Some riders have complained about a hard start after the rest day, now who will have the energy after yesterday’s tough stage. We should get a fight to get in the breakaway and there’s a good chance the move sticks for a change.
- Km 48.5 – Côte de Loucrup, 2 kilometre-long climb at 7% – category 3
- Km 61.5 – Côte de Bagnères-de-Bigorre, 1.4 kilometre-long climb at 6.1% – category 4
- Km 74.5 – Côte de Mauvezin, 2.7 kilometre-long climb at 6% – category 3
- Km 117.0 – Col d’Aspin (1 490 m)12 kilometre-long climb at 6.5% – category 1
- Km 147.0 – Col du Tourmalet (2 115 m) Souvenir Jacques Goddet17.1 kilometre-long climb at 7.3% – category HC
- Km 184.5 – Côte de Cauterets, 6.4 kilometre-long climb at 5% – category 3
The Route: a traditional ride across the Pyrenees, a greatest hits course but with a soft final that almost makes it a so-called transition stage even if the riders end up in the same hotel tonight as they started. The ride out of Pau gets hillier and hillier with a series small climbs below the foothills before the race heads up the Neste valley to tackle the Col d’Aspin via its tougher side with 12km at 6.5%. It’s followed by a steady descent straight to the Col du Tourmalet.
The eastern side of the Tourmalet has a gentle start to lull riders before 10km of 8-10% slopes all the way to the top including the hard section through the ski resort of La Mongie, after which the road narrows and becomes rougher. From the top there’s 41km to go the finish and after the Tourmalet descent ends in Luz, 22.5km on valley roads to the finish.
The Finish: Cauterets has meant summit finishes before but today’s finish line is painted on the valley road in the spa town itself. The road rises for the last 10km, it’s all steady 4-5% but just the place that’s ruinous for a solo breakaway trying to hold off chasers before a small 10% section. Then the road levels out into town before a flat sprint.
The Contenders: every day has seen the early breakaway go clear without resistance because the scenarios have been so obvious, for example the formula of a flat stage plus hungry sprinters has equalled a certain bunch sprint so there’s been no reason other than a publicity stunt to go up the road. Today should be very different and for a change we can expect a raging fight to get in the early move. It makes for a lottery where a really strong rider could simply hitch himself to the wrong wagon and get caught only for others to surge past in the day’s breakaway.
Pierre Rolland is an obvious pick, perhaps too much. He was climbing very well yesterday and rode to eighth place taking valuable mountain points. Now he can try and go on a raid across the Aspin and Tourmalet for more points and hope for the stage win. Only it’s all so obvious, just getting in the morning breakaway is going to be a big ask and if he does that, he’d have to either drop everyone else on the Tourmalet or outsprint them in Cauterets. Teammate Romain Sicard is still the unpolished diamond and could try too.
Another polka dot poacher could be Julian Arredondo of Trek Factory Racing. Smaller than Nairo Quintana he’s quite the punchy rider too and can sprint well for the mountains points and hold on (update: he’s reportedly got a cold so let’s switch to Bauke Mollema). IAM’s Jarlinson Pantano is an outsider tip.
Jacob Fuglsang is liberated from towing Vincenzo Nibali around France but remains a very rare winner although since it’s hard to see him winning a straight summit finish contest maybe this is his chance.
Adam Yates and Tony Gallopin are picks in case of a sprint finish among the same names as yesterday. Gallopin has often shone one day and imploded the next so seeing how his recovery goes today will be worth watching. Many riders had a stinker yesterday and will look to reverse things, watch Dan Martin, Rui Costa but some, like Romain Bardet, are already talking about the Alps instead.
Otherwise there are some random names who could win the breakaway lottery. Think Tim Wellens and Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal), Bob Jungels (Trek Factory Racing) or Mikael Cherel (Ag2r La Mondiale).
|Valverde, Gallopin, Rodriguez
Weather: sunshine with some cloud cover in the mountains, warm with 31˚C in the valleys and a light N-NE wind making a headwind early on then a tailwind in the finishing straight.
TV: we’re back the usual finish time of around 5.15pm Euro time. The Tourmalet should start around 3.30pm. If you can’t find it on your TV see Cyclingfans and steephill.tv for links to feeds and streams.