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Want to know which Tour de France stages will decide the race?

Joseph Delves
29 Jun 2017

Analysing a decade's worth of yellow jersey-winning rides yields some interesting answers

With Eurosport broadcasting every stage of this year's Tour de France live and in full, it's safe to say cycling fans have never had it so good.

But if you're not in a position to set aside 90-odd hours of your time over the next three weeks to follow every turn of the wheels, which stages should you focus on to ensure you don't miss out on the most important action? 

Good question – and thanks to some number-crunching and statistical analysis of the performance of each year’s eventual yellow jersey winner over the past decade, it's a question that now has an answer.

Sports betting firm Bwin has produced a list ranking this year's stages in order of their likely impact on the general classification.  

Tracking the ride of the eventual winner of the last 10 Tours stage-by-stage and attempting to match their progression against each stage type as it occurs in this year's race – whether hilly, flat, mountainous or time-trial – they reckon they've pinpointed where the Tour will heat up.

Unsurprisingly it’s the Tour's later stages that have tended to have the greatest impact on the overall GC, as that's where the hardest mountain stages and longest time-trials are most typically fought out.

That said, there are still some surprises – such as the fact that half of the previous overall winners also won the race’s first mountain stage.

First serious test

Strictly speaking that would be Stage 8 this year, a ride of 187km that culminates in a 1st category climb to Station des Rousses. But it's the following day that will be the first serious test of any GC hopeful's ultimate form.

Stage 9 is a fearsome stage which takes in three hors catégorie (HC) climbs; the Col de la Biche, the Grand Colombier, and the Mont du Chat, before a final descent into Chambéry.

Despite that, however, Stage 9 only ranks as the third most important likely battleground for GC glory, reflecting the traditional wisdom that riders tend to only show their hand in the third week of the race.

It's stage 18 – the last day in the mountains this year that finishes on the Izoard – that you really don't want to miss. The winner of the last mountain stage has gone on to win the Tour four times in the past decade, and on only one occasion was the rider in yellow at this point not the final Tour winner (Cadel Evans in 2010, since you asked).

The second most important stage on the list is Stage 20, the final time-trial, which this year is a 22km test around Marseille. That may sound like a contradiction, but it's worth bearing in mind that the Tour's final time-trial often falls earlier in the race than it does this year.  

And speaking of time-trials, you'd be wise not to miss the opening 13km one in Dusseldorf on Saturday either. The list ranks it as the fourth most important stage for GC honours, even if the sparse number of kilometres makes big time gaps between the favourites unlikely.

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