Tour de France Stage 14 Preview

A good day for the breakaway and the tough finish above Mende that’s always harder than it looks on paper.

Stage 13 Review: there’s an art to the breakaway and to the chase as well. The day’s move of four riders was kept so close that at times the peloton almost had to freewheel to avoid bringing the quartet back. In the end the inevitable sprint finish saw Peter Sagan take his third win so far. With Philippe Gilbert trying a late attack, Arnaud Démare launched early, Alexander Kristoff came around him and looked to be heading for the win only for a late surge from Sagan including a well-timed bike throw that helped clinch it.

The Route: 188km into the Massif Central Starting west the race crosses the Rhone and then heads up the Ardèche gorge. Things climb after the intermediate sprint, the difficulty isn’t the gradient but the rough roads and twisting course up to the Col de la Croix de Berthel, listed as 9.1km but the road is uphill for double the distance. After more climbing around the flanks of Mont Lozère there’s a descent down into Balsièges and a fast run to Mende.

The Finish: the profile doesn’t do it justice. 3km at 10.1% doesn’t sound too bad but the second kilometre is more like 12-14% and it’s an eight minute effort for the best. What it makes it so much harder is that because it’s so steep it’s hard to make up for lost ground so all the big teams will be going elbow-to-elbow to place their leader into place. The race won’t be decided here but time gaps can appear. Once over the top there’s 1.6km to go before the flat finish line on the runway of Mende airport.

The Contenders: a hilly route, a sharp climb and a flat finish? This has Julian Alaphilippe (Quick Step) written all over it. He’s so obvious that he’ll find it hard but because he can finish well out of a small group he can play different cards.

Several contenders for the stage today belong to teams with ambitions for the overall classification so they might do well to rest rather than attack, but Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) could be in the mix. This leaves the likes of Omar Fraile (Astana), Rudy Molard (Groupama-FDJ), Damiano Caruso (BMC Racing) and Dimension Data pair Serge Pauwels and Tom Jelte-Slagter although they’re infrequent winners. Jelle Vanendert (Lotto-Soudal) could find the steep climb to his liking

There’s also a wave of GC riders who have seen their plans for July fall part and a consolation stage win could still ensure their team have something to cheer about. Riders who won’t threaten the top-10 include Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) and Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo).

Finally there’s the chance of a frantic race and the GC contenders get involved. Geraint Thomas (Team Sky) can win a sprint and Dan Martin (UAE Emirates) is perfect for a finish like this.

Julian Alaphilippe
Alejandro Valverde
Vanendert, Fraile, Molard, Thomas, Martin

Weather: hot and sunny at the start but cooling later for the Lozère plateau, 23°C at the finish and with this a strong chance of rain.

TV: live from the start at 1.05pm CEST with the finish forecast for 5.40pm CEST. This ought to be a stage to in two parts, first the fight to get in the breakaway because there’s a strong chance that today’s stage winner comes from the breakaway and then the finish to see the stage win and the selection on the final climb. The middle part is scenic and there’s always the slight chance of an ambush.

95 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 14 Preview”

  1. This should be an interesting stage – that final climb usually produces some alteration of the GC and it’s an ideal opportunity for stage hunters.

    I still find the parcours of the last week a bit of a let-down: the remaining stages, aside from the short one, seem much easier than those in week two. The mountains are less steep and seem ideal train territory – I fear the last week could be very dull.

    If either of the Sky riders receive team orders they should ignore them: Thomas (let’s make this a ‘G’-free zone) is unlikely to ever have such a good opportunity and Froome is trying for the double.
    I don’t fancy the chances of anyone outside the current top 3 – but hope I’m wrong (after all, I didn’t fancy Thomas’ chances at the start).

    Could the prevalence of shorter stages be a reason for so many sprinters going home – cut-off times are more difficult to finish within and thus fatigue is even higher than usual?

    The mountains classification is proving far more interesting than in the last few years.

    • The Pyrenean mountain stages are all very hard, don’t just look at the profiles or quoted stats, there is plenty of steep climbing and on irregular roads.

      As for the sprinters the shorter stages have corresponding adjusted time cuts and because of the head they’ve been extended further since publication. There’s been a mix of things, I read Gaviria was falling ill, and Groenewegen was very sore from his Roubaix crash for example. Velonews has an article on the subject that covers a more ground, for example who did and didn’t race in the mountains before coming to the Tour; I know Arnaud Démare did a training camp in the Alps precisely to help him climb better

      • Road surface in the french Alpes is smooth with very low roling resistance , and gradients are smoth compared to the french Pyranees TDF will tacle

        Intersetingly when you enter the spanish side of the Pyranee passes you have even better roads than in the french Alps.

