An urban time trial to show off the best of Marseille, a technical course including the steep climb to the basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde. If the mountains and plains can’t separate the top three, today’s course will deliver a final verdict. Ahead of this there’s also the second part of La Course, the women’s race with its pursuit format borrowed from cross-country skiing.
Stage 19 Review: a long stage but with action at the start and the finish. After a maxi breakaway finally went clear the stage fell into a slumber but with 60km to go the attacks started up front and these got more and more frenetic. Edvald Boasson Hagen was arguably the strongest sprinter in the move but was joining in the attacks. With three kilometres to go Boasson Hagen and Nikias Arndt went one way around a roundabout and the rest the other way. Only their pair took the shorter side and got a gap. Boasson Hagen blasted past Arndt and soloed away for the win and this time he avoided the photo finish camera.
The Route: a very different route to the usual time courses, this 22.5km is an urban course that twists around the city of Marseille like a sight-seeing tour. The first novelty is the start in the Orange Vélodrome, better known as le Stade Vélodrome but re-branded in the name of the French telecoms operator. Despite the name it’s a football stadium and one of France’s largest and over 60,000 free tickets have been made available.
It’s out along the Prado, a big shady boulevard and then along the coast and corniche to the first time check at 12.3km before they ride around the Vieux Port and a U-turn at the Museum of European and Mediterranean Civilisations then it’s back around the port and then the main feature of the course, the climb to the basilica of Notre Dame de la Garde.
The climb starts with a tight turn and a bend up a ramp and then a turn onto a 300m long steep ramp, then a right turn onto an evener steeper ramp, a left turn onto another ramp and onwards still towards the foot of the basilica and the second time check. It’s just 780m uphill but close to an 11% gradient on average and with some sustained 13-14% parts.
After a climb defined by rectilinear ramps comes the opposite, a snaking descent that will see those hunting every second taking risks while team cars will be screeching around the corners especially on the first part of the descent. The descent is longer than the climb and the further down they go they more the slope evens out, as do the corners. The lower points will see riders in an aero tuck working the biggest gear they’ve got. Then it’s back along the coast and back up the Prado to the stadium on flat roads to finish in front of the waiting crowds in the stade.
The Contenders: Chris Froome has won time trial stages before and the course suits him, he can hold his own on the flat boulevards but it’s the sharp climb to the city’s Bonne Mère that can see him take time on the specialists. Team mate Michał Kwiatkowski could be close too and Vasil Kiryienka was close in the opening stage too.
What can Rigoberto Urán do? Applying the logic that Froome a strong pick for the stage win and that Urán has beaten Froome before in a time trial then this makes the Colombian a pick too. It’s hard to see him winning but who envisaged he’d be starting today to secure a podium finish and with a short at the yellow jersey? In the famous words of Greg LeMond in 1989 “if he has a bad day and I have a good day then anything’s possible“. Still the evidence points to Froome’s superiority against the clock.
Tony Martin‘s just not the safe pick for a time trial that he used to be. He’s good at hilly courses though and if he’d surely prefer not to have the climb it’s short rather than Alpine so he can limit his losses and turn that giant 58T chainring on the rest of the course.
Primož Roglič is versatile, able on short to mid-length courses and good on the climbs. As such he might not be the fastest up the hill nor the fastest on the flat but he’ll be close on both sections and this makes him a pick for the stage win, especially as Lotto-Jumbo have worked hard on the time trials and unlike “Drizzledorf” they won’t be slip-sliding all over the road. Win and he can make a name for himself as double Tour de France stage winner rather than junior ski jumper.
Stefan Küng (BMC Racing) is a TT specialist and he was second in Düsseldorf. He’s had the chance to rest relative to others but the hill doesn’t suit him, Google says he was 83kg and even if he’s lighter today that’s a lot of bulk to take uphill. Jonathan Castroviejo (Movistar) is a time trial specialist who is very good on courses with lots of corners like this. A win would be an upset but it’s within his range. Michael Matthews (Team Sunweb) did a great ride in Paris-Nice’s Mont Brouilly time trial and can use his power to sprint out of all these corners.
|Chris Froome, Primož Roglič|
|Stefan Küng, Tony Martin|
|Matthews, Castroviejo, Urán, Kwiatkowski, Kiryienka|
Weather: warm, sunny and a sea breeze. A top temperature of 30°C and the wind will come from the SW at 10-15km/h.
16h46 Alberto Contador (ESP/Trek-Segafredo)
16h48 Warren Barguil (FRA/Sunweb)
16h50 Louis Meintjes (AFS/UAE Emirates)
16h52 Simon Yates (GBR/Orica-Scott)
16h54 Dan Martin (IRL/Quick-Step Floors)
16h56 Fabio Aru (ITA/Astana)
16h58 Mikel Landa (ESP/Sky)
17h00 Rigoberto Uran (COL/Cannondale-Drapac)
17h02 Romain Bardet (FRA/AG2R La Mondiale)
17h04 Chris Froome (GBR/Sky)
TV: live with La Course for the women from 1.00pm CEST until 1.45pm and then the Tour de France time trial takes over soon after. The finish is forecast for 5.35pm CEST.