The final stage of the Dauphiné and there’s still all to play for with the overall classification still wide open. Jacob Fuglsang leads but can he defend and win this race for the second time?
Après vous, le deluge: a mild start to the stage in terms of weather but lively with a giant breakaway of 26 riders going clear but kept on a tight leash by several teams. Movistar worked hard to set a tough tempo on the final climb and it doomed the move but Nairo Quintana’s attack was like a damp firework. Riders traded moves as a storm moved in and rain sluiced down, at times it looked like a front crawl would be more advantageous than a pedal stroke an the TV signal was hampered by the conditions. Emanuel Buchmann made a late attack Jacob Fuglsang cruised across and took up the pace, Buchmann seemed to be in a world of pain just to follow the Dane. But the pair only had a slender lead and Wout Poels surged across, passed them and took the stage. While Chris Froome is absent and Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal is in Switzerland, Poels must rank fourth or fifth in the Ineos hierarchy and still took the stage. But the conditions were particular and the finish suited Poels and his notable punch over short distances. It’s Fuglsang who looks the strongest in the climbs but he’s only got eight seconds on Adam Yates and seven riders are within a minute of him on GC.
The Route: a micro stage of 113km. It’s uphill from the start in Cluses via the Col de Chatillon, a big highway that leads to the next two climbs and the ski resort of Les Gets before a long drag down the valley and the Col du Corbier, 7.6%km at 7.5% and with some 10% sections. Then it’s up the Abondance valley to the Pas de Morgins and the race crosses into Switzerland to borrow roads used on the Tour de Romandie with a descent and hairpins before taking a small side road up the valley for a hilly finish.
The Finish: a lumpy finish, it’s in the Alps but not quite the Alpine summit finish we might imagine. It’s uphill and hard work but it’s not steep, the kind where being on a wheel counts for plenty. It should be familiar to some as it was used in the 2013 edition of the race on the opening stage when Canadian David Veilleux won (and retired weeks later) ahead of about 70 riders. Today’s stage should be more selective.
The Contenders: the lack of long climbs suits Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quickstep) but he’s been on the attack for two days now and has the mountain jersey almost sewn up so he’s a contender but not a certainty.
Wout Poels is 28 seconds off on GC and with time bonuses there’s room to put Astana under pressure and Ineos know this terrain well as they’ve often held pre-Tour and post-Tour training camps in the Abondance valley, Michał Kwiatkowski will know the roads well and the course suits.
Jacob Fuglsang (Astana) is looking very strong, he’s picked up where he left off this spring as someone who is shaping races. The Tour de France and three weeks is another question but he’ll provide some answers today if he can ride like a patron.
Among all the others it’s hard to pick one name. Michael Woods (EF Education First) is
going wellhas fallen sick overnight so he won’t be but the finish may not be steep enough and he could be tasked with pacing Tejay van Garderen to a podium finish. Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) seems to have improved this week. Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) still looks strong. Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) can still look to wrap up the race if he can get a small gap and the stage win, easier said than done.
|Bjorg Lambrecht, Emanuel Buchaman, Wout Poels, Thibaut Pinot|
|Yates, Kwiatkowksi, Martin, Alaphilippe, Woods|
Weather: some sunshine, cloudy and cooler temperatures of 19°C in the valleys but hopefully dry.
TV: coverage starts at 3.30pm CEST and the finish is forecast for 4.55pm CEST / Euro time.