24 Jan 08
SS3/SS6: St Pierreville - Col de la Fayolle.
This is the first stage of day two, and has been shortened since last year. It's fast, narrow and quite technical for about the first 15km, and there seems to be a lot going on all the time. There are no long straights, we're constantly turning, turning, turning. It's actually quite nice, but it requires bravery and absolute trust in your tyres. We didn't see any snow here during the recce, but there might be some frost on the morning pass. This stage is the critical one of the morning loop. If you are on the case at the start, and can push on through the opening fast and narrow section, you will get good confidence for the whole day.
SS4/SS7: Burzat - Lachamp Raphael.
This is part of the classic stage known as Burzat and it's very, very nice. Compared to the first stage of the loop, the road is a little bit wider and smoother as it climbs all the way to the top of Ray-Pic and reaches the 1440m high plateau. The route is fast but flowing, with no stupidly long straights - so we are able to get into a good rhythm. Then on the higher ground we will get snow banks again - and a lot of spectators and snowballs. It's spectacular, but there are some places sections along the side of the mountain that require a lot of bravery.
SS5/SS8: Saint-Martial - Le Chambon - Beleac.
This stage starts on another section of the old Burzat stage, so it's similar in character to the one before. After a gentle downhill section, the road becomes narrower and bumpy. The surface is broken in places, but it's still very fast and is downhill most of the way. This one is a real drivers' stage, and it's my favourite of the whole loop. There are not so many rhythm changes and I can get right into it. I not sure that Mikko would say the same, but I like it. On the second pass, as SS8, we'll be starting as it gets dark, and that can make the road difficult to read. Until you're on them, it's hard to tell whether shiny patches are water or ice.