A time trial today and this was supposed to be the first chance for the overall contenders to stake their claim. Two wild stages have ruined the chances for many already so today we’ll learn more about the relative condition of the main contenders.
Stage 3 Wrap: an ordinary stage with a sprint finish but still a surprise result with Sam Bennett beating plenty of star names. As they sped along the banks of the Saône the road rose briefly to meet a bridge and then descended back and this bump disrupted a few sprinters and their timing but not Bennett who surged at the right time and showed he was faster than the rest. He was in the front group yesterday but like many was in survival mode and racked with cramp. It’s a victory that’s been coming for a while and he wins his first World Tour race as does Bora-Hansgrohe.
The Route: a tale of two profiles? The course profile at top of the page doesn’t do the route justice nor does the one supplied for today’s stage shown above left. The first 4km see the road gradually rise and the next 5km it falls, all amid vineyards. Vineyards, especially the Beaujolais, may get wine lovers excited but the monoculture means exposed terrain for the racing cyclist, especially as this time of year there’s no growth and even last year’s branches have been pruned. Fortunately the weather looks calm but the point is that even a slight breeze can be felt on these kind of roads.
At the 10km point they cross the village of Cercié and the road starts climbing for a kilometre to the time check in Saint Lager. Mont Brouilly begins with sharp right to start the climb. The profile on the left is the one from this year’s roadbook, the one on the right is from the 2014 edition and the differences are obvious. The older version says the ascension reaches 25% but not if riders avoid the inside of the hairpin bends. It’s steep in places and there’s a fuller explanation with photos in the Roads to Ride piece as well as some tips on where to ride in the region. But if you’re in a hurry just note this is an irregular climb on a narrow road, the gradient changes a lot making it awkward for the time trial specialists used to linear efforts.
The Contenders: Alberto Contador is winning more time trial stages than summit finishes these days. This course is ideal for him with the rolling terrain and then the hill to dance up.
Richie Porte is well suited to this stage. In the past once he’s been out of a race he’s tended to lose his focus, his flow so it’ll be interesting to see whether he treated yesterday as a reset in order to resume stage hunting.
Ion Izagirre is a contender, he won a TT stage in the Tour de Suisse last year but is still a B-list rider in terms of his media profile, at least beyond Spain which makes it hard to be confident about him, not that celebrity status counts rather he’s still got an outsider status.
Ilnur Zakarin‘s breathrough came in the 2015 Tour de Romandie and he secured his overall win with third place in the final time trial which included a steep climb. He should feature but a win seems hard.
Julian Alaphilippe rides high on GC and is a contender for the overall but a stage win today is a tall order. Compatriot Tony Gallopin has already won a time trial this year, a flat approach followed by an uphill finish in the final stage of the Etoile de Bessèges but this is another level and a win is probably too much. Tony Martin is in with a chance but he’s been beaten in many time trials of late. Crucially this course doesn’t suit him, he can take 3-5 seconds per kilometre out of some rivals on the flat roads but can easily surrender double this on the climb, especially since this year his focus has shifted to the cobbled classics rather than stage races.
Finally among the others Jarlinson Pantano is the new Colombian TT champion but this is a big step up, he beat Sergio Henao which suggests both have a hard time today.
|Alberto Contador, Richie Porte
Weather: cool and cloudy, 10°C with the possibility of a shower. A 10km/h breeze from the south which is gentle but it could still be felt amid the vineyards.
TV: the last rider is due to finish at 4.33pm. You should find it on the same channel as you watch the Tour de France. It’s on Eurosport too and if all else fails you can rely on Cyclingfans and steephill.tv for links to feeds and streams.