise your arms to the top. An exercise in endurance and punch that does not lie. The strongest (of the breakaway or platoon depending on the circumstances) will win on the “pedal” as the expression says.

Lionel CIOCHETTO and Christophe DARNE

Photos Christophe COFFY

The predictions

After completing the stage in its entirety, this time it was time to “get wet in the betting game for the winner of the stage.

Lionel Ciochetto: Carried by the public on the roads of the Haute Loire, Romain Bardet can raise his arms to the summit of Mende. The final climb is cut for him. “

Christopher Darne: “The getaway of the day has many possibilities to go to the end. With this scenario, I see Thibaut Pinot winning solo thanks to the back of a climber in the final ascent.

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