The Mûr-de-Bretagne’s mini summit finish awaits after a ride across Brittany with its hilly and tiring roads. In 2011 Cadel Evans won the stage before winning the Tour de France. The same again? We’ll see but the approach to the climb this time is different.
Stage 7 Wrap: write off Mark Cavendish at your peril. He delivered a strong sprint taking the right wheels and using the inside line as the road turned towards the line. André Greipel extended his lead in the green jersey competition with 199 points ahead of Peter Sagan on 187 and Mark Cavendish up to third with 151.
The Route: it’s all about the finish but there’s still the matter of 180km to get there. The first col or mountain pass appears on the route, the modest Col du Mont Bel Air with 1.5km at 5.7%. A lot of the route uses small roads which force riders to change gear, brake and accelerate a lot, it’s more tiring than it looks on paper.
The Finish: the approach is slightly different than 2011, this time the race goes around the village of Mûr-de-Bretagne and then turns onto the climb with two kilometres to go, a pinch-point where nobody will want to give up ground. This matters because the race won’t launch onto the climb as it did before, momentum into the steep parts is smaller this nudges it more towards the punchy climbers.
As you can see from the profile above the road is rising from the 3km to go point but really kicks up at the 2km to go point with an average of 6.9% to the line. But this isn’t an average climb, it’s got 500m at 10-12% before the 1km to go point before the slope eases off to the line. It’s all on a wide road without anything technical.
The Contenders: what chance a breakaway makes it? The big teams have the paradox of wanting to save energy ahead of tomorrow’s time trial all while needing to place their riders up front and even set them up for the time bonus. It’s hard to pick a breakaway candidate, go spin that lottery wheel, so instead here the more obvious picks if they call come into the finish together…
Can Peter Sagan make it and if he does can win the sprint? These two questions alone are enough to discount his chances, the early steep part makes it hard for him to hold his ground and there’s the matter of Alberto Contador too, if Tinkoff-Saxo really back Contador then Sagan makes the ideal bodyguard to deliver him into position. Contador himself was just beaten when the race came here in 2011, sprinting with his hands on top of the brake hoods while Cadel Evans had his hands in the drops and poked past. This will be a good test for Contador who lost time on the Mur de Huy.
A steep hill that eases before the finish line? Today isn’t the Cauberg finish of the Amstel Gold Race but it could still suit Michał Kwiatkowski. The world champion has been out of sorts recently and working as a domestique de luxe but this is his kind of finish.
Among the GC names Chris Froome seemed the best on the Mur de Huy but this is much more of a power finish so Vincenzo Nibali could well shine, as long as he doesn’t try a bold (read foolish) attack too early. Nairo Quintana‘s an unknown quantity in a finish like this. Tejay van Garderen might not have the zip but all the more reason to watch if he can match the explosive power of the others.
Joaquim Rodriguez was very good on the Mur de Huy but that suited him perfectly with the steep rise to the line ideal for his power to weight ratio. Today sees the road level out and he’ll struggle to beat others in a sprint but should be thereabouts. Alejandro Valverde has a better sprint but wasn’t so good on the Mur de Huy.
Tony Gallopin started his pro career as a sprinter, or at least winning Coupe de France races via the sprints. He’s now much more versatile and still has that fast finish. Is today too hilly for him though? He was good on the Mur de Huy until the final bends but will have to time things to perfection to stand a chance. Bryan Coquard could be the surprise today, Le Coq weighs just 60kg and could float up the climb before
Dan Martin has a good chance here. He’s got a good finish and was second to Michael Matthews in the uphill finish to Arcos de la Frontera in the Vuelta last year. The big straight road is less punishing if he’s struggling for position. He’ll still needs to rely on his team who have been largely invisible in the race so far.
Warren Barguil can’t be ignored, he’s on his home roads and with a good leadout from Simon Geschke could surprise. Romain Bardet has been totally forgotten about after a poor start to the week but he’s got a fast finish and this is a good test of his legs. Other young riders to watch include Simon Yates and Alexis Vuillermoz with Yates having the sharper finish.
|Alejandro Valverde, Dan Martin
|Tony Gallopin, Michał Kwiatkowski, Joaquim Rodriguez, Peter Sagan
|Froome, Nibali, Contador, Uran, Štybar, Bardet, S Yates, Coquard, Barguil
Mûr-de Bretagne: doesn’t mean “wall of Brittany”. The Mur de Huy is what cycling calls the road known to locals as the Chemin des Chapelles for good reason because riding up is like scaling a wall. But today’s Mûr has a circumflex accent and is a place at the foot of the climb.
Weather: Sunshine and clouds with a temperature of 23˚C degrees. Light NW wind of 10km/h with gusts up to 30km/h.
TV: the finish is expected around 5.20pm Euro time. Tune in to watch the teams