Tour de France Stage 13 Preview

For all the talk of a certain Vincenzo Nibali victory we’ve only had one real mountain stage so far. Now here’s the first of the two Alpine stages, one of the decisive days. The Col de Palaquit is new to the Tour de France and a nasty surprise for some before the surprisingly tough finish to Chamrousse.

Stage 12 Wrap

A win for Alexander Kristoff. Forced into the wind early but he’s a tough rider and won by a length. Another close one for Peter Sagan but this time there was little the Slovak could do. Worse, there’s little he can do in the upcoming stages for a stage win. He could repeat Thor Hushovd’s feat from 2005 of winning the green jersey without winning a stage.

OPQS led out Matteo Trentin but the Italian took out John Degenkolb, switching across the road to block the German’s run to the line. Trentin was fined and relegated but you wonder what threat a 200 Swiss franc fine is. The whole UCI fine table needs to be revised whether it’s sprint switching or littering. But the cash component isn’t the big thing, the peloton is a small society and if someone tries too hard to often they won’t last long.

Tony Gallopin finished over five minutes down and fell out of the top-10. Several riders are ill at the moment, notably Rui Costa, Arthur Vichot and Christophe Riblon.

The Route

  • Km 24.0 – Col de la Croix de Montvieux, 8 kilometre-long climb at 4.1% – category 3
  • Km 152.0 – Col de Palaquit (1 154 m), 14.1 kilometre-long climb at 6.1% – category 1
  • Km 197.5 – Montée de Chamrousse (1 730 m), 18.2 kilometre-long climb at 7.3% – category H

An uphill start out of St Etienne takes the race around the side of Mont Pilat, a good place for an breakaway to pull clear. Then the route flattens out and across the plains of the Dauphiné for the best part of 100km.

The Col de Palaquit’s average of 6.1% would be enough to soften up the race but it’s got a two kilometre descent. The road climbs round the back of the town of St. Egrève with some narrow pinch-points, awkward for anyone not already in position at the front. The road eases as it leaves town, crosses a bridge and the climb starts proper. There are a series of ramps at 10-12% between hairpins and then a long climb to the village of Quaix, hard work but then a breather on a fast descent. The climb resumes, softly at first and on a wide road before the gradient pitches up. Some sections have been resurfaced ahead of the race further up on the steep sections it’s rough in places with holes from frost damage. As soon as the riders see the sigh to mark entry into the village of Sarcenas the gradient eases (more detail on the climb at Roads to Ride: Col de Palaquit). The descent is fast and not for demon descenders. It’s the kind that’s easier in a group with long straight sections where riders can tuck into each other’s slipstreams.

Glance at the profile and it looks like the road goes down and then up for the final climb but in fact the race skirts Grenoble, crosses the valley and drags up to the spa town of Uriage-les-Bains, a section where a lone rider or a small group can lose a minute or more to a chasing pack.

The final climb is a tough one. 18km is as long as the mighty Galibier and if it lacks the altitude it’s got the attitude with a variety in the gradient. It is still a ski station access road so it’s wide and reasonable smooth but the gradient is constantly changing. The steep first half will cause plenty of riders in the front group to get dropped before the pace picks up. It’s an awkward climb with the varying slope, this is not a “how much have you got” W/kg climb, instead the changes of pace have to be managed and there are places where sitting on a right wheel brings energy savings.

The Finish:the slope eases as it comes into town. There are two hairpins in the final kilometre and the final straight climbs gently to the line to finish below the ski slopes.

The Scenario: let’s see who goes up the road early but their chances of staying away are slim. They’ll need to take a lot of time in the first 130km because the bunch behind will hit the Col de Palaquit fast, climb it fast and there’s the tricky no man’s land between the descent to cross Grenoble and head to the final climb.

Otherwise it’s a showdown on the two climbs. The Palaquit is hard and it’d be good to see some moves but I suspect it won’t happen; if it does maybe someone like Pierre Rolland goes because he has the margin to jump away but also he’s a gambler who doesn’t play the same odds.

The final climb is steep and selective early on but less so towards the top, it’s likely we get a sprint among the small group of GC contenders for the stage win.

The Contenders: let’s start with a question. Is Vincenzo Nibali the prime pick? Yes his win on the Planche des Belles Fille was impressive but he only launched his move once all his Astana team mates had vanished.  His aggression had a defensive touch, go clear to avoid being attacked. Yes he had the jump on the others but only took 15 seconds over three kilometres. He’s looking strong but in simple W/kg he’s on the same level as others. So the answer is he’s probably the best but only just.

