Tony Martin winning the stage and Vincenzo Nibali staying in yellow seem as certain as the passage of time but the podium places are still up for grabs.
Stage 19 Wrap
The five rider breakaway was never given much room. It’s been a theme in this race that no breakaway is allowed any room. At 50km to go the quintet had just two minutes’ lead. It’s cycling equivalent of playing hide and seek and counting to four before searching for the missing riders.
The Côte de Monbazillac was the lone strategic point on the race. The breakaway broke apart with Tom-Jelte Slager going solo but on the climb he was going to get caught… by his own team mate. It’s easy to see it as one rider chasing a colleague but it’s not the case, Slagter was going to come back so going clear before the catch gave Navardauskas a brief slipstream to aim for. Onwards and there were few riders to chase – Tony Martin was having a rest ahead of today – and fewer still when a crash with 2.5km to go. But ahead Navardauskas had 25 seconds and the lead was hardly falling. It was a strong win rather than a lucky break.
Navardauskas is a curious rider, so strong but with few wins to his name so far. He’s one of those riders who makes everyone’s legs hurt and if he’s up the road the peloton can be in one long line.
North through the Périgord area. The roads vary with some long fast sections and a few more rural sections. The profile above has some y-axis doping, it’s not as hilly as you might think. The three “hills” you see are more long drags and false flats rather than climbs although there are one or two steeper kicks in places. For example the passage through Villamblard at 22km has a steep ramp. For most of the time riders will merely have to change gear while remaining in their aero tuck.
This is not a technical course but the course twists and turns, just gradually. Bergerac to Périgueux is 42km in a straight line and the race needs another 12km to account for the meandering route. The road snakes its way gradually across the landscape but it makes for a course where the right line is much shorter than the wrong one, it’ll add up to a lot over the day. It’s a land of small cereal fields and sunflowers and gradually changing roads.
The final climb of La Côte de Coulounieix does sting a bit, it’s 1.5km at 6.5% and enough to get riders out of the saddle especially as it gets steeper towards the top. It’s got a suburban vibe with houses marking the approach of Périgueux and its finish line. Coming after 48km it’s a sharp effort and breaks the rhythm, the risk is that some riders might sail through the second time check and look like they’re on to a good time but slip back on this climb and the ensuing descent and run in to Périgueux.
Tony Martin looks unbeatable. He’s won stages before, is the reigning world time trial champion and has as restful an approach to this stage as possible with no injuries nor too much team work.
There are other time trial specialists. Giant-Shimano’s Tom Dumoulin is going to beat Tony Martin at some point but I don’t see it today. Orica-Greenedge’s Luke Durbridge has been almost invisible this race and could emerge.
There’s also Vincenzo Nibali, he’s been insatiable so far and has been working for several years to improve his time trialling. Tejay van Garderen has used time trials before to win stage races outright. If he’s out of contention for the podium he’ll want to show what could have been but it’s just on the edge of possible that he could take four minutes on one of the podium pretenders. But he needs to do this to two of them in order to finish on the podium. Tough ordinarily and especially for a third week of a grand tour.
A fistful of seconds
If yesterday’s stage had a touch of hide and seek then, as L’Equipe says, today’s game is musical chairs with two spots on the podium and three players. The top-10 is going to change again. Jean Christophe Péraud has been good at time trials in the past but it’s a different mattter over54km. It’s been said on here before but worth repeating that Thibaut Pinot has made big gains in his time trialling (he was top-10 in the Tour de Suisse), if he was riding today’s stage two years ago the outcome would be disastrous for him. In the match with Alejandro Valverde most scenarios say the Spaniard wins but it’s far from certain. Yes Valverde is the Spanish time trial champion but this win is a rarity against the watch and like Pinot he’s been in the wind tunnel and training on his time trial bike. But the biggest factor for the final time trial is freshness, who is fast and who has wooden legs. It’s here Valverde has been suffering.
Romain Bardet is roughly were Pinot was two years ago and he’ll worry about being overtaken by van Garderen, especially as he lost some skin in yesterday’s late crash. Otherwise there’s a small battle between 7th-9th place between Bauke Mollema, Laurens Ten Dam and Leopold König, separated by 41 seconds. I think the time trial could entrench their positions. But it matters a lot for points and future earnings.
|Vincenzo Nibali, Tejay van Garderen, Tom Dumoulin,|
|Ramunas Navardauskas, Michał Kwiatkowski|
|Svein Tuft, Luke Durbridge,|
Weather: sunshine and a few clouds with temperatures of 27°C. A light breeze from the north-west makes for a tiny headwind but the crowds, woodland and tall crops should shelter the riders.
TV: live from 2.00pm with Vincenzo Nibali expected to arrive just after 5.30pm.
Start order: the reverse order of the general classification with riders going off every two minutes followed by three minute intervals later on to spread out the GC riders. Here are the local start times:
10h51 : Cheng Ji (Giant)
14h39 : Tony Martin (OPQS)
15h57 : Pierre Rolland (Europcar)
16h00 : Haimar Zubeldia (Trek)
16h03 : Leopod Konig (NetApp)
16h06 : Laurens Ten Dam (Belkin)
16h09 : Bauke Mollema (Belkin)
16h12 : Tejay Van Garderen (BMC)
16h15 : Romain Bardet (AG2R)
16h18 : Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)
16h21 : Jean-Christophe Peraud (AG2R)
16h24 : Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.fr)
16h27 : Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)