Hardly a metre of flat, if some riders tried to save energy yesterday then today was a reason. It’s only 108km and packs in four good climbs.
Julian A La Folie: a stage win for Julian Alaphilippe. He’d missed out in the first week’s stages, especially at Mûr-de-Bretagne but he’d been training in the mountains before and has his “climbing legs” now and having joined a 21 rider breakaway he left them all trailing, first to the Plateau des Glières for the mountains points and then again on the Col de Romme to collect the stage and the mountains jersey and with a big margin. It’s the first home win for the French in the Tour de France. Greg Van Avermaet could have sat up and said this isn’t his terrain but joined the breakaway and showed the same climbing form we saw in the 2016 Tour and the Rio Olympics and extended his lead, an unlikely scenario at the start of the day and got the day’s combativity prize as well.
Behind none of the GC riders attacked, as suggested yesterday the first stage sees rivals measure each other but another factor, once again, is Team Sky’s strength as they had five riders on the front for the final ascent up the Colombière and it could have been six had Jonathan Castroviejo not punctured at the top of the Col de Romme. To those who say their rivals should attack: they would if they could. Indeed the pace was enough to crack several GC outsiders with Rafał Majka, Ilnur Zakarin and Bauke Mollema losing almost a minute and Rigo Urán over two minutes, a significant moment to see last year’s runner-up ejected from the GC.
The Route: just 108.5km and an air of déjà vu, a copy of Stage 6 in the Critérium du Dauphiné. It’s uphill from the start out of Albertville via the Douron valley, an scenic ride and innocuous but still where Tom Dumoulin crashed out in 2016.
Then comes the climb of the Bisanne, 12.4km at 8.2% and a hard climb. It’s regular and at first snakes up past Alpine pastures where the prized Beaufort cheese comes from. It’s scenic but not stunning, a workplace rather than the stuff of postcards. The upper slopes are the steepest and the scenery fades amid the small ski resort of Bisanne 1500 before an open section up to the top of the pass. A small descent awaits as they cross over to the Les Saisies and begin the high speed descent back down to Beaufort.
Next up is the Col du Pré, this time the stuff of postcards with chalets and tight hairpin bends. After a steady start out of the town of Beaufort the tone changes when the road leaves Arêches and starts winding up through the pastures and it’s often 10% or more, all on a narrow road and one of the most scenic moments of the Tour. Over the pass there’s a quick descent and a passage over the Roselend dam and then a tour around the lake before the road climbs to Cormet de Roselend, plenty of 7% sections and then a long descent if measured in distance but short by time because it’s very fast (and dangerous because of the speed).
The Finish: 17km but not steep, the “summit” finish of La Rosière is really the Col du Petit Saint Bernard and just short of the Italian frontier, it’s mainly all on a wide road, a transport artery for thousands of years but the middle of the climb sees the race take a short cut and what they save on distance is made up with steeper slopes of 8-10%. Things level off before the finish again, terrain to turn a big gear on.
The Contenders: one reason the GC contenders took it steady yesterday was today’s stage. It’s going to be a lot more lively. The first climb should see a move go clear and if someone hopes to win they need to be a decent climber. Think Omar Fraile (Astana), Dani Navarro (Cofidis) and… actually given the reduced peloton and the number of teams with set GC objectives there are not so many breakaway climbers to pick from. Still with Urán’s plans going up in smoke is Daniel Martinez (EF-Drapac) released for the day? Fraile is strong pick but could be on duty for Fuglsang, the other are wild guesses.
But big attacks from the big names? Maybe on the final climb. Dan Martin (UAE Emirates) won a stage of the Dauphiné and it’s the same scenario, he’s down on GC but in good form so he has room to jump away, riders won’t shut him down right away. To a lesser extent Nairo Quintana is down on GC but he doesn’t have such an explosive jump and nor will others let him go so easily… while Mikel Landa may have the jump but if he moves the entirety of Team Sky will have to close him down, this isn’t a steep enough finish for the Basque.
Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) was second here in the Dauphiné and we’ll see if he’s as fresh today, he used the lesser gradients towards the top to ditch his GC rivals and could do once again. Chris Froome could also try to exploit the steep slopes and go away. Among the others Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) won’t have it easy but yesterday Primož Roglič (Lotto-Jumbo) looked to be floating.
|Dan Martin, Geraint Thomas|
|Roglič, Quintana, Froome, Yates, Landa, Fraile|
Weather: warm and sunny in the valleys at 29°C but cooler and the chance of rain on the Cormet de Roselend.
TV: live from the start at 2.00pm CEST with the finish forecast for 5.25pm CEST.