110km and packed with climbing, this is a copycat stage of one of the upcoming Tour de France stages. Tune in early because the final two stages have an early finish.
Morel booster: an early breakaway, reeled in. Normal only this time with a twist given the break might have had a strong chance were it not for Bora-Hansgrohe leading the charge. An unusual tactic perhaps given Emmanuel Buchmann is promising rather than delivering but some times it’s worth giving the whole team a mission for the day. Dan Martin jumped clear with three kilometres to go on the climb to Valmorel. This was no tentative acceleration, he went straight for the stage win and having lost a lot of time was given some space. As the others tried their moves Geraint Thomas proved the strongest and almost caught Martin on the line.
The Route: a dense route packed with mountains and scenic too. A brief ride up the Doron valley and it’s straight into the first climb, the Montée de Bisanne is 12.4km at 8.2% and a hard climb. It’s regular and at first snakes up past Alpine pastures where the prized Beaufort cheese comes from. It’s scenic but not stunning, a workplace rather than the stuff of postcards. The upper slopes are the steepest and the scenery fades amid the small ski resort of Bisanne 1500 before an open section up to the top of the climb just below the Col des Saisies and there’s a fast descent on a wider road back down to the valley floor.
Next up is the Col du Pré, this time the stuff of postcards with chalets and tight hairpin bends. After a steady start out of the town of Beaufort the tone changes when the road leaves Arêches and starts winding up through the pastures and it’s often 10% or more, all on a narrow road. Over the pass there’s a quick descent and a passage over the Roselend dam and then a tour around the lake before the road climbs to Cormet de Roselend, plenty of 7% sections and then a long descent if measured in distance but short by time because it’s very fast (and dangerous because of the speed).
The Finish: 17km but not steep, the “summit” finish of La Rosière is really the Col du Petit Saint Bernard and just short of the Italian frontier, it’s all on a wide road, a transport artery for thousands of years.
The Contenders: Geraint Thomas was close yesterday and the flatter finish here suits him, plus Team Sky look set to pace him. There’s no debate about the ambitions of Gianni Moscon or Michał Kwiatkowski any more although it’ll be interesting to see if they’re still around for this final ascent.
Romain Bardet and Adam Yates are obvious picks, Bardet loves stages with a succession of climbs and descents but today’s big gear final climb isn’t his choice while Yates is looking solid but can he transform this into a win?
Dan Martin was strong yesterday but looked fresh too, like he could have jumped again had Thomas caught him and sounded very at ease in the post-stage interviews. Adept at steep finishes he can win small sprints too. He’s also in the strong position of not being high on GC so can move without being closed down right away. Others are in this position too like Antwan Tolhoek and Dani Navarro but if they move, Martin surely has the better of them? One rider down on GC who might be tempted to try a move today is Vincenzo Nibali given Roselend descent and the finish is almost in Italy but this can’t make him ride any faster and his form doesn’t seem ready yet.
|Adam Yates, Dan Martin, Romain Bardet
Weather: sunny and 26°C in the valleys.
TV: 90 minutes of live coverage and the finish is forecast for 2.50pm CEST.