The time trial stage to separate the GC contenders, a decisive day in this stage race.
Bennett scores: a rainy day and a bunch sprint, not much to write home about. Sam Bennett won an convincingly so. Dropped off by his leadout Shane Archbold, Bennett launched from the peloton to finish lengths clear. It’s a reminder that sprinting can be a team sport, especially seeing riders like Hodeg and Greipel cast adrift in the final kilometre.
The Route (updated midday): 26km, that’s almost a long distance event in today’s currency. Starting and finishing in Roanne, a town that once thrived thanks to canals – the internet of their day – and known in cycling circles for its amateur team that has helped the likes of Nick Schultz and Arthur Vichot into the pro ranks. It’s not a technical course, there are long straight sections of road. It’s a long straight line out to the climb and then a right turn in the town of Saint Alban and the road pitches up and climbs via a small road into woodland with some steady 7% slopes. The descent is longer and not as steep, it can be ridden fast and taking the right line can save time and both the recon and rally co-pilot style instructions from the team can help with a few seconds here. Then it’s back on the big roads to Roanne.
The Contenders: Chris Froome is the obvious pick, he’s won time trial stages of the Tour de France before and has made putting minutes into the climbers in the TT his modus operandi to winning grand tours. We’ll see if his form is there and his Ineos team mates Michał Kwiatkowski, Vasil Kiryienka and possibly Gianni Moscon could win if not Froome and Dylan van Baarle is handy too.
Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) would be the obvious pick but his form’s a bit off, still he’s one to watch. Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) won the TT stage here in 2017 but doesn’t look to be in peak form yet. Jacob Fuglsang (Astana) and Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) look to be in great form but staying in contention is probably the big goal ahead of the stage win. Tejay van Garderen (EF Education First) could be close too.
Katusha-Alpecin’s Alex Dowsett and Nils Politt are contenders for the stage win. Dowsett is the TT specialist but hasn’t win since 2017 while Politt has looked strong this week and was second in the Paris-Nice TT but both could lose time on the climb today. One outsider could have been Nelson Oliveira of Movistar but he went home yesterday. Deceuninck-Quickstep’s Rémi Cavagna is a TT specialist but was in the breakaway two days ago and was working for Hodeg yesterday. CCC’s Joey Rosskopf could set a good time too.
Finally Wout van Aert was second yesterday in the bunch sprint, third in Sunday’s opening stage and he’s good at TT’s too, he’d prefer a more technical course with sharp corners to power out of but if he’s in the top-10 again it won’t be a surprise.
|Tom Dumoulin, Michał Kwiatkowski|
|Kiryienka, Porte, van Garderen, Moscon, Politt, van Aert, Fuglsang, Rosskopf, Dowsett|
Weather: sunny and 21°C with the wind from the south rising to 20km/h for the late starters
TV: it’s a TT but if you want to watch, the first rider is off at 1.15pm, coverage starts at 3.00pm and Dylan Teuns will leave the start at 4.58 CEST / Euro time.