Tour de France Stage 11 Preview

A stage to Montpellier, almost a copy of a stage from 2011 won by Mark Cavendish. A sprint finish is likely and crosswinds are forecast again.

Stage 10 Wrap: a flurry of attacks on the way out of Andorra and the move only went on the descent. Peter Sagan dragged Samuel Dumoulin clear and a chase group of heavy hitters came across, most of whom had already won a stage of the Tour during their career: proof of the quality of the move and the effort involved to go clear. Katusha missed the move and were forced into the punishment chase but this didn’t last long. It left 14 riders and their team managers pondering how to beat Peter Sagan. Orica-BikeExchange had the best plan: have more riders. Sagan got to work thinning the group with an acceleration that caught out the likes of Rui Costa, Vincenzo Nibali, Sylvain Chavanel and Stephen Cummings. All paid for sitting at the back and trying to save their energy for later and missed the split but none of the Orica riders were lost. In the finish Daryl Impey’s attacks forced Sagan to chase, this was a way to make the Slovak lose. In the five-up sprint Michael Matthews won with ease, the fastest and the freshest thanks to team work, a visible effort after questions over their cohesion last week. Sagan was second and as a consolation back in the green jersey.

Michael Matthews Revel

The Route: 162.5km and almost a copy of Stage 15 from 2011 as the race heads east from Carcassonne to Montpellier: the final 25km are identical. After the Disney start in Carcassonne –  those medieval walls were largely built between 1850 and 1900 – the race heads east. It’s not flat but the elevation changes are small. The town of Alignan-du-Vent gives a clue to the geography, vent meaning wind. Once again the wind is going to get up and if the race briefly split yesterday it could do so again. The intermediate sprint in Pézenas – better known for gonzo singer Boby Lapointe – is on a long straight road. Many of the roads are exposed to the wind.

The Finish: the same used in 2011 and 2013, it’s outside the city and near the city’s rugby stadium, a shame the race doesn’t show off the city’s charm but they don’t want the traffic gridlock. The peripheral nature of the approach means roundabouts, underpasses and slip roads.

The prince owns everything in the kingdom, except the wind.
– Victor Hugo.

The Scenario: a likely sprint finish, there are not many sprint opportunities left and the terrain doesn’t suit a breakaway. Watch the wind to see if things get mixed up late in the stage, the picks below for sprinters still hold as the sprinters are adept at getting into position in case of split in the field. If the weather forecast does hold it could be a stressful day for the GC contenders.

Mark Cavendish Montpellier

The Contenders: Mark Cavendish has won in Montpellier in 2011 (pictured) but that doesn’t make him any faster today. His condition seems good but how has he fared in the Pyrenees? Marcel Kittel is the other obvious choice, a dragstrip finish for him and his team.

Next comes a second pairing of sprinters led by André Greipel. The German champion ran close on the opening stage but since then he’s been struggling, complaining about a loss of power along the way. Still he won here in 2013 and when German champion too so if you see him celebrate in Montpellier it’s déja vu for real. Bryan Coquard is still hunting for that stage win and his Direct Energie team are almost trying too hard, wasting energy in dud chases and deploying their train prematurely. Both get two chainrings but just.

Don’t write off Dylan Groenewegen, he’s going to win a stage of the Tour someday but whether it’s today or in three years’ time remains to be seen. He’s got the power and leg speed but Lotto-Jumbo are not a force to be reckoned with in the final. The stealth pick is Alexander Kristoff, almost forgotten in this Tour but he can’t be ignored and his Katusha team tried to chase yesterday, a clue he wants to contest the finish? Meanwhile the likes of Dan McLay and Edward Theuns will try but a win seems a shock. Finally Sam Bennett’s recovering from injuries but surely still an outsider for the win?

Marcel Kittel, Mark Cavendish
André Greipel, Bryan Coquard
Kristoff, Groenewegen

Weather: sunshine but cooler temperatures than normal with 22°C. The Tramontane will blow, a NW breeze will blow at 30km/h and could gust to 60km/h.

