A repeat of yesterday’s stage? It looks similar with third and fourth category climbs late in the stage before a descent to the finish. But the geography is very different and it should make for a different kind of stage.
Stage 11 Wrap
A win for Tony Gallopin. He tried a late attack on the final climb only to get caught once the descent was over. But he found only a few riders caught him: Peter Sagan, Michał Kwiatkowski and Michael Rogers. The riders were obviously marking Sagan and he jumped away again, presumably pulling out a short lead as the others weighed up “he can’t last, he’s been on the attack” vs “I’m not going to chase just to take Peter Sagan to the line.” In the time it took you read those two thoughts Gallopin was gone. Another loss for Sagan but what can he do? If he’d sat in the bunch then Gallopin’s solo move on the descent would have probably last longer, perhaps to the line.
Otherwise it was a very active last hour with the Tour diverting onto some small and steep roads, chapeau to ASO for taking the time to explore new possibilities. Many found it tough. Rui Costa fell out of the top-10. But it was Andrew Talansky who had it hardest. He punctured with around 90km to go and couldn’t get back the bunch, his legs would not let him. Without much else happening in the race the cameras dwelt on his struggle until he stopped, gave up his bike and sat down on a guard rail. Give up? Not The Pitbull who kept going with support from Garmin-Sharp DS Robbie Hunter. It was impressive because he “only” lost 15 minutes in the final 40km, something a healthy rider left to themselves would struggle with.
- Km 58.5 – Col de Brouilly, 1.7 kilometre-long climb at 5.1% – category 4
- Km 83.0 – Côte du Saule-d’Oingt, 3.8 kilometre-long climb at 4.5% – category 3
- Km 138.0 – Col des Brosses, 15.3 kilometre-long climb at 3.3% – category 3
- Km 164.0 – Côte de Grammond, 9.8 kilometre-long climb at 2.9% – category 4
It’s a pity the riders have to eat gels and other processed foods. Today’s start in Bourg-en-Bresse is famous for its chickens and then the first climb of the Col de Brouilly passes many fine vineyards, a gourmet delight. Just don’t confuse it with Mont Brouilly from Paris-Nice, the col is much lower down.
Yesterday’s stage crossed the Jura, a proper mountain range and if the race didn’t take the biggest climbs it took the smaller ones that stung. Today sees the race cross the Beaujolais, a softer and less spectacular landscape.
The Col des Brosses is long but the 3.3% average gives the game away, it’s a long drag up and on a big wide road that’s exposed for most of the way up. Big ring, the opposite of yesterday’s steep and narrow climbs. The gradient does vary in places but the change is slow, a flat section three quarters of the way means a steep finish to the col but it’s not hard. The hardest part is the road surface, it’s that rasping granular surface often found in rural France.
It’s a similar story for the Côte de Grammond which snakes its way up at a gentle rate. Someone who’s tired and on a bad day can get dropped here but the sprinters should find they can sit on the wheels. The race then drops down via a steeper descent that’s probably the most technical section of the day with 7% downhill and a series of sweeping bends; nothing wild but send a bunch racing to the finish and it can be nervous.
The Finish: a long finishing straight that’s up and down and with a slight rise to the line. St Etienne’s an industrial town but they’ve managed to pick a charmless location for the finish.
The Scenario: a bunch sprint seems probable. It’s not 100% certain, it never is but today’s course suits the sprinters and we should see several team working to set this up.
We might see some breakaway attempts and watch to see who goes up the road. If it’s just wildcard wildcats then the sprinters will be relaxed but if some tough guys go up the road – think Sylvain Chavanel, Niki Terpstra, Tony Martin – then events might just turn out different.
The climbs could be used by some teams to put some of the sprinters in difficulty. Europcar and Cannondale have more than green kit in common, they can both try to go full gas over the Col des Brosses and the Côte de Grammond hoping to put some of the other sprinters in difficulty. But easier said than done, these climbs are the kind where a rider sitting on the wheels can benefit from the slipstream of others. Plus some of the sprinters cope fine with these climbs.
The danger is the wind, there’s nothing severe forecast but the roads are often exposed and with riders on the limit on a climb it could crack a few. But the forecasts vary, see below.
The Contenders: André Greipel is the prime pick. I’ve got “you always mention that” comments for pointing out that André Greipel was once German hill climb champion but it’s a clue that he can scale a climb or two and we’ve seen it before in the Tour. He’s got a team on a roll and the finishing speed to win.
With Giant-Shimano it’s hard to make the call between Marcel Kittel and John Degenkolb. Normally Kittel is the faster but he’s seemed off the pace later while Degenkolb was second yesterday and seems to be over his injury. This gives the team more options but since I can’t know which one is the designated sprinter neither are the first choice.
Peter Sagan has it simple today, just sprint for the win. There’s no need to play poker, he just needs to fight for position, pick the 11 sprocket and go. Maybe we will see his team try to soften up the race, it’s needed given he must be tired after making efforts yesterday.
Bryan Coquard and Arnaud Démare should do well. Coquard made it over most of the climbs with the front group yesterday, only the last one got the better of him. Démare has the raw power for the finish and will love the slight rise to the line.
Finally among the sprinters you might have forgotten about Alexander Kristoff but what if he won?
For the breakaway riders once again it’s a lottery to pick names but for fun: Sep Vanmarcke, Daniele Bennati, Sebastian Langeveld as each ride for a team with the need for revenge or publicity.
|John Degenkolb, Alexander Kristoff, Peter Sagan|
|Marcel Kittel, Bryan Coquard, Arnaud Démare|
Weather: hot with 34°C and blue skies. A light wind of 10-15km/h will blow from the east but on the climbs some forecasts say it could blow at 20-25km/h which is just enough to fan the bunch across the road.
TV: the racing begins with KM0 at 13.05pm Euro time. The finish is planned for 5.30pm. Tune in for for the final 90 minutes to see the race tackle the last two climbs.