Tour de France Stage 16 Preview

The race heads towards the Alps via likely sprint finish but beware the crosswinds on the plains for the last 50km.

The Route: 165km east. It’s uphill from the start but gentle with 3,4,5% slopes on the way to the first climb, listed as 4.5km at 6.3% and then across the Ardèche plateau borrowing some of the roads used in the Dauphiné last June. The roads rise and fall but the climbing and descending isn’t as pronounced as the profile can suggest, the long descent after Rouvey is often no more than 5-6% and with a quick rise to Saint-Félicien the road drops to the Rhone valley via roads again used in the Dauphiné this year and last and then it’s flat roads to Châteauneuf-sur-Isère with 18.5km where there’s a small climb but it’s a quick burst in the big ring and done before a fast approach to Romans.

The Finish: they ride through town – Pierre Latour’s home – and across the Isère river and then it’s uphill to the line on a curving road. It’s not steep, 3-4% at most for 350 metres but enough to change the tactics and gearing for riders.

The Contenders: a sprint? In times past there’s a good chance a stage like this would go to the breakaway riders but the sprinters teams seem to have the race locked down and perhaps the hillier nature of the course, whether the Ardèche plateau or the uphill run to the line will only tempt some teams to back their sprinters again in the hope that Marcel Kittel is huffing and puffing too much all day to win. Still the maillot vert seems to be in rude health and so he’s an obvious pick. André Greipel can win from an uphill sprint, see his win earlier this year in Paris-Nice for example (pictured) but his form is still not convincing and perhaps Lotto-Soudal will send the likes of Tony Gallopin in the for cover? Other names to think of are Edvald Boasson Hagen who is suited to the uphill finish while Nacer Bouhanni‘s form is improving too after being on antibiotics and he won a stage of Paris-Nice here too, albeit with a different, flatter finish. Michael Matthews should find the finish isn’t steep enough but he’ll be sprinting anyway for points while Trek-Segafredo will back John Degenolb.

Marcel Kittel
André Greipel
Nacer Bouhanni, EBH, Matthews, Degenkolb

Weather: a hot 35°C in the Rhone valley and a breeze too with 30km/h forecast from the SW, gusting to double that which means crosswinds during the final parts of the stage.

TV: live from the start at 1.00pm CET with the finish forecast for 5.20pm CET.

55 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 16 Preview”

  1. Cannot see QS trying to split the field in the crosswinds since they can back Kittel, so who’s the likely teams to give it a go? Lotto Soudal to try to distance Kittel? I am guessing the teams of the GC contenders will be keeping their powder dry for Wednesday and Thursday, but hoping the wind makes for a chaotic run in.

    • Hi MJJ

      Why should QS not try to do exactly that – split the peloton in the crosswind? I think Kittel could be part of a manoeuvre like that and potentially benefit from it. And D. Martin could gain time in the GC

        • Seems a possibility… Martin is capable of riding the wheels on the flat… He’s done a bit of riding solo in the wind trying to press home a tiny advantage already.

          • Surely ripping it up in the crosswinds would pay a double dividend for Quick Step if they can drag their sprinter and Green Jersey contender and also their GC man along with them?

  2. Do we think Sunweb might try and make it hard to try and get rid of Kittel for Matthews?

    If you exclude the final stages which are processions for the first part and flat as a pancake, Kittel has never won a flat stage in the final week of a GT.

    • Yes, I would have thought so. Lotto Soudal too, Cofidis, Katusha and several others could also put the hurt on if the wind is up.
      If Kittel does get dropped, he could have a hard time getting back on.
      Inner Ring has him as top pick, I’m not so sure.
      Say Barguil goes in an early move, the peloton can’t give him too much room now and they’ll have to get their skates on.
      I’ll be interested to see what Matthews gains from today in relation to Kittel.
      The Gorilla to be sipping a celebratory Banana Daiquiri on the terrace of his hotel tonight, for me 🙂

    • Teams can try but Kittel is hard rider to eliminate and if they can drop him early on the stage it’s hard to get rid of him alone. It’s likely Kristoff/Katusha Greipel/Lotto-Soudal and other sprinters get dropped too who can all make a strong chase to take on Sunweb.

