The final stage, 115km with four major climbs packed into the route before the tough summit finish to the Plateau de Solaison.
Stage 7 Wrap: the early breakaway stayed clear with Peter Kennaugh taking the win a few seconds ahead of friend and former team mate Ben Swift, a surprising second even if he’s not a stereotypical sprinter, see his stage win in the 2014 Tour of the Basque Country. Behind things were relatively defensive until high on the Col de Sarenne. Romain Bardet took off from the main group, a revenge move to make amends and if he had the space on GC to go clear it was still a solid move which brought him up to sixth overall. Fabio Aru tried twice but each time he was boomerang, flying up the road only to come back. On the last slopes to Alpe d’Huez Richie Porte decided attack was the best way to defend his yellow jersey and dropped all his rivals bar Jacob Fuglsang. It was another display from Porte who has been consistent all week ahead of more erratic rivals, notably Chris Froome who looked at ease on Friday’s ascent of the Mont du Chat but lost a few seconds to his rivals.
The Route: just 115km but packed with 4,000m of vertical gain. They start in Albertville and head up the scenic Doron valley – where Tom Dumoulin cracked his wrist in the Tour de France last year – before tackling the first pass of the day, the Col des Saisies, 15km at an average of 6.4% but that includes a descending portion mid-way meaning most of the climb is above 7%. Then a descent – where Pierre Rolland crashed hard in the Tour de France last year – where as soon as the reach the village of Flumet they climb the other flank of the valley, this time the Col des Aravis, 6.6km at 6.9% and also with a descending section meaning steeper parts on the way up. A quick descent – where nobody famous crashed last year – is chased by the Col de la Colombière, 11.3km at 6.3% and steady for the most part, there are no descents midway to toy with the averages. Then comes a fast and dangerous descent down to the valley floor. Here there’s 10km of flat road to approach the final climb, a small disincentive for the climbers to try moves earlier because they’ll use up a lot of energy trying to stay away on this section but at least it’s short.
The Finish: 11.3km at 9.2% and described in fuller detail in yesterday’s Roads to Ride piece. There’s a narrow pinch point just before the climb to line things out in a case a sizeable group is approaching the climb and then they round a bend and it’s 10-12% for the first four kilometres, a selective start as they tackle the section that climbs up the side of a cliff. Things ease up a touch once they reach the village of Brison but it’s only towards the top that the slope begins to back off before levelling off to 2-3% for the final straight to the line.
The Contenders: Richie Porte was the best of the main contenders in Alpe d’Huez yesterday, shaking everyone except Jacob Fuglsang off his wheel and he should find the final climb to his liking, the steep parts allow him to attack again and go clear to take a stage win in the yellow jersey.
The overall classification is looking tight with no rider able to go away without representing a threat to another’s position, for example if Romain Bardet takes 30 seconds on the final climb then Alejandro Valverde and Fabio Aru’s positions are in danger so they might well respond. Bardet seems to be climbing well but Fabio Aru is too and both are picks for the stage along with Jacob Fuglsang who has been very consistent so far, placing few attacks than Aru but this has allowed him to track Porte closer. Alberto Contador is still seventh overall but hasn’t been a protagonist as he so often is in other races while Chris Froome is looking erratic but given his performance on the steep Mont du Chat he could be back on the mix on the steep finish. Alejandro Valverde has been tipped but not quite had it on the climbs… which could encourage him to stay as quiet as possible until the end.
Can the breakaway stay clear? It’s happened a lot this week but the brevity of the stage and the intense climbing makes it hard to build up a lead and the main contenders will climb so much faster. Names to think about include Ruben Fernandez (Movistar), Pierre Latour (Ag2r La Mondiale), Sam Oomen and Warren Barguil (Team Sunweb) but their chances are slim.
|Fabio Aru, Romain Bardet, Jacob Fuglsang
Weather: hot and sunny with 30°C in the valleys later on but cool at the start and at altitude.
TV: coverage starts at 1.30pm CET, in time to catch the race going up the Colombière. The finish is forecast for 2.50pm CET. It should be on the same channel you watch the Tour de France and/or Eurosport.