The Spin: Dauphiné Stage 6

Saturday, 9 June 2012

Yesterday had a big climb but it was too far from the finish to determine the result. If it wasn’t what you wanted, note it was included “for fun” by the organisers and when the Tour de France goes over the finish will be much closer. When Evans and Nibali got away over the top, a move like this could stick if it goes earlier.

But there’s no hiding or tactics today, this is a pure Alpine stage where the final climb is followed by a rollercoaster descent to the finish in Morzine. Today could well be more decisive than last Thursday’s time trial stage because the time gaps can be bigger for some and all sorts of tactics, risks and surprises can happen.

Note the early finish time and TV broadcast mentioned below.

A series of mountain passes make up the route with the Col de Plainpalais right from the start.

  • Km 11.0 – Col de Plainpalais – 11.6 km 6.5% avg – Cat1
  • Km 32.0 – Col de Leschaux – 7.2 km 4.3% avg – Cat3
  • Km 67.0 – Col des Essérieux – 4.2 km 5.5% avg – Cat3
  • Km 102.0 – Col de la Colombière – 11.8 km 5.7% avg – Cat1
  • Km 129.0 – Côte de Châtillon – 4.8 km 4.8% avg – Cat3
  • Km 155.0 – Col de Joux Plane – 11.7 km 8.4% avg – CatHC

The two that stand out are the Colombière and Joux Plane. You might remember Floyd Landis’s testosterone-fuelled Alpine raid in 2006, the roads of today’s stage are the same with the two climbs. The Colombière is a regular climb with 6% slopes, a steady affair but enough to wear the riders down. A fast descent, some riding and the small Côte de Châtillon to cross over from one valley to another and then the approach to the Joux Plane.

The most Italian of Alpine climbs in France, this is short but steep with regular sections at 10%. The profile shows easy gradients to start with but I’m not sure if this is right; certainly there are some 12% sections at the beginning, perhaps they are spaced out by flatter parts. It changes in gradient, it twists, it. Joux means woodland and this is a proper mountain pass, not a modern road engineered to bus tourists up to a ski resort but an old path that’s probably been used for thousands of years before it got surfaced.

In more recent history it was Lance Armstrong’s unlucky climb. Ride the Alps enough and you’re bound to crack somewhere; Armstrong had his bad day here; Jan Ullrich cracked on the road to Les Deux Alpes, Bernard Thévenet hated the Col du Glandon. Still this is a hard and selective climb.

I can’t see Wiggins in trouble but a bad day is possible. Still, Cadel Evans would have to take off early to claim back his 1.44 deficit and most other threats are more than two minutes down. Time gaps like this can be claimed back but it would require efforts beginning on the Colombière to thin the group and Sky seem to have riders capable of supporting Wiggins. Instead there could be two races today, a breakaway up the road and the overall contenders scrapping for the podium. Because if Wiggins looks solid, there’s plenty to fight for. The podium matters and UCI ranking points go down to 10th place, third place in this race brings in as many precious points as seventh in the Tour or sixth on the the Giro. Maybe Evans doesn’t want to fight too hard but the likes of Wilco Kelderman and Andrey Amador can aim for a salary boost today.

The Schleck Test: all week fans, pundits and others have been exasperated by Andy Schleck’s performance. But he’s played it cool – he’s probably handy at poker – and declared from the beginning that today’s stage would be his test. So we’ll see how he fares, whether he jumps into the early breakaway or saves things for the Joux Plane… or whether his crash in the time trial prevents anything.

Weather: cool conditions at altitude but the forecast says it will be dry and sunny with a temperature of 20°C in the valleys (68°F).

TV: the stage is planned to finish between 2.30 and 3.00pm Euro time. This is earlier than the other stages so don’t be caught out. Live video should start at 1.25pm Euro time which means the climb of the Col de la Colombière probably won’t feature but the descent will.

Food: cheese. The grassy pastures are home to dairy cows and the region produces a lot of cheese. Since milk goes bad transforming it into large roundels of cheese is an ideal way to preserve it and concentrate the calories for a year round source of calories. Local dishes include fondue savoyarde, a pot of melted cheese in which you dip bread on a long fork and tartiflette, a mix of cheese, bacon, onion and more. The Alps might welcome climbing cyclists but the diet is an opposing force.

Ankush June 9, 2012 at 9:24 am

today should be really interesting. Andy might take another pop at exasperating his fans and Cadel will try to make it tough for Wiggins.

Winton June 9, 2012 at 10:05 am

Agree with Ankush. This is the last chance for the big players to test Wiggins and see where he really is in the big mountains. Team Sky weren’t really alert enough yesterday and had to do a lot of work to close down a move that shouldnt have got as far as it did. They looked very powerful in the early season but Evans is clearly bristling for a battle and his squad have got experience of controlling a Grand Tour.

They are undoubtedly a talented group, but for me the big question is do they have the racecraft and DS nous to take the Tour (especially if they go after the maillot vert with Cav as well)? Today may go some way to answering that.

Roadie61 June 9, 2012 at 10:15 am

SKY must choose between the yellow and green jersey, can’t well support both. My guess is yellow trumps green this year. Wiggins was in the form of his life when he crashed out of the TdF last year.
He wants the triumphant ride up the Champs Elysees this time around!

That leaves Cav with less support, but they can’t have it both ways.

Molyneux1000 June 9, 2012 at 11:16 am

I wouldn’t go as far as to say that BMC have experience of controlling grand tours. I mean, in last year’s TdF, they were hardly seen. That’s what made Cadel’s victory so impressive. He seemingly did it alone!

