The first six stages of the 2016 Tour de France were pretty fun, but let's level with one another: It has been mostly meaningless to this point. Only one stage so far could be classified as a "mountains" stage and thus have any bearing on the final general classification, but even that Stage 5 diversion through the Massif Central won't ultimately matter much. The chase for the final yellow jersey begins Friday on Stage 7 when the Tour enters the Pyrenees in earnest.
Greg Van Avermaet will ride up the Col d'Aspin in the Maillot Jaune, and he may still have it at the end of the day, but he'll likely lose a lot of time to the real climbers. This is a day for the likes of Chris Froome, Nairo Quintana, maaaaaybe Alberto Contador (if he's feeling better), and certainly French hopefuls like Romain Bardet and Thibaut Pinot.
Friday's 162.5-kilometer ride from L'Isle-Jourdain to Lac de Payolle will begin at roughly 7:15 a.m. ET. NBCSN will begin showing the stage at 8 a.m. Streaming is available with a subscription to NBC Sports Gold.
Col d'Aspin is the star attraction. It is far from the hardest climb of the Tour -- rated the 14th most difficult in Podium Cafe's mountains guide -- but it's a proper Category 1, which we have yet to see, and it's definitely long at 12 kilometers. It also has one of the most stunning vistas on the Tour. Here's a not-that-great picture I took at the top two years ago:
I mean for god's sake pic.twitter.com/S3Ynb8iNkx— Louis Bien (@louisbien) July 23, 2014
You'll have to sit for a while as the peloton undulates through foothills for the first 137 kilometers of the race. It could be a day for the breakaway to succeed with only one climb of significance and less time to gain than the big stages to come. Given the depth of GC contenders, however, expect no shortage of attacks once riders finally reach the climb.
Finally, we're going to start to see who really is in good enough form to win the 2016 Tour de France.
Stage map and profile courtesy of the Tour's official site.
Tour de France coverage for Stage 7 on Friday
Start time: 7:15 a.m. ET (approx.)
Route: 162.5 kilometers from L'Isle-Jourdain to Lac de Payolle
TV: NBCSN, beginning at 8 a.m. ET
Streaming: NBC Sports Gold (subscription required)