The final stage and the hardest finish with the climb to Le Bettex via Les Amerands. Remember the early finish time if you plan to watch on TV.
Force Basque: a stage win for Pello Bilbao, sixth overall in the Giro two weeks ago. He went on the attack on the first climb within a large group with team mate Dario Cataldo hunting for points in the mountains competition and kept going. They say in French that riding a grand tour is worth “one more tooth” meaning you come out that much stronger, able to turn a bigger gear and Bilbao was a visual demonstration of this. On the final slopes of the Petit Saint Bernard he looked like he was taking part in one of those Basque strongman competitions, his legs turning slowly and forcefully but it was effective, he held of the chase off Dan Martin, Romain Bardet, Geraint Thomas and Adam Yates who’d all jumped away from what was left of the peloton after Team Sky and Ag2r La Mondiale shredded the pack on the preceding climbs. Thomas jumped away late in large part because he could and it’ll be interesting to see if he can repeat this today, on a sustained and steeper finish.
The Route: 129km starting with a ride up the Tarentaise valley to climb the Cormet de Roselend in the reverse direction to yesterday, 19km at 5.9% but with a difficult middle section of 7-8% – the part that Romain Bardet tried to exploit on the descent yesterday – before a brief descent and then a hard slog to the top of 6-7%. It’s followed by descent with a break as the road curves around the Roselend lake before a steep drop towards Beaufort.
The Col des Saisies is climbed via a back road that starts above Beaufort, an irregular and badly surfaced section that’s a third category climb in the roadbook if it’s not on the profile above, then the more traditional ascent of the Saisies via Hautluce, a very steady climb of 6-7% most of the way. The descent then picks up the route of Stage 19 from the 2016 Tour de France via the Saisies descent (which includes a brief climb) and then the valley road to Megève which is hard going for a small group as it’s wide and exposed. The comes the Domancy descent – where Romain Bardet attacked in 2016 and Chris Froome crashed – before a brief valley road to the foot of the final climb.
The Finish: like the 2015 Dauphiné and 2016 Tour they take a short cut up the mountain via the hamlet of Les Amerands and there’s almost 3km at 12% and the hardest thing is the irregularity of the road, it rears up, levels out then it kicks up again, a tarmac version of a bucking bronco with sharp corners and 15% sections. Once the steep part is over they join a bigger road with some fast sections where the road rises right to the line.
The Contenders: Romain Bardet, Geraint Thomas or Dan Martin? These three have emerged as the best climbers in the race so who to pick? Probably Martin as he’s looked energetic and isn’t a threat on GC to Thomas but he’ll have to jump late rather than early or risk Romain Bardet worrying about his podium position… unless Martin fancies getting on the podium to make it three years in a row on the steps. Bardet is looking strong and returns to familiar roads but just seems short of that form he showed last July and Thomas is looking very comfortable but this finish is much steeper so it should be more of a test. Otherwise Adam Yates is close too.
Can a breakaway make it? Yes because the course is well-suited to a move going clear, the climbs suit diesel-style riders and so familiar names like Dario Cataldo, Thomas de Gendt, Dylan Teuns and others can try the early move again.
|Romain Bardet, Geraint Thomas
Weather: sunshine and clouds with the chance of showers at altitude, 22°C in the valleys.
TV: the final 90 minutes are live on air and finish is forecast for 2.55pm CEST.