Have they saved the best for last? Today offers the final battle between Chris Froome and Nairo Quintana. Almost Everyone else seems on their knees and reduced to defending their position in the top-10 so we could have a duel between the top two riders on the arena of Alpe d’Huez.
It’s live from start to finish and don’t miss the early finish today, an hour earlier than usual.
The Route: just 110km. Today’s route is revised because of a landslide but not much easier, the Col de la Croix de Fer replaces the Télégraphe/Galibier combo. The race starts downhill along the Maurienne valley’s main road alongside the autoroute and railway line to Italy.
Déjà vu once more as they climb out of St Jean De Maurienne passing the turn to La Toussuire and then climbing up to the ski town of St Jean d’Arves where they pass the turning to the Mollard and pick up the road they descended yesterday. Here it gets steeper, rougher and more narrow on the way up to the pass and by now only those with good climbing legs will be left.
The descent isn’t easy with some high speed sections but also two uphill sectors to tackle, the second of which is steep and a nasty surprise. Then down to the Romanche valley floor and, as short as this stage is, this flat section could ruin the attacking spectacle as any lone riders can flounder on the flat, it’s only 10km but enough to make climbers think twice about a long range raid; or at least to permit a regrouping before the final climb.
The Finish: Alpe d’Huez doesn’t need much of an introduction. The hardest part of the climb is the first three kilometres, it’s here that some can get carried away and pay the price in the space of a few minutes. The roads are wide on a normal day but today the crowds will be all over the road. The hairpin bends are flat like landings on a staircase and designed to allow trucks and buses to turn easily, a cyclist feeling good will change up a gear or two to pick up speed but only a slight relief. This is a hard climb with its 8.1% average and the steep part out of Huez after the race has passed through “Dutch Corner”. Things level out in the resort with wide roads, barriers and a flat run to the line before the left hand bend and a drag up to one of the most famous finish lines in the sport.
The Contenders: Chris Froome or Nairo Quintana? Froome has already won a stage in the yellow jersey and now he only has to track Quintana all the way today. Easier said than done as the Colombian got the better of him yesterday. We’re likely to see Quintana attacking on the Alpe for the stage win, I can’t see him going wild on the Croix de Fer and think he’ll settle for the stage win, second overall and the white jersey. As much as people want him to do more he can’t.
It’s hard to see who else can win. We can expect a big breakaway to go clear up the Croix de Fer and it’s possible Alberto Contador tries something but there are many in the top-10 keen to defend their positions so if Contador goes then Vincenzo Nibali will chase. Contador was cramping up on the climb to La Toussuire and is still suffering from his crash on the Col d’Allos. Nibali is likely to pay for his efforts yesterday. The others in the top-10 are hanging in their and won’t want to try anything wild too early for fear of blowing up on the Alpe but if they ride up the Alpe with Froome and Quintana their chances of the stage win are minimal.
We could see Romain Bardet try to get in a move to take mountain points over the Croix de Fer but he is now in the top-10 and if he goes clear Trek Factory Racing and IAM could chase to protect Bauke Mollema and Mathias Frank respectively. Maybe Thibaut Pinot tries a move but he was in the attacks yesterday and won’t be so fresh. Jacob Fuglsang must be sore after his tangle with a motorbike, he sat out the front group action yesterday but this might just give him the energy needed for today.
Mountains Jersey: with yellow and green unlikely to change this looks like the last jersey to be decided. There are 25,20,16,14,12,10,8,6,4,2 points respectively for first 10 riders over the HC Croix de Fer and then double points, ie 50,40,32,28,24,20,16,12,8,4 points for the first 10 on Alpe d’Huez. The standings are listed below.
|Nairo Quintana, Chris Froome|
|Contador, Nibali, Bardet, Pinot|
Weather: warm and sunny with 29˚C in the valley and 19˚C at altitude.
TV: it’s live from start to the finish from 1.10pm Euro time with the early finish of 4.40pm.