Alejandro Valverde is the stealth pick. If he can match the others on the final climb then the last few metres are ideal for his finishing skills. But after such a long climb sprinting ability is more dependent on what’s left in the tank than particular abilities. Maybe he’ll hide in plain sight again?

Thibaut Pinot is next. Second on the Planche des Belles Filles was no fluke, the French climber is in excellent condition and here’s stage that will suit him even more with the long just right for him. It’ll be interesting to see the team dynamic at A2gr, they are genuinely big on collaboration as opposed to mere cohabitation so we’ll see what the attacking Romain Bardet can do with Jean-Christophe Péraud as back-up; both might find the long climb to the final tough.

What about Richie Porte? If he wants to win the race he needs to take time off Nibali but he might be content to wait and see if his rival cracks. As such today’s stage should allow us to see what he can do as much as he discovers this himself. The same for Tejay van Garderen, he might not the jump to win a sprint at the finish today but he could well turn on the power. Watch Leopold König for the outside pick.

Otherwise if a break is to survive then Joaquim Rodriguez, Pierre Rolland and Nicolas Roche could be worth watching. Rodriguez in particular needs do something to hold onto his points jersey, he has 51 points in the mountain competition but today’s finish offers 50 points to the winner. Also lanky Frenchman Brice Feillu is in top shape, he won a stage in the Pyrenees as a neo-pro and hasn’t done much since but is strong right now, converting this to a win is a big ask.

Vincenzo Nibali
Thibaut Pinot
Alejandro Valverde, Richie Porte
Romain Bardet, Tejay van Garderen, Leopold König
Brice Feillu, Péraud, Rodriguez, Rodriguez, Roche

Weather: hot as the race crosses the plans and heads up the Isère valley. Temperatures will reach 35°C.

TV: live from 2.00pm Euro time onwards. The race starts the Col de Palaquit around 3.40pm so tune in to watch the attrition from here. The finish is expected for 5.20pm.

38 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 13 Preview”

  1. Don’t think Trentin did anything worse than a lot of ‘switching’ seen in most grand tour sprints. Only need to look at Ferrari going at 90 degrees taking Cavendish out at the Giro. Don’t think he got fined or even relegated. Maybe fines do need to be looked at but not for normal racing incidents.

  2. Does the fact that Nibali is not riding off into the distance suggest that maybe some of those who have left the race had big W/kg figures that were in that “superhuman” category? Now that the mutants have gone we can see that the top 10 are not that far apart. Isn’t this the natural consequence of a (slightly) cleaner peloton?

    • An interesting but potentially fraught discussion. The Planche des Belles Filles was good for W/kg analysis as it was so steep. But the fuller Alpine comparisons will come tomorrow with the finish to Risoul.

    • Can we stop the ‘mutant’ tag, pls. This is a Vayer-ism, aimed soley at catching media/social media attention, but personally I find it offensive (whomever its aimed at)

      • Weren’t Kimmage and Walsh labelled offensive for so long because of what they were highlighting? Is Vayer not the same? Journalists and sports scientists with real integrity hold up a mirror to sport and society as a whole. Unfortunately we don’t often like what we see.
        I desperately want the exploits of Nibali to be seen as within the ‘normal’ range, but of course there is that voice in the back of your head nagging away.
        Let’s not shoot the messenger, we need them.

    • He is riding off into the distance.

      Partly to attrition, mostly because he is the strongest rider at this years tour. He will bury the GC in the ITT.

  3. Richie Porte was indicating quite a defensive posture when interviewed on the ITV wrap last night, talking about taking time out of those behind rather than Nibali in front.
    Could have been deliberately misleading of course!

    Thanks Mr Ring for all your fabulous write ups – a treat a day!

    • Yes, Porte always strikes me as very pessimistic/defensive in his immediate post-race interviews  — “that was so stressful” is becoming his catch-phrase. I’m not sure whether that’s cunning, weakness, or just that he’s not used to giving leaderly (is that a word?) soundbites for the press yet. But it’s particularly noticeable if the reporter then moves on to talk to Geraint Thomas, who is always so upbeat. Maybe that’s an unfair comparison though — G’s not got the responsibility of leading the team.

      • Maybe it was too much for him, given his big loss of time today.
        I noticed too that G had a hard time but improved to help get Porte to the line.
        Some hard thinking needed at Sky tonight.