TV: the finish is forecast for 5.30pm Euro time.

69 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 11 Preview”

  1. Its a pity that Orica is losing Matthews. The next couple years will probably see him win at least one monument. Does anyone know where he is going?

  2. Well, I will stick my neck out and risk getting it chopped off but, crosswinds or not, I am not sure that most of the peloton will want to split the race to pieces?
    The prime contenders who could do the damage (Etixx, and the Lotto’s) have all got sprinters to contend the finish.
    Trek, with Cancellara et al, could do but their main man might be more interested in Friday’s TT.
    The GC teams will want to conserve energy for Ventoux surely.
    Tinkoff and Sagan will be happy to contest the intermediate / finish.

    I’m going for a tempo trundle.
    It seems to me that the ‘patrons’ have got their heads together and there is no silliness this year as there was last year; it was telling to see Cancellara at the front of the peloton yesterday in the run-in just holding things back and calming everyone down.

    Of course, it only takes one to kick start a chain reaction and the race goes nuclear, but I definitely think the riders have got themselves together and established some kind of order.

    • I’ll do some friendly ‘chopping’ – Etixx have both a sprinter and someone high on GC so a coordinated move could be very beneficial for them (Cav, riding for Quickstep, won the memorable 2013 stage 13). Trek would also benefit with Mollema going up in GC – again, Mollema was one of the people benefiting in 2013. Katusha might be interested in making a selection, dropping some sprinters, for Kristoff. But you may also be very right…let’s see this afternoon!

      • also thinking back to the 2012 (?) quote ‘Valverde doesn’t wait for me in the mountains so I’m not waiting for him in the wind…’ quote from a low countries rider (can’t remember who), maybe one of the Lottos and Etixx might want to play to their strengths if the wind kicks up… I certainly hope so.

        • I think it was a Dutch Lotto (Belkin or Blanco at the time) rider. They had some issues with movistar in the past and where starting the echolons with Etixx

          • It was Mollema. Movistar and Valverde didn’t think it was a fair move.
            Mollema responded that Valverde hasn’t been fair in the past (Piti).

          • That kind of reason would be moving on Mollema’s part, given he’s been riding most of his career in a team which has been repeatedly charged with organised doping.

            However, the main motive usually pointed out for the crosswinds vendetta against Valverde is that he supposedly had attacked Leipheimer in the Paris-Nice during the Vence descent, when the American was constantly having problem staying on his bike.

            No need to say that the whole story was more or less pure fantasy, but the always effective Lefeverian revisionist historicism could sell out his selfpitying narrative to the rest of the peloton.

            Leipheimer had previously fallen on a preceding descent and, as it usually happens to some riders, had lost his self confidence and descending skills. Movistar had *already* started pulling the peloton – at no crazy pace – when Leipheimer fell in the Vence descent: Movistar didn’t even raise the pace.
            Yes, they didn’t *stop* to wait for him, but the question is that the guy was really unable to descend decently, it made no sense for the whole peloton to go on just escorting him for the last 30 kms or so… he was losing terrain from a long-range solo break! In normal conditions, he’d have been able to get back to the peloton in no time.
            In fact, Movistar itself did reduce only *very slightly* the advantage of solo leader De Gendt (50″ over some 25-30 kms… he then lost another minute when *Sky* started to work in the final 5-6 kms): note that De Gendt had been on the front for some 140 kms (!!!), one hundred of them in a two-men break with Taramaae and the rest totally alone. That’s not pushing very hard on Movistar’s part, by any means.
            Yet the Omega guys were complaining, because they were loosing more and more time from the main group. Guess what? It was simply because they needed to stay with their leader who just couldn’t descend anymore. He went on taking the worst line bend after bend until he fell again.
            It makes no sense to complain.
            Nevertheless, what happened is that Lefevere started crying out against the *unfair* Movistar and Valverde and from then on both Omega friends and Leipheimer’s friends decided that any occasion would be appropriate to make Valverde pay for the outrage.
            The kind of story which makes cycling so funny 🙂

