All to play for. In recent years the final stage has been a bit of a let down, a fight for the stage win but a procession for the overall classification. This year it’s different with just eight seconds separating Alberto Contador and Chris Froome and time bonuses on the finish line.
Stage 7 Wrap
Better late than never. It took a while for the action to start but the final moments of the stage incisive. Katusha’s Egor Silin and Yuri Trofimov started the final climb together, but only just. Both were in the day’s long range breakaway. Trofimov had gone clear on on the penultimate climb of the Col de la Forclaz and then Silin went clear in pursuit. But Trofimov wasn’t waiting despite the advantages of being able to ride together and Silin was struggling to get across. 10km later they came to the finish and found Lieuwe Westra passing them both in the final 100 metres. A deserved win for Westra given he’d been on the attack a lot this week but also showing us that Astana are willing to play more cards than Nibali.
Igor Anton was the first to attack the GC group. Before it had been selection by the rear with the Team Sky train ejecting passengers. When they were down to Richie Porte Alberto Contador attacked within the last two kilometres. Froome didn’t react, it’s in the Sky race manual to let a rider jump away and then reel them in like bailiffs collecting on oxygen debt. But the Spaniard quickly took time and, if the effort was visible, he managed to defend his advantage to the line. Behind Froome took up the chase in person and left Vincenzo Nibali but cracked in the finishing straight to surrender the yellow jersey. We should note Andrew Talansky’s ride too, passing Froome at the end.
- Km 16.5 – Côte de Domancy, 2.5 kilometre-long climb at 9.6% – category 2
- Km 47.0 – Col des Saisies, 13.4 kilometre-long climb at 5.2% – category 1
- Km 115.5 – Côte de Montagny, 8 kilometre-long climb at 6.5% – category 1
- Km 131.5 – Montée de Courchevel Le Praz, 5.9 kilometre-long climb at 6.2% – category 1
131km packed with 3,130 vertical metres. The stage starts with the Côte de Domancy, used in the 1964 amateur (Merckx) and 1980 professional world championships (Hinault) and then followed by a lumpy road to the start of the Col des Saisies, a typical Alpine pass with pastures and ski lifts; plus a downhill section which explains the 5.2% average, it’s 7% most of the way up. Then the race rides along flatter valley roads passing Albertville for the Isère valley.
In order to spice up the finish they’ve added the climb to Montagny. Think of the valley like a snowboarder’s half-pipe, the race goes up one side of the valley to Montagny comes down it before going up the other side to the finish. The first climb of Montagny is a tricky one on a narrow and irregular road.
The final climb is listed as 5.9km at 6.2%. But look at the chart, it’s steeper all the time except for the penultimate kilometre. I think it’s more like 7.2% average and this matters, it’s just that bit more selective. It’s a sustained climb all the way to the line.
The Scenario: Contador vs. Froome, the duel is so close that the stage winner seems almost incidental. If a break goes up the road all eyes will be on Contador and Froome. In recent days every breakaway that’s gone up the road has stayed away, a sign Team Sky have been content to influence but not control things. If a break goes expect familiar names, those who have thrived over the mountains in recent days are the strong ones who will be there again.
Can Chris Froome overturn his second deficit on Alberto Contador? Yes but it won’t be easy. Nor will it be easy for Contador to defend his lead as his team’s lite plus he’s got to watch Andrew Talansky out of the corner of his eye too. This time Sky might not want a move to stay away because if Froome is wants to take time, grabbing the time bonuses will help him.
Maths interlude: There’s eight seconds between Contador and Froome and 10-6-4 seconds on the finish line in time bonuses. So if Froome wants to win needs the stage win plus five seconds or if others are up the road, a nine second advantage. Race rules say in the event of the same time on seconds we refer to the times taken in the Stage 1 time trial and the 100ths of a second: Froome clocked 13’13″56, Contador 13’21″48 so Contador is fractionally ahead.
Normally Alberto Contador has the easier task as he just needs to stick to Froome’s wheel, exactly as he did on the Col du Béal last Monday. If Sky make the going hard early or at least on the road before Montagny they can try to isolate him. Then what? Obviously Froome has to attack but Contador need only follow and as we’ve seen on Stage 2 he can do that. Add the yellow jersey and Froome’s injury and the odds suit Contador.
But what if this was a battle worth losing? The Machiavellian tactic for Froome and Sky would be to lick their wounds, lament the crash and track Contador all day. Better to camp on two stage wins than and hint the race leadership was surrendered by a wounded Froome than being seen to try and fail in the bid to take the jersey back. Less cynical, the Hollywood script would be the two arriving with another stage win for Froome but Contador in yellow and setting up a duel in July.
The Contenders: Froome or Contador? Both are clearly better than the rest but there’s no certainty of a showdown.
The short and punchy final climb might suit Andrew Talansky because he’s not got much to worry about but knows he can hang with the best. Adam Yates has a fast finish and has been close to the best, he might find the final climb is short enough to stay with the leader. Vincenzo Nibali wasn’t far off yesterday, he was only dropped in the final kilometre and maybe he too can benefit from the marking to slip away? Maybe if the weather turns sour he’ll try something.
|Chris Froome, Alberto Contador, Andrew Talansky|
|Vincenzo Nibali, J_____ V__ D__ B_____|
Weather: warm and sunny but cloudier and cooling further with temperatures of 23°C (72°F). The clouds will billow up in the afternoon with showers and even thunderstorm likely.
TV: another “late finish” with the stage forecast to end around 4.45pm Euro time.
Be sure to tune in for the final hour which includes the last two climbs. It’s live on French TV and Eurosport which means there should be a stream to watch, see cyclingfans.com and steephill.tv for a feed. The racebook says it’s around the world including NBC in the US and SBS in Australia. Subscribe properly rather than use a pirate feed and you’ll be treated to HD images.