One for the breakaway across some fine roads to ride, a succession of peaceful climbs in woodland, including some surprise climbs on very small rural roads. This should be a hard stage and those with ambitions for the overall classification need to avoid the traps and ambush risk.
Stage 7 Review: a long day on paper, a long day in the saddle and perhaps long day on the sofa for some even. It ended with the shortest of winning margins. Yoann Offredo and Stéphane Rossetto took off and looked back to find nobody else would join them and, to quote Antoine Blondin from the 1968 Tour stage which used similar roads, “the stage slumped into the most dreary lethargy”. Offredo later quipped to Eurosport that there might be some riders here that “only their mothers know are riding the Tour de France” but their test comes this weekend. In the end we got the inevitable sprint and Dylan Groenewegen won by millimetres ahead of Caleb Ewan, throwing his bike just the right moment after a late surge to crest the final rise to the late while Elia Viviani was hampered by a softening tire. There’s no obvious pecking order to the sprints, just one of the trio with Peter Sagan as a chaperone.
The Route: 200km and a mid-mountain stage with almost 4,000m of vertical gain. The start reads like a wine menu with Macon, Villié-Morgon and Saint Lager. Then it’s into the Beaujolais vert, a large area of wooded hills packed with climbs and quiet roads.
The Col de la Croix de Montmain climbs amid the vineyards and at 6km at 7% with some long 8% ramps and a couple of hairpins in the middle, it’s a selective climb made harder still because it’s narrow and has – unless it’s been redone in the past month – rough rural tarmac. There’s a descent and then a fast valley road for 10km into the next climb, the Col de la Croix de Thel, which is steeper and more narrow than the last one and this leads to to the Col de la Croix de Paquet which is 2km at steeper still at 10% but on a bigger road before a fast descent into Tarare and the race crosses from the Beaujolais into the Mont de Lyonnais and up the long drag via Affoux.
The Col de la Croix de Part starts gently but there’s right turn in the town of Courzieu and the race funnels into a tiny road. Listed as 4.9km at 7.9% it’s really a 4km climb at 10%, and all on the narrowest road of the day. Let’s not exaggerate, this is no goat path but it’s a very small road and you wonder how parts of the caravan will fit, a logistical challenge more than a vertical one. There’s a more gentle descent and the next climb to Aveize is the same category but nothing like the last one, a much more gentle affair all on a big road.
The final climb of the day is the Côte de la Jaillère, seemingly a final springboard for any climbers with steep ramps at the top as well as 8-5-2 seconds at the bonus sprint… but there’s an unmarked climb coming up later. From here it’s 12.5km to the finish but no descent yet, first a twisting, lumpy road across the hills then a fast drop into town.
The Finish: an urban dash through Saint Etienne. As the profile shows it’s hilly and the bump there is the Rue des Carrières, 800m at 7.5% and chased by twisty roads through town to the finish and a flat final kilometre.
The Contenders: a lot of riders will have today’s stage on their mind, the hilly terrain is ideal for a breakaway. Who is going to control the race? Trek-Segafredo have the yellow jersey but they’re not the strongest squad, can’t do it all themselves and besides they need to spare Richie Porte and a couple of riders around him and Julian Alaphilippe is only six seconds off Giulio Ciccone. Alaphilippe’s problem is he’s a threat to others on GC and nobody will want to gift him a lot of time, he might have no chance to win the race overall but put him in the yellow jersey with a five minute lead and it’s a different story, a risk the likes of Ineos won’t want to take. There are so many names amid the stellar startlist to think of it’s quicker to go to the chainrings instead
|Schachmann, Fraile, De Gendt, Benoot|
|Sagan, Rui Costa, Alaphilippe, Lutsenko, Herrada, Wellens, Matthews, De Marchi, GVA, Naesen, Boasson Hagen, Bilbao, Taaramäe, Dennis, Barguil|
Yellow story: want to wear the yellow jersey? Then get it early because the chances of taking late in the race decrease. It’s rather obvious since the more selective the stages, the fewer riders are in the mix and so your chances of taking it rapidly reduce once the mountains arrive. But let’s quantify things… Work by L’Equipe shows that of the 68 riders to have worn yellow for only one day in their life, 57% of the them took it in the prologue and opening four stages, 28% during stages 5-9 and only 10% managed to grab the yellow jersey after Stage 10. Then if you want to keep it, wear the yellow jersey on Stage 11 and history says you have a 70% chance of holding it to Paris.
Weather: a pleasant day for a race, 26°C and a light 10-15km/h tailwind for much of the stage.
TV: the stage starts at 12.10pm CEST and finish is forecast for 5.25pm CEST / Euro time. There should be a fight to get in the break, this could be a stage where the first and last parts provide the most action. You could tune in all day but it’s scenic as in rustic, rather than spectacular.