          • @Polkadots
            No. He was in the top team riding in top races (and achieving some decent results, too, especially for a neo-pro) as soon as 2008.
            And he was in their Continental team, before that.
            But let’s stick with the pro team. They got rid of Dekker only in 2008. Leinders was still working with them – until 2009 or so. As we know, Matschiner was fully active in 2008.
            I’m far from condemning or even accusing Mollema, I’ve no specific hint about him doping: for sure, he wasn’t riding in the top team during those years in which you were literally forced to follow the team’s programme, with very few and conflictual exceptions.
            Still, the “everything changed in 2007 when we threw De Rooy out” narrative is utterly unconvincing. Let’s say they were trying to go cleaner and that took a couple of years. But what about Menchov, then? He was riding with them all the way to 2010 when he podiumed in the Tour, winning a Giro in 2009 and achieving a double top-5 in both the Giro and Tour in 2008.
            Mollema wasn’t riding along him in these races – he was too young – but he was spending all the first Spanish preparation races during March side by side with the Russian. He often rid the Romandie with him. He probably (can’t remember such details, but it’s what logic suggests) was helping him to get quite systematic GC top-five and a final GC win, too.

            I might assume, for the debate’s sake, that from 2007 on Rabobank allowed a “double standard”, some riders could go on as they did before, some other could stay clean.
            But should we also assume that the supposedly clean riders didn’t know anything about the ongoing practices?
            And weren’t they affected at all by their team doctor’s *therapeutical attitude*? As long as we know, the doctor may have been giving them *vitamins* or prescribing unnecesary corticosteroids, all without the *clean* riders feeling that they were doping at all.
            Even assuming that a specific rider wasn’t doping, or was more or less clean, or thought to be clean, still it’s a very gray zone from which it’s pretty bold to take a moralistic stance against other riders.
            Was Mollema saying to his teammates from 2008 on that they hadn’t been fair at all since they had been part of a team-doping system? Most of them were on the team during the red hot years – about which no hopeful doubt lingers anymore: only very few could stay out of the system, hence what was Mollema thinking when he was riding for them – or they were riding for him?

    • Seeing Il Capo Fabian in front of the Tour de France peloton is always bad, bad news. For the fans and for the race. The Tour will certainly not miss him.

    • Movistar should be ready (but with who – Erviti? – how have they not seen what’s happened in the past and employed at least one big bloke who can ride in the wind?) for Sky to have a go in the crosswinds. Considering the two teams, it would be odd if Sky didn’t try something if it’s windy. And many others might well try it – the likes of Trek, Orica and Katusha, who have second tier sprinters.
      It’s always great to watch, but it could kill off the competition, if Movistar make a mess of it yet again. (Not again, please.)
      Quintana should abandon his team and do what he’s done thus far in the Tour – ride on Froome’s wheel, never moving. He should spend the entire stage there – just as much shelter as from his own men – maybe with Erviti to help him stay on. Far better to ride with Sky than to rely on his selection of climbers.

      • Yeah, but Sky should place a man – or two – on Froome’s wheel (at least one cover man should be the normal proceedings in every flat stage, not only in order to keep Quintana away). And those guys could decide to let a gap form, or to find themselves too near to the wrong part of the road in case of echelons…

  3. I found it strange that no team in the peloton attacked in the wind yesterday. Which says a lot about the reckless, and (what’s worse) tiring, “never miss a chance to attack all-out” attitude, that is unfortunatey prevailing at this Tour de France.

  4. My reading of the froome interview post stage was that Sky were all up to push splits if the wind got up but it just wasn’t strong enough to do the damage.