      • But if Kittel is in any kind of trouble, Sunweb will surely find the peloton filled with allies?

        If they push the pace from the beginning of the stage, are the climbs steep enough to drop Kittel?

        • Mentioned yesterday – apparently Kittel is climbing and riding in general better than ever from reports on the road – some may have come from QS and Sunweb need to try but INRNG (as always) is correct – this is incredibly unlikely. Not only may it be Kittel MKII (stronger than before), also it’s true he’d likely have allies in any situation where chasing came up so again dropping is extremely unlikely. And if Kittel’s gone you’d assume other sprinters would be also… so who would join with Sunweb for a day of hard racing when many teams are looking to take it easy? Unfortunately those wanting to be rid of Kittel are pretty unlikely to have their wishes fulfilled.

          • Cofidis for Bouhanni, Katusha for Kristoff, Dimension Data for Hagen, Trek for Degenkolb, Bahrain for Colbrelli, BMC for Wyss og GVA, FDJ for Cimolai…

            If any of these guys are still in the peloton with Kittel dropped, they will surely work with Sunweb? So basically they just need to drop him, and then the allies will come on their own i think. Most of the team mentiones doesnt have anyone they need to ride for in the next mountain stages, so why not give it a go?

            Also, if Sunweb work hard and drop Kittel, maybe they can get to the intermediate sprint without him, even if he does manage to get back on?
            Last but not least, QS also need to look after Martin, with a genuine shot at the podium, so it wont be a full team taking care of Kittel…

            They need at least a couple of guys with Martin, if the peloton starts to ride in the crosswinds.

            Maybe you are right, but i do think there is a real possibility af dropping Kittel. And if he does get back on, he will have been tired by the effort! So the real question is: Can they drop him on the early climbs if they go full gas? If so i really think they should give it a go! If they want the green jersey, today is their best shot at levelling the competition…

          • If the pace is high enough to drop Kittel most of the other sprinters will be dropped as well, hence there will be more cooperation from behind than infront.

          • Haha, yeah Inrng didn’t take into consideration that all of Quickstep is sick.

            Otherwise, Kittel would very likely have made it back to the bunch. As it was, he had nobody to pull for him today.

          • Well, there were about 40 riders dropped don’t think they were all sick 😉

            Anyways, it went as I hoped for, so I’m very satisfied 🙂

          • Sorry – lost I thought you were saying Kittel to be dropped and out the race as in out the time cut?

            I misunderstood. Would have agreed – I was arguing he wasn’t going to be forced out the time cut today.

  3. If the wind is blowing (forecast I have seen suggests weather this afternoon in the Rhone valley, 35 degrees with wind 40km gusting to 60km from the south) then this will cause the GC teams to get active. Advantage Sky, perhaps AG2R and obviously Quick Step. Lots of stress for Fabio Aru and Rigoberto Uran. We could yet see the tour decided on the plains rather than in the mountains. It will be a tail wind for the last kms into the finish so difficult for any dropped groups to catch those in front.

    Marcel Kittel has to be favourite reduced bunch or not, unsure how good Sunweb would be if echelons kick off.

    • If Sky can exploit the cross winds effectively then I think Aru is finished. however, quickstep could well do the same to all the other teams so there’s potentially big gains for Dan Martin. It’s a shame the climbs at the beginning of the stage aren’t more selective – I can see this all coming back together unless the wind really has a big impact.

  4. It’s the anglophile in me, I can’t help myself but if he’s anything left then for sure it’s a day for Steve Cummings.

    Failing that then surely it’s too lumpy for the German sprinters to still be in contention, even with what looks like 50km of rolling ground after the descent. Matthews seems far more likely, nailed on for the intermediate at least!