        Riding the frensh pyranees a 7% gradient feels like 8-9% in the french Alpes. U tend to strugle a bit more on the rougher road surface and constantly changeing gradients which makes it more difficult to get into a rythem.

      • (DAVE)

        Thank for the extra info – I had no idea G & G were in the wars – I’d love Demare or Laporte or even Kristoff to nab a stage. Spread the love.

      • I don’t remember Giro stages having such acrimony over sprinters and time cuts, maybe one or two sprinters HD.

        Are the time cuts on the tour much shorter than Giro?

  2. I don’t think Thomas is transformed. He won junior Paris Roubaix, has won a number of golds at successive Olympics and won plenty of high profile one day and one week stage races. He’s ridden high up GC before of the Giro and TdF only to fall away due to accidents, crashes or simply having a bad day. The odds of him pulling this off are stacked against him but I would absolutely love to see it happen for him after having such bad luck for so many years.

    • Most junior or senior Paris-Roubaix winners arrive with the grupetto at Alp d’Huez, not as a winner, after they won another mountain finish the day before. I guess Eddy did it, but he wasn’t on bread and butter.

        • I dont have the exact times, but read 41:xx in an article, where it also said it was just about the 100th fastest time set on the Alpe! Very disappointing performance from a couple of dopers…

          • You can’t compare times with various years – the stage leading up to it is totally different, as is how it was ridden, as is what stages have come before, as is when in the race the stage is held.
            The people who are certain on both sides of this argument ignore all the evidence that works against their side and make spurious claims for the points that are on their side – Junior Paris-Roubaix for pity’s sake.
            Each side is as bad as the other.

      • It’s juniors. Completely different. Spilak was 4th that year. Mas got a top 20. Andy Fenn beat Sagan one year. Does that mean Sagan is a doper because he’s gone and Fenn hasn’t? To top it off this years TdF ‘sufferer’, Lawson Craddock lost in a 3 up sprint. The guy who had multiple ToC top 10’s and was on the team as a climbing dom. He was beaten by Stuyven and McClay. So a climber, a sprinter and a puncheur.

        Try again.

  3. Am I the only one who gets annoyed at people correcting Inner Ring’s spelling? 99% of the time people *knew* what he/she meant so to follow up on another excellent preview with a minor correction is a bit petty. IMO

      • Yes how difficult is it just to put your name on there , especially if it’s a huge post , I’m sure some people will ignore posts by ‘anonymous’ . It’s good to know who a post is from and then you can have a longer term discussion and mabye understand their point of view a little more

        • I know that if I’m using a phone I have to remember to fill a name in and sometimes it doesn’t auto fill on a second comment. I think there’s a few like that tbf as I’ve forgotten in the past.

  4. I wasnt aware Thomas de Gendt was contesting the GC 🙂

    I saw this in the Guardian which seemed to be conspiracy theory gone mad but I am sure will appeal to some.

    “But what if Thomas is the one bluffing? What if Sky harbour doubts about Froome’s capacity, after his win in the Giro d’Italia, to rise to the challenge of winning his fourth Grand Tour in a row, a feat which, incredibly, would equate to being unbeaten for three whole months of racing?

    What if, rather than being simply a decoy for the under-fire Froome, jeered and jostled from the Vendée to Valence, it was always all about Thomas, and enabling him to profit from Dumoulin’s focus on marking Froome? In Team Sky’s long history of befuddling cycling’s establishment with doublethink and contradiction, that might yet be the greatest coup of them all.”

    • It seems natural that Froome should attack Dumoulin while Thomas tries to stay glued to Dumoulin’s wheel(?). I don’t personally see how else they could or should play it.

        • Exactly, just think its odd that mainstream media are coming up with conspiracy theory rubbish instead of grown up analysis. Suggesting Dave Brailsford is some Machiavellian genius plotting the downfall of the cycling establishment would be far fetched even for the comments section of cyclingnooz….

          • Problem with goody oldeey Guardian is that they are crusaders, and they have decided promoting their brand of politics is more important than journalistic/editorial standards.

            All sorts of wired thing has happened with them, quoting cyclingnews as a sources without check and try to brand it as an authoritative voice in cycling included. Last year’s Froome leak included, Guardian was just taking any old opportunity to damage brand image of their old rival Sky NET & Empire Murdoch.

            Though admittedly, there is also a touch of patriotism involved. After all, Froome is more Kenyan than British for them. What is worse, Froome represents the tax evading elites that benefits from being British but never lives there.

    • I will admit I could have slept through it but I don’t recall Froome working for Thomas at any point in this Tour. It seems like the usual, Thomas is working for Froome, he just happens to be wearing the leader’s jersey while doing it. A scenario where Froome attacks while Thomas marks Dumoulin would seem to be standard SKY tactics, no? At this point in his career would Froome follow orders as he did with Wiggo back-in-the-day…and let Thomas take Le Grand Boucle if he thought he was strong enough to take a 5th win? It’s tempting to think of LeMond vs Hinault but Thomas has been the loyal gregario di lusso for a long time now. Roche vs Visentini doesn’t really work either. Any other similar situations someone can recall?

