More mountains as the Dauphiné swaps the unfamiliar Jura mountains for old haunts among the Alps. There’s novelty with the climb of the Col de Sarenne used to approach Alpe d’Huez instead of the famous 21 hairpins.
Stage 6 Wrap: the Mont du Chat dominated the stage profile and duly dominated the racing. After an early break went BMC led for much of the stage before Ag2r La Mondiale took over despite their rider up the road Oliver Naesen in the breakaway. BMC took over again on the approach to the climb and on the early slopes Alejandro Valverde was the first to attack. This was courageous but also suggested he’d not ridden up this climb before and sure enough the slope got even steeper and he went into default on his oxygen debt. The same for others like Romain Bardet who tried several moves only to go into the red but Bardet probably found reassurance from being in the mix after that time trial. Fabio Aru was the fastest to the top, soloing away from team mate Jacob Fuglsang just as Richie Porte and Chris Froome were closing in. Froome having made a very linear, steady ascent set about leading down the descent and Aru was brought back down the sketchy road. It’ll be partially resurfaced for the Tour de France but that won’t change the vertiginous gradients nor the twisty course.
Jacob Fuglsang tried a late attack but Chris Froome brought him back and we got a sprint between four riders not used to contesting this kind of finish. Froome and Porte tangled as Porte tried to pass close to the barriers and the Australian made it through to surge to the line but Fuglsang won in a photo finish, his first ever high level win. All four in the breakaway had a successful day: Richie Porte took over the yellow jersey, Chris Froome climbed with the best and Fabio Aru was the fastest up the mountain before seeing his team mate win.
In a top-20 spread over three minutes thanks to one climb, Alejandro Valverde limited his losses to Porte and Froome but still paid the price for his precocious attacks. Alberto Contador lost over a minute and Simon Yates gave up two minutes.
Fuglsang’s win ended Astana’s streak as the World Tour team with the longest drought in the World Tour, a title now passed to Ag2r La Mondiale who haven’t won since Pierre Latour took a stage of the Vuelta. But could they have won yesterday? Within the top-10 was Oliver Naesen who was first in the breakaway over the Mont du Chat. With hindsight did Ag2r La Mondiale’s pace-setting earlier in the stage prevent him from winning the stage? Hindsight because surely among the group of riders approaching the Mont du Chat nobody, even his team, would have imagined the beefy Flandrien would get over the top ahead of Serge Pauwels, Romain Combaud or Alberto Bettiol?
The Route: 168km. After a start in Aoste – the French town and not the Italian city – the race heads south-east to cross the Chartreuse mountains with the Col du Cucheron and Col de Porte as proper Alpine climbs with gradients of 6-7% and ideal terrain for an early breakaway to take time. They need to because after the fast descent of the Col de Porte there’s 60km to cover, including the long drag up the Romanche valley where there’s often a pesky headwind and the road rises more than that the profile implies.
The Finish: The Côte de Garçin is really the start of the giant Col du Lautaret and so the road begins climbing at 6-7% for several kilometres before the turn off for the Col de Sarenne. Then the road gets steep and narrower. The profile shows a slight downhill section, it’s a proper dip down but means a steep climb back up toward the village of Clavans where there’s a brief flat section before some hard climbing with a slope that gets steeper the higher they go.
One over the Sarenne there’s a brief descent chased by a false flat section with big visibility, if a rider is away then chasers behind can keep them in their sights. Then they drop into Alpe d’Huez and take the road a few kilometres down the mountain before a right turn to pick up the famous road back to Alpe d’Huez but with only three of the 21 hairpin bends to tackle and then the ride through town before the classic finish with the tight left-hand bend onto the Avenue Rif Nel.
The Contenders: Fabio Aru is climbing well and the finish suits him whether he wants to take off on the Sarenne or bid his time until Alpe d’Huez? Meanwhile now that Jacob Fuglsang has a win he could do it again, especially if he can play off Aru. Alejandro Valverde is a safe pick again because he’s good for the sprint here and can revert to his usual modus operandi of lurking in the wheels before sprinting for the stage win. If not Richie Porte proved he is climbing with the best.
|Fabio Aru, Alejandro Valverde|
|Porte, Fuglsang, Dan Martin, Bardet|
Weather: warm and sunny for most of the way with 30°C in the plains and valleys. A
TV: the timing changes for the weekend is forecast for 2.50pm CET. Coverage begins at 1.30pm CET and this means the approach to the Col de Sarenne is covered. As ever it should be on the same channel you watch the Tour de France and/or Eurosport.