A transitional stage to Rodez and the chance for Team Sunweb to make it two in a row with an uphill finish that’s perfect for Michael Matthews and out of reach for the pure sprinters. But everyone knows this so maybe their rivals will send riders up the road knowing one or teams can’t bring the breakaway back.
Stage 13 Review: an attack at the KM0 point from Thomas Voeckler and Warren Barguil. It looked like too much too soon and it was, the pair got reeled in. Barguil tried again and managed to get over the first climb first just as Alberto Contador and Mikel Landa caught up. Barguil took more points and the trio took off with BMC’s Alessandro De Marchi for company. Behind the group was being thinned out by the pace and Fabio Aru losing team mates.
Onto the Col d’Agnès and Contador and Landa took off on the early slopes. Barguil had been sprinting for the points for two days now so you could excuse him from being tired but he paced himself and was joined by Michał Kwiatkowski and Nairo Quintana and latched on to them. They almost got Contador and Landa at the foot of the Col de Péguère only to lose ground. Kwiatkowski couldn’t follow the pace as Barguil and Quintana made it to the two leaders to form a quartet.
Behind Team Sky had options but what was the plan with Landa? Make others chase presumably but few behind had team mates left to chase and nobody wanted to do much work and besides do Team Sky really want Landa to become the leader? On every count, be it commercial, national, political, tactical they’d surely prefer Froome. Dan Martin led up the Col de Péguère, his lower back is sore so it was a way to control the pace and the pain. Froome tried to attacks, he didn’t shake anyone but it was as if he was trying to show he could still put the pressure on. Come the descent and Bardet, Urán and Froome tried a few tentative moves but the only main change on GC was George Bennett slipping out on the top-10. Michał Kwiatkowski was a big help for Froome and the others, his efforts to bring attacks back and keep the pace up ensured Landa did not take too much time. The Pole was not chasing Landa, more his acts to contain the Froome group from attacks by Bardet, Urán and others meant the group’s speed was higher.
Up ahead the quartet arrived in Foix. Who was going to win? It wasn’t an obvious sprint and Contador led out, keen to get to the tight U-turn first but Warren Barguil matched him and had more power in the finish to take the win. Just two months ago he’d crashed out of the Tour de Romandie with a fractured pelvis. It was the first Bastille Day win for a French rider since David Moncoutié in 2005 but as Romain Bardet said the other day it’s like the 14 July for all the French riders given the big crowds cheering them on.
The Route: 181.5km. They leave the aerospace town of Blagnac for a fast, flat start as they ride up the Garonne valley, it’s all on big wide roads that are straight and lined with poplar trees for long sections passing by large fields of corn and sunflowers as they cross over to the Tarn valley to approach the intermediate sprint, again all on a fast and flat road. They continue to Gaillac – another of the wine areas on this year’s route – and here the road gets a bit rougher and smaller. The two climbs are significant, 2.3km at 7.3% and 2.3km at 7.7% respectively. There’s an extra climb on the approach to Rodez which tops out around 15km to go, it’s not steep at 5% nor new because they tackled it in the 2015 Tour de France but it drags on for a good 5km as they climb out of the Viaur valley.
The Finish: the same as 2015. A downhill run and then the uphill sprint. The profile doesn’t look like much but this has a big uphill kick to the line, 9.6% for 560m. It’s all on a wide road and finishes outside the HQ of RAGT, the agricultural firm that sponsors the Tour’s team prize.
The Contenders: Michael Matthews is the obvious pick today but almost too certain, rival teams know this so they’re likely to fire riders in the breakaway and force Tean Sunweb to chase knowing that few other squads will join them.
One team to chase will be BMC Racing because Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing) won here in 2015 putting an end to countless second places he used to rack up. Edvald Boasson Hagen (Dimension Data) is good for these finishes too. John Degenkolb (Trek-Segafredo) is an outside pick, this uphill finish can suit him but his problem is that if he’s in the mix then surely so are the two names above. UAE Emirates’ Ben Swift is another sprinter who is good in the uphill finishes.
Ag2r La Mondiale probably have two cards to play today, Oliver Naesen for the breakaway and Jan Bakelants for the uphill sprint.
If there’s a break see if Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie) joins in. He’s the local rider today as the bunch goes near his home in Albi and if he got in the action early yesterday he shut things down. Winning is the hard part but the unmarked climb mentioned above is perfect for his power.
|GVA, Tony Gallopin, EBH
|Calmejane, Degenkolb, Ulissi, Swift, Gilbert, Colbrelli, Bevin
Weather: sunshine and a pleasant 26°C with a 20km/h crosswind.
TV: live from the start at 1.00pm CET with the finish forecast for 5.40pm CET. Watch it all live? Maybe not, it’s up to the peloton if the start has fireworks or just sees a couple of wildcard riders embark on a doomed move.