    Will the GC be waiting for the big hills tomorrow? With that uphill start the GC guys will be watching each other allowing folk up the road maybe. The Contador perhaps will fancy a big dig from the off

    • Realistically, there’s only two stages left for Cummings to try and win, today’s and Friday’s (the Alps being slightly above his pay grade as the Peyragudes stage was). A flattish, windy finish might suit him better than some others who might get into a break. But if it really is that windy then it will pay to be in a group rather than going solo.

      • Stevo was certainly lively in the opener getting into what looked to be the best chance of an early break. But looked like as soon as he realised Dan Martin was Bling’s shadow for the day and Sky were chasing down he chilled out and slotted back into his usual spot to save energy for later

  5. No chainring for Kristoff? Ain’t he better in the Xwind than the rest of the sprinters??
    GVA should also bennefit if there is Xwind?

  6. If it is going to be as windy as some are suggesting then I worry for Bardet, Aru and Uran here. Obviously Quick Step are the acknowledged masters of cross winds and Sky having such a strong team means they are likely to be at the front too so if splits happen we may end up with a podium of Froome, Martin and Landa off the back of this stage. AG2R have done well as a team but they aren’t what you’d think of as flat land experts. If Bardet gets through this unscathed then he’ll probably be heavily in debt to Oliver Naesen.
    For some reason I fancy Bouhanni today. I think Kittel will get dropped early and QS won’t want to risk sending anyone back for him.

    • Uran looks pretty strong, and has Phinney/Van Baarle/Bevin to look after him in crosswinds so I wouldn’t bracket him with Bardet and Aru if the wind blows.

  7. Starting to buy into the theory that this Tour was designed for AG2R. We’ve been to their training ground (Chambery), passed through Bardet’s home roads (stage 15) and now head to Latour’s home town? And all those mountain descents. Are there any noted descenders in AG2R? (Said tongue in cheek!)

  8. I saw someone from AG2R (might have been Bardet) quoted as saying they would not give Froome a moment’s rest. Its the right spirit to approach the race but granted they have a stated aim of winning the team competition and a chance to win overall I think they should let the head rule rather than the heart and pick their moments.

    • Sorry… isn’t that exactly what they’ve been doing?

      You’re mixing their words with actions, they’ve said the phrase ‘no moments rest’ but if we look at how they’ve raced it’s not be action for the sake of action, instead they’ve been extremely calculated in when they’ve attacked and used their resources very effectively. To this point, and possibly even if they’re runners up, AG2R have put in the most intelligent and creative team attacks we’ve seen in years. The deserve massive credit.

      I think as I said yesterday this is the Tour so far of positivity – pretty much every rider in the Top Ten has a genuinely heart warming narrative that has me at least rooting for them all:

      Froome – for being consistently brilliant and proving his talent once again whilst being humble and genial.
      Bardet for working hard to make the absolute most of his current resources.
      Aru for proving doubters wrong and turning his year around.
      Uran for making an unexpected come back.
      Dan Martin for racing on valiantly despite a horrendous crash.

      The list goes on….

      Brilliant Tour, impressive Top Ten – looking forward to Mr Nice Guy Dumoulin being added to the mix next year.

      • +1 I am really enjoying this tour.

        Although it is a great shame that we lost so many great riders: Cav, Porte, Thomas, Fuglesang, Sagen . .. to name but a few.

        • I agree – although those lost I almost think wouldn’t give me the same sense of optimism, just because Sagan has nothing left to prove so it’s a little uneventful when he wins a tour stage or green jersey unless it’s a monster break, Cav I suspect wouldn’t have beaten Kittel but even so his big heartwarming come back was last year, Thomas again I just doubt would have held on, and even if he had knowing he wasn’t going to challenge takes away the enjoyment, whereas Landa always leave a shred of doubt being such a mercurial talent! Porte and Fugel… I had a creeping suspicion Porte would come up short, and whenever he does you’re always left with doubts, he would have needed to crush the opposition and basically ruin the entire race to be a positive story but you’re right maybe Fugel. I just really like the make up of the leaders currently, T

  9. Does Matthews have it to make the break? He could get maximum points at the intermediate, sit up and hopefully make it into the top 6 or so if it all comes together… would be at least a break even for the day even if Kittel wins.