        • But these two are about the same age and about the same point in their respective careers. That’s what has me wondering about situations like this in the past. Plenty of World Championship polemics between riders of the same nationality on the same team but I’m scratching my bald pate trying to think of a trade team situation like this one.

    • I would listen neither to what the media claim might be going on, nor what the riders say. The former don’t know, the latter aren’t going to tell the truth.
      I’d imagine neither rider are going to give up their chance for the other and I’d imagine that Sky would want to keep both of them up there as there is every chance that one of them (and even both) could falter.
      Previously, Thomas was looking back for Froome quite a bit (and sat on Dumoulin’s wheel rather than trying to take more time off Froome), but he’s surely not daft enough to start working for Froome unless Froome is at least level with him on time.

  5. I just wonder if Mitchelton Scott have something up their sleeve? It may well be that Adam is not well and suffering badly, but now that he is nearly 35 mins off the GC (having only finished a few minutes ahead of Sagan up The Alpe) perhaps we will see an attack from him or perhaps Nieve (although more of a GC threat) up the not ‘too bad’ sounding 3km of 10%?

    Feels like a breakaway day to me

  6. been a cracking tour for my 1000pixels – what I saw up in that final up the Alpe was the best GC riders all at their limit, all within 2% of each others potential. This was no LA riding away from the whole peloton, coursing with the brightest blood.
    Bardet’s childlike death mask pallor as he attacked, the constant diesel grimace of Dumoulin -watching those guys at the very edges of their limits is what makes cycling an incredible sport. And this morning one of my riding mates comments that its a boring tour! hard to please people in this age.

  7. The term bike throw got me thinking. Presumably it works because the forward-most point of the bike moves a bit further ahead of the centre of gravity of the rider+bike. If this can be well timed then any lack of ability to keep pedalling is offset by the front of the wheel crossing the line ahead of a competitor whose centre of gravity is equally closer to the line. The distances must be small because the riders are clipped in. But what if they weren’t ? At what point would it be against the rules ?

      • Do the rules actually say ‘attached to’, rather than ‘in contact with’? That would mean that clips are effectively mandatory, rather than just a de facto standard. Hard to see that someone who somehow inadvertently unclipped both feet, but was otherwise still riding the bike would be disqualified. And we’ve seen finishes where a rider far ahead climbs off and carries the bike over the line – were these technically illegal?

  8. On the same day our yellow shirted leader proclaims he is sure there is no doping in cycling, Igor Merino is announced as being busted for HGH. Yeah, that’s right, no need for suspicion in this era…

    • Besides the fact he never said there was no doping in cycling, you miss the nuance based on the question asked and that was he feels confident that at the top end riders are clean. I don’t think anyone could make an argument that Merino is a top level cyclist…

  9. I wouldn’t overlook Tom Dumoulin for today. Of course he can’t jump away like Alaphilippe, but is actually well suited to those kinds of efforts. Remember the Vuelta finish where he beat Froome and that Giro stage this year through the town center where S Yates couldn’t distance him.

  10. I wonder if steep finishes are a thing for Froome. He suffered last year at the landing strip, also this year at the couple of steep finishes at the Giro. What do you recon?

  11. Im thinking of Gilbert for today? He seems like in good orm. If him and Alaphilippe makes the break, they would be in a very good situation.

  12. Listen to the Ring! Focus on the race, not all the other stuff – that’s for another time.
    I really can’t make my mind up who I think Sky’s leader is.
    The Guardian story can’t be totally ruled out but at the same time there have been indications on the road that Froome is definitely still the leader (not to mention Thomas de (near) Gwent’s post-stage conformation comments).
    The truth is probably somewhere between the two, for now – the road and racing will decide. Thomas is unproven over three weeks – he’s known to crash out or have a very bad day – while Froome is known to come on strong in the third week, has enormous recovery powers and has been there and done it over and over.
    But that doesn’t rule out the possibility of Sky reaching a point where they have to decide. Would love to be a fly on the wall in that meeting.

  13. In answer to Jorgelito Froome is never going to match the explosive Classics climbers over a short, steep ramp. So I guess it’s kind of a thing.

  14. Zoncolan Jorgelito? Now that’s a very steep finish. A very long steep finish! Or Stage 19 of this year’s Giro? That was an 80km steep finish (admittedly with lots of downhill too)!

    • Too early to say, the Pyrenees are very hard this year. Thomas could stay, famously he’s not lasted three weeks but that’s not the same as saying he can’t this time. Froome and Dumoulin both have the Giro in their legs which adds to the uncertainty.