      • The 2011 replica stage had a rest day the following day Inrng.
        Caracassone weather forecast, off Steephill, has the wind as a WNW too, which could help the riders?
        We’ll see.

  5. If the wind gets uo today then some GC boys will lose out. You can only fit so many riders across the width of the road and there will be a few parties interested in being at the front. You’ve got EQS who could simultaneously win the stage with Kittel and put Martin in yellow, the two Lotto’s will be interested in the stage win and are two of the best teams at exploiting the wind, Dimension Data will want Cavendish to win and Orica have some strong riders who could set up Yates (although they were all in the break yesterday!). On top of that you have Trek who have brought their classics line up and could work to put Mollema in the front, and Sky who will try and assume their default role at the front too. If I was Quintana, Rodriguez or Bardet I’d be concerned this morning.

  6. I wonder if Valverde and Movistar were haunted last night by memories of a similar TDF day in 2013 between Tours and Saint Armand Monrond when he lost 10 minutes. Expect to see Quintana not so much glued to Froome’s back wheel all day as riding in his back pocket.

    • ^ This. Quintana has the most to lose today, and must be duly worried this morning. Sky are looking much more combative this year, which is great, and I sense that they’ll look to attack now if they can rather than wait for Ventoux (and the TT the day after) to try and do it all then. Keep ’em guessing seems to be DB’s MO this year. Brilliant stuff to watch.

    • Yes, in that situation this is all Quintana would have to do. Question is can he do it. And, more importantly, would he have the tactical nous to do this rather than rely on his – historically ropey in the wind – team?
      Impressive stuff Matthews getting over that first climb yesterday – and then riding cannily (whilst Sagan seemed to lose out to his ego again – he did not need to do all of those pulls a the front). From almost entirely anonymous to successful Tour in one fell swoop.

  7. I think Sky will try hard for a split today, Stannard, Rowe and Kiry will pile it on. But Movistar have looked powerful on the flat and will be wary of it. Could be a really good stage or just a trundle to the finish. Hoping for the former.

  8. Cummings looked a little disappointed with yesterday, it would have been a perfect finish for him. However, with Peter the Great at the head of affairs you can’t linger at the back giving him a head start. Was it the IAM or Giant boys wondering what the hell Tommy V was doing on the front yesterday.

  9. See Tinkov will stay in cycling if Sagan wins another couple of stages, I wonder what the deal is for 3 stages or 4 stages? The Puppet Master has spoken!


    Great way to spice up the Tour.

    Not going to lie, I’m super pumped for the Ventoux and ITT battle!

    Now, who is going to call my employer to say I’m legitimately busy to watch these stages… oh and who will tell my wife??

  11. You know, this Froome guy is growing on me. Attacking on descents, attacking in the wind, sprinting with Sagan. This is great stuff. Where, oh where, is Quintana for crying out loud?

    • Unbelievable stuff. It’s as if everyone has been calling him boring for so long that he’s decided to put in a bid for most-interesting-path-to-yellow in recent memory.

      • Seriously!

        I hereby retract every negative sentiment I’ve ever uttered about the man. That was exciting as hell. Chris, if you read this site: Hats off to you.

  12. I didn’t have preference to any GC so far, but Froome’s really ferocious and run to win is making a big impression!

    Today early when I read about inrng’s predicitions I missed Sagan.

  13. A little off-topic, but CyclingTips’ Secret Pro has an interesting idea to solve the problem of GC riders getting mixed up in sprint stages:

    In stages designated as Sprint Stages, all GC riders pick a point (eg. 3 or 5 or 8k to go) and can go hang out at the back, and no time will be lost.

    * the caveat to this rule would be on a day like today, where one GC guy takes the opportunity to gain some seconds. If all of his nearest competitors decided to go hang out at the back, and one GC rider attacks, you’ll have a huge debate. Plus, today’s stage ending was awesome, a huge thing for the fans.

