Tour de France 2022, stage 13
Start location: Le Bourg d'Oisans
Finish location: Saint-Étienne
Start time: 12.05 BST
Finish time (approx): 16.26 BST
Saint-Étienne is known in France as ‘la ville de l’arme, du cycle et du ruban’, the city of arms, bikes and ribbons (the latter referring to Saint-Étienne’s textiles and embroidery industry). Its former glory as a manufacturing centre was built on the coal mining industry which developed in the surrounding hills over centuries.
In the far less enlightened times of the 1800s, the valleys around Saint-Étienne were known as ‘the purgatory of men, the paradise of women and hell of horses’. The men and horses, involved in the coal mining industry, were perceived to live a challenging life; the stereotype was that the women didn’t have to work in the mines, so had a comparatively easy life (though nobody could really say that females in 19th century France had life easy).
These days, equality is slowly filtering into French life and also into the Tour de France. In 2022, the women will have their own purgatory on the roads of northern France in the inaugural Tour de France Femmes. The male riders of the Tour will, however, get theirs in Saint-Étienne.
On paper the 13th stage of the 2022 Tour is not as hellish as the previous few days in the Alps. However, it comes on the back of the Col du Granon and Alpe d’Huez stages, which are probably the two hardest mountain stages of the race. And it’s going to be relentlessly bumpy, hilly and hellishly hot.
The downhill start is the only straightforward part of the stage, though with many teams knowing that the break is likely to survive to the finish on this day, even that may turn out to be a descent into purgatory. There are three categorised climbs: an early cat-three, then across the Rhône valley, the second-category Col de Parménie, and the third-category Côte de Saint-Romain-en-Gal. But in between all these, and indeed beyond in the final run-in to Saint-Étienne, there are lumps and bumps aplenty.
Given the anarchic atmosphere which has prevailed through this year’s Tour, don’t even rule out GC action - there’s enough complication in the stage to make it potential ambush territory. The wind will be stronger in the valley than in the hills, but a moderate breeze is forecast from the north, at 90 degrees to much of the race route. But one of the most likely scenarios is that a break of strong riders will escape and fight out the stage win. The terrain is hard enough to provide opportunities for some, and easy enough that a clever rider with the right timing and luck could also prevail.
Tour de France 2022 stage 13 map and profile
The peloton will be relieved to see the Alps behind them as they head westwards towards central France. Stage 13 represents the first chance in long time for the sprinters, who would have suffered through the mountains with an eye on this stage, however there are complications en route to Saint-Étienne.
This deep into the Tour though a breakaway can often spring a surprise and take advantage of weakened teams and a more settled GC. There's few of launchpads for a breakaway in the shape of three category three climbs, one very early on at 27km gone, the next at 74km ridden, and another after 142km.
Tour de France 2022 stage 13 predictions and contenders
A flatter stage after a series of gruelling mountain stages is one of the hardest to pick. Who has maintained enough of their original condition to stay competitive, and which teams have retained enough firepower to control the peloton and stop a breakaway from slipping away?
Lotto-Soudal have managed to get this far without losing a single member of their team, but they'll need to put together some better teamwork than they displayed in week one if they're to fire Caleb Ewan to victory.
Quick-Step Alpha Vinyl are only missing one rider, Kasper Asgreen, and are all in for the flat stages having brought no real climbers to the race. Fabio Jakobsen already has one stage under his belt and they'll be all in to set him up for another chance of victory.
Likewise BikeExchange-Jayco are one rider down in Luke Durbridge, but having guided Dylan Groenewegen through the Alps they'll be desperate to land the Dutchman a second win in one of only two sprint chances before the race hits the Pyrenees.
Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Fenix) is another rider who will be eager to take every remaining opportunity, having come so close to victory already.
But they'll all have to stop the man of the moment Wout van Aert, who, despite his efforts as a mountain domestique, will almost certainly try to add to his two stage wins so far in the sprints without risking his team's grip on the yellow jersey.
Prediction: It's a difficult stage to predict, and will largely depend on which sprinters and teams made it through the Alps in the best condition. Despite all his work in the mountains, we think Wout van Aert will grab his third stage win in the sprint.