Two climbs at Mûr-de-Bretagne await, a lively stage finish and a test for the GC contenders.
Not a bang but a Quimper: a breakaway with Sylvain Chavanel was kept close by BMC who feared the Frenchman could take the yellow jersey. Chavanel had a team mate in Lilian Calmejane, normally a force of nature but beaten by Toms Skujiņš for the mountains jersey. Their battle for the jersey cost them energy and they were caught by the chasing bunch before the finish. The race in the peloton never caught fire, proving the French saying that “the race organisers can propose but it’s the peloton that disposes:: whatever the route, the riders decide. Later on plenty of teams were riding hard to place their riders but none of the big names tried anything, apparently the early pace set by BMC left a lot of people drained later in the stage. So Peter Sagan won his tenth stage to extend his lead in the points competition.
The Route: 181km across Brittany and all about the final climb. To get there plenty of small roads packed with big crowds. New for this year is the 19km finishing circuit, they tackle the Mûr-de-Bretagne climb twice. After entering the circuit the first time up the climb is the same approach as in 2011, the “direct” run-in as they ride straight into the climb.
It’s a long open road and not a particularly technical climb but climbing it twice will thin down the peloton and blunt the legs of some of the heavier riders, or rather this is what the likes of Quick Step need to do to advantage Julian Alaphilippe over Peter Sagan. Over the top and there’s the Bonus point which is on the same road, a long drag up.
The Finish: 2km at an average of 6.9% and this time approached from a side road meaning a sharp bend into the climb. But this isn’t an average climb, it’s got 500m at 10-12% before the 1km to go point and then the slope eases off to the line. It’s all on a wide road without anything technical. But it’s been a good test of fitness, witness the 2015 edition when the likes of Vincenzo Nibali and Romain Bardet were left trailing.
The Contenders: today should offer a replay of yesterday’s finish. Julian Alaphilippe (Quick Step) has the punch to get away on the climb but if Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) can match him on the steeper parts of the slope then the Slovak should prove the fastest in the sprint, especially as there’s forecast to be a headwind on the final climb, a light one but enough to make sitting on a wheel pay but the question for Sagan is whether there’s too much climbing in the finish, that the first ascent wears him out. Quick Step have to make tactical choices, how to use Philippe Gilbert for example, an early attack on the climb like the old days (as a decoy?) but Gilbert has a shot at the yellow jersey too and wants it.
Yesterday’s stage wasn’t hard enough for the likes of Dan Martin (UAE-Emirates) and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) but they might be in with a chance here.
|Julian Alaphilippe, Peter Sagan|
|Dan Martin, Alejandro Valverde|
|Colbrelli, Andersen, Nibali, Gilbert, Thomas, GVA|
Weather: sunny and not as hot, just 25°C. A 15km/h wind from the north-east means a headwind in the finish.
TV: live from the start at 1.05pm CEST with the finish forecast for 5.30pm CEST. The riders should reach the finishing circuit at 5.00pm.
Language police: Mûr-de-Bretagne is a town, not the “wall of Brittany”. The Mur de Huy is what cycling calls the road known to locals as the Chemin des Chapelles for good reason because riding up is like scaling a wall. But today’s Mûr has a circumflex accent and is a place at the foot of the climb so the race finishes at Mûr-de-Bretagne rather on it. Confusingly since the Tour’s last finish the village Mûr-de-Bretagne has merged with a neighbouring municipality and the new entity is called Guerlédan. The actual climb is known to locals at the Côte de Menéhiez.