  10. 1) QS did exactly this with a brilliant move in the Gior which set up gaviria for a win and Jungels for pink. It also featured some elbowing/manoeuvring out of the echelon of a certain German sprinter named Greipel. After last year’s tag race with Froome and Sagan in the crosswinds I do see Martin making time on other rivals but expect Froome to be right in there.
    2) Contador’s DS, Steven de Jongh, yesterday said on Dutch TV that this will be Alberto’s last TdF and he’s hoping to bow out with a stage win. So expect him to be lighting up the race either tomorrow or friday.

  11. Coming into this last week a lot of teams will have their eye on Paris and the lumps that lie before that.

    If they are expecting a tough time from cross winds on the flat I don’t see them wanting to burn matches before they get there. Chances of a forlorn break happening – high.

    Something interesting may happen in the run in with the GC riders. A good chance for Froome and Bardet to punish Aru and Uran with their team lacking in strength. Despite what some say Froome is alive to these opportunities and will try to sneak time on Aru, who has few friends (excepting UAE) in the peloton.

  12. I think Martin might have a go in the cross wind.

    . . . but not scrawny Dan, the Panzer Wagon, Tony Martin. He had a go the other day, he may be tired, but there aren’t many chances left and the cross wind makes it hard for everyone in the bunch so he may as well go off the front and TT, saves Katusha working to bring back at breaks too.

    If Dave Brailsford was worried about the race falling apart in the cross winds over the other side of the hills then could he save Kwiat and Kiryienka as cross wind engines (accept that Knees and Rowe won’t make it over quick enough), ask Henao and Nieve to hold fast pace up the first hill and provide team duty (dropping some other GC domestiques in the process) an task Landa with covering dangerous breaks.

    If a select group of GC made it over the hilly part then they might find themselves without team mates for shelter and food/water/spare wheels/pacing back after punctures. let luck and fortune take it’s toll safe in the fact that he has two solid engines to keep the pace high and provide support. Aru, Bardet, Uran might come unstuck and reduce the pressure riding on the last TT.

    • You can’t make your mountain climbers work without dropping your rouleurs. It’s a matter of power to weight ratios and aerodynamics – so you’d likely lose Kiryenka in that equation.

      The other GC riders should attack Aru given the chance. He can TT fairly well and may take time back in the mountains. If Bardet wants to beat Aru he too should focus on exposing Astana’s weakness.

  13. The routemap looks pretty twisty turny throughout – don’t all those changes of direction rather militate against anything meaningful happening in the crosswinds?

  14. with Kittel struggling, it is ok/acceptable for Matthews’ team to force the pace to try and put Kittel outside the time limit?


  15. They have been pushing from the start, so there is no problem with pushing on, but they are still riding with a large group behind, so I don’t think it will be an issue…

  16. what do you think will happen if top 4 are still seconds apart after the time trail? going into the final stage – lets say froome is in yellow with a 2 second lead

    • I think the Alps and the TT should separate things. The final day is a parade but it is also a race. However in recent years they’ve taken the times for riders when they’ve entered the Champs Elysées circuit, not the finish line.

  17. Dan Martin just lost the Tour although judging by the interview he just gave on his trainer warming down it sounds like the team is struggling with illness anyway. He’ll still attack but now he’s too far back.

  18. On a side note, Kittel better eat his meals in a bubble so he doesn’t catch what the rest of his team has.

    As it is, it’s time to look at what points are still available and if Matthews has a realistic shot of taking green.

  19. really regretting Martin’s seconds today, and to think that it was on elements he is at home with… what he gained yesterday lost with the premium on top.

Comments are closed.