Stage 13 commences a series of four stages meant to move riders from the Pyrenees to the Alps. This means that the general classification competition will be much quieter than it was the last three days. Expect a lot of discussion about whether anyone can beat back Chris Froome's creeping pall over the 2015 Tour de France as the race rolls through hill country. The side attractions will be breakaways and a green jersey competition that's much more interesting than many expected.
Friday's stage is 198.5 kilometers from Muret to Rodez. It passes through the Tarn, which is lush and green and dotted with pretty villages that have melted the hearts of many men and women much tougher than you (promise). This is the portion of the tour most likely to make you make rash plane ticket purchases. The scenery is a strong lure for a stage that isn't that consequential in the grand scheme.
There is still the green jersey competition, however, which Peter Sagan holds by just two points over Andre Greipel. Few, if anyone, could have predicted that Greipel would be so close to Sagan after the stages in the Pyrenees, but he won yet another intermediate sprint on Stage 12 to stay within striking distance of the Terminator. Stage 13's up-and-down profile is ostensibly bad for Greipel, especially if Sagan is determined to end any doubt about his chances, but at this point it'd be wrong to discount the German rider.
That assumes that breakaways don't mute the competition, of course. With the GC riders resting their legs, Stages 13, 14 and 15 will give second- and third-tier opportunities to steal some spotlight. Sagan has just as much potential to lead a breakaway as anyone else, of course, but so does a rider like FDJ's Alexandre Geniez, who is from Rodez and may try for a storybook stage win for a team that hasn't had much to celebrate this tour.
Live race coverage begins at 8 a.m. ET on NBCSN, with racing itself beginning at 6:40 a.m. The NBC Sports Live Extra app is likely the best bet for those with mobile devices. Those watching on their computers can purchase NBC's Tour de France web package.
Coverage begins at 8 a.m. ET. on NBCSN
Announcers: Phil Liggett, Paul Sherwen
Mobile: NBC Sports Live Extra app with an appropriate cable subscription
Computer: NBC's Tour de France web package is available for a fee