The first of the Alpine mountain stages with the giant and scenic Col d’Allos and then the very difficult descent before the climb to Pra Loup, the ski resort where Eddy Merckx cracked and lost the Tour de France.
The Route: déjà vu? If you saw the Dauphiné in June this is identical. It’s 161km, a saw-tooth profile with the 2,250m Col d’Allos before a ski-station summit finish. Sure it’s a mountain stage but the early climbs are steady and there’s “only” 3,700 vertical metres, it’s not the 5,000m you can get on a savage day. The route is stunning as it crosses the southern Alps
- Km 40.0 – Col des Lèques, 6 kilometre-long climb at 5.3% – category 3
- Km 67.0 – Col de Toutes Aures, 6.1 kilometre-long climb at 3.1% – category 3
- Km 96.0 – Col de la Colle-Saint-Michel, 11 kilometre-long climb at 5.2% – category 2
- Km 139.0 – Col d’Allos, 14 kilometre-long climb at 5.5% – category 1
- Km 161.0 – Pra Loup, 6.2 kilometre-long climb at 6.5% – category 2
The Col d’Allos is a long climb, 14km at 5.5% doesn’t sound like much but the last 5km are 7-8% and 10% in places at over 1,800m above sea level. The descent is very difficult. Much is made of the Allos-Pra Loup combo because in 1975 it was here that Bernard Thévenet cracked Eddy Merckx. But on the descent of the Allos the Bianchi team car flew off the road into a ravine. It’s 15km downhill and if it’s not steep there are plenty of bends, an irregular road surface. They’ve taken special measures to reduce the race caravan today so that fewer vehicles can descend.
The Finish: 6.2km at 6.5%. The road kicks up from the start so riders had better spin their legs on the descent. It’s not a hard finish at all, a wide regular road with even slopes for the most part and wide hairpin bends, a classic ski station access road. That said the graphic above from ASO misses out a sustained 10% ramp on the way up.
The Contenders: Yes Romain Bardet won in the Dauphiné but a repeat is a big ask because everyone now knows that a breakaway can take time on the descent and manage their lead up the final climb so we’re likely to see more attacks over the top of the Col d’Allos and more before all in the hope of crossing the top of the pass with an advantage to be improved on the descent.
There’s going to be a fight to get in the breakaway and it’ll be interesting to see how much Team Sky want to chase from the start because they can’t afford to use up riders early, whether early in today’s stage or just early in the Alpine phase of the race. Expect a list of “usual suspects” because those who’ve had the legs to attack in the past few days are those thriving in this race. We should see Rafał Majka, Joaquim Rodriguez, Jacob Fuglsang and maybe Bardet tempted by the King of the Mountains points on the Col d’Allos with the first two regular stage winners.
Alejandro Valverde is a safer pick given his experience, finishing sprint and because he’s going to be climbing with the front group when others fall away. Even if Vincenzo Nibali isn’t at his best he’ll want to use the descent to get away but it’s a very obvious tactic and he could be marked, he’ll only have to stand on the pedals on the Col d’Allos for others to mimic him. If Team Sky control things then Chris Froome is a safe pick, as easy as the final climb relative to other ascents in the region it’s still selective; look at the Dauphiné where they came in one by one.
One outsider with room to attack is Thibaut Pinot and the forecast of late rain might suit him as he prefers cool and damp conditions, his descending woes are behind him but there’s talk of FDJ struggling with their tires in the wet.
|Alejandro Valverde, Chris Froome|
|Joaquim Rodriguez, Rafał Majka, Nairo Quintana|
|Uran, Pinot, Bardet, Fuglsang, Pauwels, Rolland, Martin, Kelderman|
Weather: sunny at the start with temperatures of 25˚C for much of the way with the chance of a shower and a thunderstorm later in the afternoon.
TV: the Col d’Allos starts around 3.40pm Euro time, the summit around 4.40pm and the finish is forecast for 5.05pm.