Nantua: It's been described as "savage" and a "monster" and the Mont du Chat climb on Sunday's ninth stage of the Tour de France has the peloton quaking in its boots.
It is 8.7 km long and has an average gradient of 10.3 percent, but it is its position at the end of the 181.5 km stage from Nantua to Chambery that makes it most daunting, according to race leader Chris Froome, because it will be the seventh climb of the day – and third hors category one.
"Given where Mont du Chat is in the stage, coming after four big climbs already, and especially after the stage we've just had (on Saturday), it could be a very decisive climb of the Tour," warned Froome, the reigning champion.
"Most of the time the gradient is around 10 percent and it's not a short climb either – it takes over half an hour to get up there, 30-35 minutes or so.
"I think we could see some really big differences, especially knowing from there it's just descending and then 10 km of flat to the finish.
"I'm expecting the general classification to get blown wide open!"
Froome and many of his rivals tackled the Mont du Chat at the Criterium du Dauphine last month, with Denmark's Jakob Fuglsang winning the stage there, which also ended in a valley.
But Froome, Italian Fabio Aru, currently third overall, and Australia's Richie Porte, who is fifth, all finished alongside the Dane in a four-man sprint finish.
Aru, who won Wednesday's fifth stage of the Tour, the only summit finish so far, was actually first over the Mont du Chat so may have the edge in confidence coming into the stage, although it's far tougher than the stage in which the climb featured at the Dauphine.
"It's really a monster of a stage, for sure there's going to be some changes on GC (the overall standings)," said Briton Simon Yates, the young rider leader.
He finished more than two and a half minutes behind Fuglsang on that softer stage six of the Dauphine.
"It's right up there with the hardest stages (of the Tour)," added Froome.
The Mont du Chat has earned everyone's respect.
"That climb's savage, especially coming quite late in the race," added Froome.
Saturday's stage was faster and tougher than most contenders were expecting, covering more than 46 km in the first hour of racing, despite its lumpy nature.
"We'll feel that one in the legs for sure (on Sunday)," said Porte.
Two-time former winner Alberto Contador concurred: "We finished ahead of schedule because it went fast all day. We'll pay for that (on Sunday)."
And with rain predicted, although cooler temperatures to accompany that, the change in weather could also have an impact after the last four baking hot days.
Published Date: Jul 09, 2017 14:41 PM | Updated Date: Jul 09, 2017 14:41 PM