    Maybe the solution is keep the status quo, and keep the onus on the riders to be as careful as possible. Sports with too many rules stifle creativity and the adventure you get from stages like today. Today’s stage ending never would have happened with a rule as I proposed above.

  14. The ‘secret pro’ should be ignored. It is a bike race, first across the line wins and gets to kiss the podium girls and accepts all the spoils of the victor.

    What sense does arriving behind the winner, and still winning make ? Where are all these fools and clowns coming from !

    • Agree – lets register the time tomorrow in Bedoin – then those stupid doped anorexic climbers can battle it out the slopes of ventoux.

      Guess the registered time last sunday should have been on the city square in Vielha….

    • I hope this does away with the “sprint stages” slogan, once and for all. There is no such thing. Any stage can finish in a sprint, and any stage can finish otherwise.

    • Agreed – I thought Quintana was tough as nails. Can’t believe he’s complaining about dangerous stages. Can’t really take it when guys that choose to wear thin lycra while riding 70kph on a skinny bike complain about danger….

      • Same whining came from Kittel and other Etixx boys. If they had won the stage, there’ll be no whining. So we don’t have to take that seriously. It’s just pathetic.
        Sagan never whines, if he wins or loses. Only if a moto kicks him out.

  15. Even as someone who dislikes Sky I have to be impressed with Froome – it was he who got himself (and Thomas) up to Sagan.
    How often do you get to see a GC rider who can also do that on the flat?
    And he knows – because we’ve all seen it before – that this is Quintana’s weakness.
    The great news for Quintana is that he lost very little time.
    Ventoux being shortened is another thing suggesting that Quintana’s waiting game might be less than wise.
    Particularly unimpressed with him (and Unzué) complaining that the stage was dangerous.
    Good to see a multi-skilled GC contender (and you never thought you’d say that about Froome) – the sort of rider that The Secret Greg Henderson would have lose their disadvantage with more rules that punish the skilful and daring.

    • Agree about the complaining – I don’t agree and I don’t think it’s wise from a psychological point of view to say such things… if I was Sky/Froome, I’d be thinking that I’ve got in to their heads!

      But on Ventoux – I wonder if it’s not so bad for Quintana – yes it’s shorter but the top section is not as steep – being lighter, the 9-10% stuff in the forest should suit him more.

    • Its Greg Henderson is it, thought his 5km suggestion was nonsense but a lot of the other stuff he says is interesting. I noticed Wout Poels hanging around towards the back today, I thought he might be there to act as a sweeper in case of problems but equally he could simply be taking it easy with an eye to the later stages. I am obviously not the only one slightly mystified by Nibali’s performance in the Giro.

      Chris Froome achieved his objective today, he has totally got under the skin of Nairo Quintana and his team. As Froome went up the road Quintana was alone nowhere near where he needed to be. It might have only been 12 seconds but it hurt Movistar as the stupid complaints show. The comment that the TdF visits too many villages was just ridiculous. Maybe NQ will roar up a mountain leaving all in his wake but the strategy of “waiting” seems more like missing the bus whilst Chris Froome takes every possible opportunity to stamp his authority and gain time. Today marked the halfway point (more really as Paris hardly counts) Chris Froome has grabbed a lead whilst everyone else looks at each other and makes excuses, to quote Dave Brailsford “Everyone is waiting, waiting, waiting; we’re racing,”.

      • The Unsecret Pro just mouths off about his own prejudices concerning other riders/teams.
        His recent comments on Nibali were pretty much the final straw in making him a laughing stock.

        • We all have a tendency to do that 🙂

          I did think Nibali was odd in the Giro, completely out of it after the mountain time trial, a couple of days later storming back into the lead. Given the murky history of the sport it is easy to think of explanations. I know it is very unlikely given the risks of getting caught these days but it was puzzling. Perhaps the fatal accident with the young cyclist really did affect him badly or there is some other explanation of how he can go from practically throwing in the towel in emotional press conferences to riding to victory. I know he only got the opportunity due to an unfortunate crash but he still had to be able to take advantage

      • The Secret Pro isn’t probably a Pro, either. Perhaps some peloton figures lend in one or two hints from time to time, but it’s mainly redactor’s work. Redactors’, better said. Someone around the web was so generous to dedicate some time and debunk part of their low-quality clickbaiting, but personally I don’t think it’s worth the effort.