Roadie61 June 9, 2012 at 10:08 am

1:44 is a chunk of time, but if Wiggins should tire (don’t think he will), Cadel will have to attack early if he stands a chance at toppling Wiggo. SKY’s got Rogers and Froome to send up the road who could also feature if Wiggo doesn’t have the legs. Think Froome in the Vuelta last year.

Jurgen Van den Broeck is another great climber who could surprise tomorrow with his uber-talent in the high mountains. Like Andy, has he been playing it cool waiting for this day?

I hope Schleck can redeem himself tomorrow and really put on a show we know he’s capable of doing!
At least that might quiet down his critics for a few minutes.

C Grade Cyclist June 9, 2012 at 10:20 am

Aussie fans should know that the television broadcast has changed – usually on SBS2 from 11pm, tonight’s stage is scheduled for 9:30pm – 11pm instead (due to the early start/finish).

Unusually ‘friendy’ viewing time for us diehard Australian cycling fans, so don’t want anyone to be caught out!! :)

Anonymous June 9, 2012 at 11:50 am

Many thanks. Would have missed this!! Go Cadel. Go Michael Rogers! A great Donnybrook looms.

ToTheBillyoh June 9, 2012 at 11:52 am

Whoops. That was me ToTheBillyoh – I hate anonymous posts!

El Gato de La Cala June 9, 2012 at 11:09 am

I watched yesterdays stage alongside a former Welsh rugby coach, who actually understands quit a bit of cycling, and when Wiggens jumped his team, he jumped his chair and shouted: YOU F…… DON´T LEAVE THE LINE! And he is so right! When Cadel formed an attack with still app 45 K to the finish – and plenty of time to run them back – he suddenly jumped and left his hardworking and loyal team mates, Porte, Froome and Rogers behind.

Why?

1) he must have felt incredible strong and decided to shot the hole immediately, knowing that his team mates would easily come back as soon as the group was caught.

2) he lost his nerves and thereby showed his lack of team leader experience.

The Sky Team is very very strong and good enough to support any GC contender, no doubt, so the key to beating the probably one of the biggest favorite for TDF might be messing with his head, which he is known for loosing under pressure.

So if you hear screaming and shouting from the luxury Sky Team bus this morning it might be David Brailsford shouting: YOU F…… DON´T JUMP YOUR TEAM!

GAME ON!

The Inner Ring June 9, 2012 at 11:17 am

In the post-race press conference he just said he felt so strong that he decided to save his team mates the work and bridged the gap himself to save them from working. It didn’t look too nervous, Evans was only 20 seconds away by then and being reeled in faster than a tired trout.

El Gato de La Cala June 9, 2012 at 11:36 am

I am simply pointing out that the action was wrong in terms of building momentum in the team with their eyes on the TDF, which they state is the single most important goal in the season. A team leader jumping the lines and thereby showing anarchic behavior – even though it is only slightly – does he deserve team support and will he get the help needed when the day comes (because this day inevitably will come), or will he be punished by his team mates in a way that only pro bike riders can do without it being noticed by the the public.

Or the short version: Is Wiggens up for the job as team leader?

DopeToWin June 9, 2012 at 12:36 pm

What the *** are you talking about? Are you trolling? I think Wiggins gave a pretty good explanation for his actions. Clearly you and your “former Welsh rugby coach” friend don’t know a damn thing about cycling! LOL.

Alex June 9, 2012 at 1:35 pm

You know, I don’t know whether I’m comfortable with this comparison, but that move reminded me a lot of Lance Armstrong. Someone totally confident in his abilities and wanting to show who’s boss. Wiggins isn’t a bully like LA, but I think the message still probably got through.

Alan June 9, 2012 at 11:25 am

I think that Wiggins move was one to mess with Cadels head – his team is drilling it in front, and Wiggo just jumps across a 20sec gap and says “your guys are pulling for me now”.
As soon as he was across, the impetus (obviously) went out of Cadels group, and the Sky boys “left behind” got across easily.

Was is that tactical ? I don’t know, if it was, then I think it was brilliant !

OxChris June 9, 2012 at 12:08 pm

Well Schleck didn’t last very long then… How much of his abandon was as a result of his crash in the TT and how much is it just his shocking season?

Looking forward to seeing whether there’s going to be another soon patented Evans Downhill Attack™ today.

Sam June 9, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Great show of team strength by team Sky!

Matt June 9, 2012 at 3:56 pm

Well, that was bloody impressive.

Richie Porte is a monster. He eats tarmac for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Nom nom nom.

brettjmcc June 9, 2012 at 4:43 pm

So, if Froome gets 13 secs on Cadel tomorrow and Wiggo and Rogers stay ahead, then Sky could go for a lockout on the podium… Think they would like to try it?

Roadie61 June 9, 2012 at 5:50 pm

You bet! But Cadel will fight like hell for 16 seconds + over Rogers to stand 2nd on the podium.
SKY clearly has the strongest team and their tactics are spot on, but tomorrow has the Cat 1 Col du Corbier followed by a nice uphill finish. Cadel has a great uphill kick when he has the legs, so should be a great finish tomorrow!

OxChris June 9, 2012 at 5:08 pm

Well that was a hell of a stage! Aside from the dominance of Sky which was obviously very impressive, I thought the most interesting move of the day was Cadel’s little dig just after the top of the final climb. David Harmon and Brian Smith on Eurosport were wondering what he was up to because clearly he didn’t have a hope of getting away at that point, and I think they were right about that – he needed to wait till the descent got more technical to get away as he did. But I think Cadel knew exactly what he was doing, it was a nice little psychological move on his part, a little ‘well thanks for the lift up the mountain, I might just pop off now’ to the sky boys.

Ken June 9, 2012 at 8:44 pm

Team Sky was indeed impressive today. But, in the TDF, how are they going to support contenders for two jerseys, Wiggins and Cav?

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