The final stage sees the race end with a tricky mountain stage packed with technical descents – La Rochette might ring a bell – and the unheralded but difficult climbs of the Col de Moissière and the Col du Noyer. Don’t miss the earlier finish time.
Stage 7 Wrap: a fast start as 25 riders went clear on the twisting ramps of the Col de Champ Laurent including Thibaut Pinot. A few riders were shelled on the way up the Col de la Madeleine and behind Alberto Contador, Fabio Aru and Joaquim Rodriguez attack Chris Froome. It was lively but it came to nothing and later on Aru would be dropped for his efforts. Romain Bardet attacked over the top of the Madeleine and used his descending skills to bridge the two minute gap the group up the road where he found Mikaël Cherel and Jan Bakelants waiting for him. Team Sky chased but the gap grew to three minutes by the start of the final climb and Bardet attacked out of the lead group. Pinot gave chase and at first it looked like he couldn’t close the gap but, diesel-like, he got across and the pair linked up. With Mikel Landa eating into Bardet’s virtual yellow jersey position the Ag2r rider tried a couple of accelerations but Pinot hung on and powered past for the stage win and the mountains jersey. Had the two not played games – perhaps if Bardet had promised the stage win, “we could have arranged things” said Pinot – then Bardet could even have finished the day as the new race leader. Speaking at the finish line Bardet looked icier than some of the surrounding mountain peaks, “I could have raced better… I’m very very disappointed” he told Eurosport through gritted teeth. Further back Dan Martin and Chris Froome escaped in the streets of Méribel to take time and give Froome a more comfortable 21 second margin over Richie Porte.
The Route: 151km south by south-east across the Alps as the race sticks to the valley floor as much as possible even if a lot of the stage is run at close to 1,000m above sea level. The opening climb is labelled as the Côte de Monteynard by the race, it’s the Col de la Festinière to locals: perhaps they don’t want to scare the riders with a big sounding climb at the start? Still it’s not so hard, a railway runs by the road at times and it’s an obvious launchpad for attacks and a lot easier for the big teams to filter who goes off the front as the road is wide. Then follows a more stable part of the course.
Just past halfway, after the Côte de Saint-Laurent, comes a familiar road past La Rochette, scene of chamois-browning descents in the past but they stay on the main road rather than taking the hardest section where Geraint Thomas lost his sunglasses last summer. It’s still a fraught descent.
The comes the Col de Moissière, not a famous name but it will leave it’s mark today, a hard climb on a narrow, rough road and then only a short descent as they drop on to a plateau and then 25km across to the main climb of the day.
The Finish: a combo of climbs, identical to the finish used in 2013 when Samuel Sanchez won. The Col du Noyer (“Walnut Tree Pass”) is hard with irregular gradients and a series of hairpin bends with stunning views of the valley below. The upper slopes are particularly steep. They’re followed a fast, technical 6km descent and then it’s straight to the finish, 4km at 5.9%.
The Contenders: Chris Froome’s 21 second lead over Richie Porte is slender but enough to allow him to mark his rivals without too much worry and ideally Team Sky will let a breakaway go away in order to mop up any time bonuses. There will be all sorts of calculations today, for example Thibaut Pinot wears the polka dot jersey but is tied on points with Daniel Teklahaimanot meaning a battle between FDJ and Dimension Data along the way. Similarly there’s only six seconds between white jersey wearer Julian Alaphilippe and Adam Yates in the best young rider competition.
Dan Martin has enjoyed a great race so far, fourth in the prologue and he distanced everyone in the finish yesterday. He’s fast in the final kilometre and sprints well but will he be allowed any room? He’s fourth overall and Romain Bardet and Richie Porte will be defending their podium spots. Which leaves the door open for Julian Alaphilippe who should find the more gentle gradients allow him to contest the finish. Adam Yates should be close by too.
What will Alberto Contador do? He was on the attack yesterday and if it came to nothing he may fancy trying again today but he’s still going to be closely marked.
Cannondale’s Pierre Rolland fell off the pace yesterday but otherwise has had a good race and is the kind of rider strong enough to barge away and not threatening enough on GC, the same for Louis Meintjes of Lampre-Merida and Daniel Navarro of Cofidis. Movistar’s Daniel Moreno has been good in finishes like this too. Finally if his legs are sore, his mind seemed even worse yesterday so Romain Bardet could try to hang and sprint for the win.
|Julian Alaphilippe, Adam Yates
|Navarro, Contador, Rolland, Moreno, Bardet, Meintjes
Weather: sunny but cool with a top temperature of 21°C. The wind will get up meaning a tailwind early on until the route turns back and the final 50km will have a headwind.
TV: the finish is forecast for 2.55pm Euro time. It should be available on the same channel you watch the Tour de France and/or Eurosport. If not then cyclingfans, cyclinghub and steephill.tv have schedules and streams.