      • Is the silver lining that Sagan and Bora will have little incentive to go hard on this stage, and so there’s all the more chance of an interesting breakaway?

        On another note, I just saw video of the actual cause of Nibali’s crash – a fan’s camera strap caught his handlebar and jerked him to the ground, much like Sagan and the fan’s jacket in the Tour of Flanders. So it wasn’t incompetent police motos or that there was a pinch-point in the route.

  15. I think the race has been entertaining well above the average tour.
    I remember many a grand tour, that was decided mid-race, this year its not the case.
    Even most suspect the froomey will that move, the top3 are all potential winners in what I have seen of racing so far.
    Quite impressing that Big T and froome come from battling Il Giro!
    Cousin Roglic seems smart and might try to snatch a podium spot, same with Romian Panache!
    And Team Moviestar with their off point tactics hopefully will go gung ho when the race is nearing their home soil.
    I think its a shame with so many top-sprinters out, altough for different reasons i hope this will be adressed by the ASO….

    • I think many would say that the first week was tough going, but you are correct in that the main race – the GC – is currently quite uncertain. It’s a shame there’s not another contender or two in the mix (like Bardet or Porte) in my view. Imagine if there were no TTTs or power meters… even better…

      On a side note, what’s the view of Thomas’s descending abilities these days? Given that we have at least one day with a tricky descent to the finish.

  16. I don’t understand Thomas of Ghent. Surely today would be a better day for the break? Mind you he is mad enough to try anyway even after yesterdays effort.

  17. All you Sky haters have no need to worry. They are missing their star engine – Vasil Kiryienka. I miss his smiling face at the head of the train.

  18. Pozzovivo at 100/1 is my pick for today. All he has to do is get in the break, stay upright, eat and drink, then drop everyone else on that steep 3km ramp near the finish, then hold them off till the finish.

  19. 1986 redux?

    If you accept the proposition that Team Sky’s budget dominance enables them to field a team of what would-be-leaders in any other time, it’s an almost inevitable conclusion that the biggest competitor will be from within the team.

    So let’s talk about La Vie Claire instead. Where they the biggest team of the time? Did they dominate? Any lessons to learn from the ’86 tour?

    • They likely had the biggest budget and the best overall team for sure. But instead of LeMond vs Hinault it would be Bernal vs Froome at SKY and they’ve put the new guy to good use. Thomas on the other hand has been loyal gregario di lusso for Froome for awhile now and they’re more or less the same age and at the same point in their respective careers vs Hinault and LeMond. Bernal has no ambitions at this point while both Froome and Thomas might be looking at their last best chance to wear yellow in Paris. A very different situation to LeMond vs Hinault in 1986, which is why I asked if anyone else could come up with a similar situation from the past. This ain’t it.

  20. Has the extra week between the Giro and Tour this year made a big difference in allowing Froome and Dumolin to be competitive? Recent attempts the double have failed spectacularly.

    • One was attempted by a rider on the cusp of retirement, one was by a guy who has failed even when solely targeting the tour, and the other was just beaten (but won the first one).

      These are the examples that come to mind.

  21. (DAVE)

    Ps – 2015 Mende:
    Geraint was doing well, but faltered badly on this climb.
    Roche led out Froome, but Quintana attacked and split the group.
    Thomas lost 50secs to Froome and Quintana, Contador lost 20secs.
    On Stage 9 2015 Vuelta on a similar climb, Dumoulin outsprinted Froome, Quintana lost 20secs.

    My thinking is aside from the wind that’s already happening, is there could be more time loses today than expected. Dumoulin must know Geraint lost time here before, a Froome has looked worse on the short steep stuff in recent times, so some sort of move, or just to follow Bardet/Marton is worth a crack.

    I have no idea if Geraint is better than 2015 (assume so) but today could be a chance for Dumoulin to bring him to within (at least close to) TT striking distance.

    I just see time gaps today.

  22. Great climbing by Roglic, not even a track background either. Good job he doesn’t ride for Sky, the conspiracy theorists would be bursting at the seems. Or is that too selective for them!!

  23. Nice win by Fraile – there’s something satisfying about seeing some of these guys win their first TdF stage, though I was cheering for Stuyven for his bold and strong move. And what was Sagan doing in 4th?! He seems to still have pent up energy from missing the Tour last year. That’s 10 top-8 finishes out of 13 road stages.

    It was good to see Roglic getting frisky at the end, and TD trying a dig. Neither changed much, but I suppose they were messages for later.

  24. Alaphilippe will probably be kicking himself tonight. Left it far too late to launch his bid and Fraile was running out of puff a bit near the top of the climb. Fair play to him, though, for striking out early on and making it stick.

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