Another sprint stage to take the race to the foot of the Pyrenees.
Stage 10 Review: Yoann Offredo attacked from the start and turned around to find nobody with him. A shrugged and slowed, enough to allow Elie Gesbert to jump across the gap and the pair formed the day’s breakaway. Gesbert may not have wanted to go in the move but at least he made a name for himself for racing after a rest day where he’d set fire to the hotel by accident after leaving a towel on a heater while Offredo has gained more notoriety in France in two weeks than all those years as a spring classics campaigner. It was a stage with more castles than drama but we should note the work done by the likes of Tiago Machado (Katusha), Lars Bak (Lotto-Soudal) and Julian Vermote (Quick Step), human tractors towing the peloton across the plains of France in the hope their house sprinter can win and get the glory.
Marcel Kittel won with convincing ease, this time the photo finish camera was not needed. Once again he seemed to leave it late but burst out of the slipstream to win by three bike lengths for his fourth stage win this month. He’s now got a 100 point lead over Michael Matthews and you wonder if Matthews will back off the green challenge now in order to save energy for Saturday’s stage to Rodez where the uphill finish suits him.
The Route: 203km due south to Pau, gateway to the Pyrenees and . This is another sleepy stage across the kind of terrain where people enjoy long lunches, local produce and siestas. They pass the Notre Dame des Cyclistes chapel and near to the late Luis Ocaña’s house.
There’s only one categorised climb but the route is hillier than the profile suggests, after the intermediate sprint the road rises and falls. It’s certainly not a festival for the climbers but it just adds to the fatigue.
The Finish: a fast and flat run into Pau. The city has its elegant parts, this route doesn’t. It crosses several junctions and roundabouts in the final kilometres but on big roads. Things get a bit narrower in the final kilometre and there’s a left hand bend with 650m to go, it’s not tight but it will stretch the field out before the 600m finishing straight.
The Contenders: Marcel Kittel is the obvious sprint pick but so obvious that even his close rivals have to start thinking about other tactics. The likes of Cofidis, Lotto-Soudal and Katusha can spend the day chasing or they could fire riders up the road early and make Quick Step do all the work. But getting a rider up the road is one thing, winning quite another and they’re likely to back their sprinters as the most certain chance of a win.
André Greipel got swamped yesterday as a wave of riders overtook him and he was boxed in. These things happen and he should be in the mix again. Dylan Groenewegen got third place, his best so far but in the absence of Démare, Sagan et al his relative speed compared to Kittel seems about constant.
Nacer Bouhanni lost his temper yesterday, feuding with a Quick Step on the run into Bergerac and the commissaires fined him 200 Swiss Francs (FAQ: the sport’s governing body is based in Switzerland which explains the Swiss Francs), a derisory sum which has no deterrent effect, in fact it’s so low it’s almost tolerating the incident, it’s like a parking fine of €5. Anyway he often wins when his back is up against the wall but Kittel seems so far much faster so this scenario seems uncertain.
|André Greipel, Dylan Groenewegen
|Bouhanni, Degenkolb, Kristoff, McLay
Weather: cloudy and 23°C, there will be a light crosswind of 15-20km/h coming from the west or the right for the peloton which becomes a headwind for the approach into Pau.
TV: live from the start at 1.05pm CET with the finish forecast for the later than usual slot of 5.50pm CET. This stage is less scenic than yesterday’s so think of rationing your viewing in order to be free for the Thursday and Friday’s scenic and lively stages in the Pyrenees.