The race rides into the Alps and a summit finish at Valmorel, a long and gruelling climb that should help hone the hierarchy ahead of this weekend’s decisive stages.
Liège-en-Vercors: a wild start to the stage with over 50km covered in the first hour and when a breakaway finally went clear the only likely rider to stay away on the Col du Mont Noir was Astana’s Dario Cataldo, the Vuelta stage winner on the Cuitu Negru as if he likes mountains with black themes. He tried but got swept up in the end with a finish out of the Ardennes with Dan Martin, Romain Bardet, Geraint Thomas and Julian Alaphilippe detaching themselves from what was left of the peloton and Alaphilippe showed the finishing skills he used to win the Flèche Wallonne earlier this year. Sky’s Gianni Moscon – still the subject of a UCI disciplinary review – is the new race leader but faces his greatest test on today’s summit finish.
The Route: 130km across the Grésivaudan. The start is hard, it’s tempting to look at the profile and just see the final climb but the road via Neysord to the Col des Mouilles is bound to have many a rider breaking out into a sweat with 8-10% gradients. After the pass it still rises and falls until Theys where it drops down to the valley floor. Here it’s 65km up the Isère valley, past Albertville and round to the final climb.
The Finish: 12km at 7%. One way to spot people who don’t know the roads of a race is when they start referring to climbs first by their category rather than their nature, today’s climb has the hors catégorie label but it’s not really so difficult as to be beyond all attempts to categorise it. It’s a 30-something minute climb rather than 40 minutes or an hour’s effort. Used in 2013 – when Chris Froome got the better of Alberto Contador while the pair overhauled breakaway survivor Matthew Busche in the final metres – the road is 12.7km long at 7%. It’s a big wide regular road, the classic kind you find in the Alps to ferry coachloads of skiers to a resort. The route twists and turns with a series of wide hairpin bends near the finish, an ideal point for attacks where riders can exploit the gradient. It’s uphill all the way to the line but, despite the profile above, looks to level off a bit before the line.
The Contenders: this is a longer climb and so we should get a reduced group at the finish. Yesterday’s stage saw a quartet but among them Julian Alaphilippe might find this finish harder to so it’s advantage Dan Martin and Romain Bardet over Geraint Thomas to use a tennis term. Talking of which did you know Roland Garros was more cyclist than tennis player? He dabbled with a racket for fun and played football too but was French school and university champion on a bike in 1906. Anyway the Paris tennis stadium is named after him but more for his exploits as an aviator and WW1 fighter ace.
What chance the breakaway? Again climbers or powerful riders down on GC have a chance like Thomas De Gendt or Dylan Teuns but to get in the day’s move is a tall order, then to have it build up a good lead on the valley roads so they can solo away is even harder.
|Romain Bardet, Dan Martin
|Thomas, Yates, De Gendt, Teuns, Zakarin, Alaphilippe
Weather: sunny and 25°C but with the threat of a thunderstorm later on.
TV: coverage of the final hour and the finish is forecast for 4.30pm CEST.