        • It’s either Greg Henderson or someone who agrees with almost everything Greg Henderson says (e.g. hatred of Astana, Bouhanni, etc.).

  16. The biggest time gaps tomorrow could be before they even reach Ventoux.
    I hope Quintana can hang on – and keep it a contest – if Sky put the pressure on.

  17. There is nothing positive coming from NQ, so now Ventoux is the big stage is it? which now may be compromised by the weather. I don’t fall for this balony, the mans been wearing nigh on an invisible cloak. So invisible no one knows he is there!! I tell you its Froome’s Tour and he WANTS it. he has been enterntainment all the way so far, I can’t knock the man for having some balls. If your reading this NQ for god’s sake wake up man or is top 10 your aim. Dull dull dull.

  18. Absolute gold today. Sagan is a beast, he should have been tired of yesterday’s effort but instead he just shreds the whole peleton to pieces. All kudos to Froome for making sure he’s in the right place at the right time and making use of it, too. I hope Nairo is pissed and puts that negative energy into some ferocious attack tomorrow, then we’ll have a real battle uphill as well.

  19. Most spectacular stage until now, I’d say. Hope it’s the hors d’oeuvre of a different second half…
    Great stuff by Froome (and Sagan, but the daily high-note was obviously by Froomey). This was way more similar to true creativity and daring improvisation than the downhill attack of the other day. He *should* nearly inevitably pay a price in the following days, but perhaps he feels that he’s so strong now that even with the added strain he’ll get the best from the next two very favourable stages.
    Agree with those saying that it has been a great psychological blow to Movistar, as shown by their nonsensical complaints, a blow which could futhermore prove itself even more effective tomorrow, when the Spanish team will live 150 km of pure fear and stress, both factors leading to possible errors.
    Truth is that it’s not today when Movistar should have done anything, besides, obviously, shielding better their leader. They reorganised themselves in the finale and could have participated in the chase (maybe they did when they weren’t on TV, but after all it’s irrelevant): the big mistake was more than anything psychological, that is, leaving Quintana wondering about his destiny when he was alone in the back of the selected group. Curiously enough, floundering in the back, once Froome had gone, was the best thing Quintana could decide to do ^__^
    Considering the type of stage and the presence of the wind, the result in itself might even deemed as positive – but the way it developed is worrying.
    I’m not sure how Quintana would have fared with the wind in the open sections of the Ventoux; he looked saddened by the decision but maybe it’s not that bad for him, even if now the climb enters in Froome’s territory (half an hour of total effort, probably less than 15′ of possible solo effort) whereas the full version might have been a different story.

    • I agree with regards to the shortened Ventoux climb as being an advantage for Quintana. On a windy day going alone on the upper 5 kms would have been not only daring but rather silly even though there would have probably been many spectators forming a shield against the wind.
      Now he can – if he arrives with Froome in Saint Estève – make use of the full 9 ks to Chalet Reynard and let his legs talk. It’s 9% average with sections of more than 10% and little wind from behind if any. So no advantage in the shape of any draft his chasers might share. A pure comparison of Watt per kg.
      If he still does not attack, well then Unzue has even more authority over him than I have thought making Q stick to their last week attack match plan. Or Q simply doesn’t have it this year and is already riding for second place and Movistar’s team GC win.

  20. It’s funny, isn’t it? At first, I thought Froome was racing for extra seconds because he was worried about losing minutes to Quintana on the climbs. But now Movistar are complaining about it, it makes me think that Quintana doesn’t expect to win anything back.

    Fun for the neutral!

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