  4. Is there an unwritten rule re tactics in the lead up to a final 3km bunch finish over terrain similar to yesterdays stage?
    i noticed yesterday europecar with two riders sitting on the front setting the pace…2 europecar riders then jumped clear from slightly behind the first 10 or so riders.
    now i look Back I can see where a team like Cannondale could use this type of tactic to assist Sagan. If sagan where to sit maybe fifth wheel of his team who are doing all the work on the front, then jump with one other teammate, was allowed to clear his own team who then decelerated at the front, this would create a gap whilst the chasing riders had to dig deep, past the remaining 3 cannondale riders and try to get to sagan, who is now clear with a 10+ second gap with only 1.5 to 2 km to go.

    • It’s not quite that easy is it?

      I always thought the last few k’s in a sprint is at an absolutely frantic pace to try and negate any ideas that riders might have of soloing away from the bunch. Basically the pace is high enough that the only way to ride off is to sprint and that’s only sustainable for a few hundred metres.

      Mid stage however, they are riding at a much lower intensity, so there is a lot more scope to get away if tactics etc go your way.

  5. Are Porte, Pinault, Valverde, van Garderen and co willing to jeopardize a good shot at a podium with a strategy to isolate Nibali on the Col de Palaquit? Absent Contador and Talansky (and perhaps Quintana), I think Astana will be able to use the USPS/Sky playbook and dissuade attacks on the Col de Palaquit, leaving the fight for 2nd+ places to the last few kms of Chamrousse. I hope to be proven wrong – the likelihood of which has increased exponentially as a result of publishing my view!

    • Nobody will take risks that are more likely to benefit others. For example if Movistar or Sky put the pressure on Astana on the Col de Palaquit with 45km to go then Astana might sit back and let them tire themselves out.

      I’d like to see fireworks today but it might be strength-sapping day with the probing attacks reserved for tomorrow when any attack should be rewarded with a bigger time gap.

  6. Could be a very good call on Brice Feillu, INRNG – in a break of strong riders with a few more focussed (initially at least) on KOM points than the stage win.

      • Yeah, it’s not going to happen is it? De Marchi, Kadri and Visconti are too much of a threat to Rodriguez in the KOM to let this go and those three are too much of the fire-power and consituents of the group for the others in the break to ask them politely to back into the peloton.

  7. I think Chris Horner deserves a mention going into today’s stage. Nobody wants to mention this guy. He starts today 16th. I wouldn’t be surprised at all if he cracks into the top 10. He’s been laying low, staying out of trouble (as far as I know because nobody talks about him!). I know this: he’s 16th, I haven’t seen any images of him on the ground and I’ve seen none of him off the back. He should be pretty fresh too, considering his lack of racing coming into the tour. Sounds a lot like his condition going into the Vuelta last year. Hmm… I know the Vuelta is not the Tour, but still, if he keeps it up I see him top 5 in Paris. Time will tell, but I think a grand tour winner in the last year sitting pretty in the top 20 going into the real mountains deserves a mention.

    • CH has been riding for Rui Costa. In every mountain stage he has been pacing Rui the moment he falls off the pace.

      Hopefully CH is conserving for a Vuelta defense. The Vuelta is shaping up to have a star studded GC battle with all Tour casualties.

  8. I’d be interested to see what Sky could do with Pinot is the rumours are true. Looking at him in that picture, he looks to be carrying a couple of extra kilos in upper body mass compared to the likes of Froome, Bertie, Nibbles.

    Given his previous demons with descending, which he seems to have under control, he might have the mental strength to work well in the Sky regimen.

  9. Great job with your pre-race favorites list. It contains finishers #1 and 3-7. Only Porte didn’t make the list

  10. It was quite interesting watching the young and fiery Pinot barking at Val on the final climb. Val just shaking his head and probably saying, there is a long way to go on this stage and in the Tour.

    Had Pinot been barking at an old schooler like Hinault, Pinot would have been stopped dead in his tracks by a tyre pump in his wheel.

    • I read that very differently. Valverde started playing games for some reason, and Pinot got rightly p*ssed off. If those two had worked they might have got a lot closer to Nibali in the end. It felt like Valverde has settled for 2nd already and is looking to protect that…

    • lol guys.

      Not comparing Val to Hinault.

      Just saying if Pinot had barked at Hinault, Piniot would still be pulling the asphalt out of his skin. !

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