Tour de France Stage 11 Preview

Who will win in Toulouse? The race resumes and the wind could feature again.

The Route: 167km south-west to Toulouse, where on a good day the Pyrenees are visible in the distance and often voted as the city people in France would like to live in. It’s a scenic stage passing Cordes-sur-Ciel, a tourist hotpoint that will be telegenic when filmed from the helicopter and then the first categorised climb of the day to Tonnac, 3.6km at 5% and then the road drags on up to the Col de la Liberté. From here on the road rises and falls gradually, this is gentle countryside with roads typical of south-western France with plenty of roads shaded by trees and past sunflower fields but now and then there’s no cover and it’s exposed to the wind, take section with 50km to go where the race leaves Lavaur, climbs up a long drag and over the top it’s exposed, or the later section from Saussens to Drémil-Lafage or soon after when the road turns north and starts some uphill drags.

The Finish: with just over 6km to go the race rides into the city of Toulouse, crossing town’s rocade ring road and it’s here an unmarked climb begins, 1.4km at 4%. Hardly Alpine and all on a big boulevard but when ridden for recon purposes to write this preview it stung just enough to suggest some sprinters go backwards in the bunch. There’s a descent from 5km to just after 3km to go where it could pay to have a 55T chainring. The road then flattens out and circles the shaded boulevards of Toulouse for a flat finish.

The Contenders: our trio again of Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-Quickstep), Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) and Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) but there’s still no obvious pecking order. The climb into Toulouse is disruptive and tilts it to Viviani and Ewan but this is tilting, not converting. As ever Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Alexander Kristoff (UAE Emirates should be close.

Caleb Ewan, Elia Viviani
Dylan Groenewegen, Peter Sagan


Yellow story: Raymond Poulidor must be the greatest rider not to have won the yellow jersey. He came so close in 1973 when he lost out in the prologue to Joop Zoetemelk by 0.83 seconds. This was his 11th Tour and he’d ride 14 in total with eight podium finishes in Paris but never the top step and not even a day in yellow. His first autobiography set the tone with the title of La Gloire Sans Le Maillot Jaune, or “Glory without the Yellow Jersey” in 1964. To this day to “do a Poulidor” is to come second in France, a term applied to domains beyond cycling like, say, a politician who keeps trying to get elected but fails. Poulidor’s famous for losing he still has a palmarès many would trade a kidney for, with a Vuelta a España win, Dauphiné, Milan-Sanremo and plenty more. Poulidor’s still at the Tour de France and enjoys the celebrity. He knows that coming second all the time gave him a label, a myth and consequently a brand and an income that he wouldn’t have enjoyed had he worn yellow for a day or two. And yes, he’s Mathieu van der Poel’s grandfather.

Weather: warm and sunny, a top temperature of 30°C. The Vent d’Autan is the local wind and looks set to blow at 20km/h from the W-NW which is the bare minimum needed for crosswinds so keep an eye on things in case it picks up.

TV: the stage starts at 1.35pm CEST and finish is forecast for 5.30pm CEST / Euro time.

69 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 11 Preview”

    • Stage 10 had so many things going on extensively discussed all round the interwebs.
      Fwiw paradoxically the most exciting first week/10 stages set up the most boring GC race for the rest of Tour.
      I enjoy the Tour for the stage (breakaway) wins but too bad not all riders are there for the same goal unlike the classics. A matter of preference surely.

      • Boring? The next half of the Tour will be incredibly tough and there is a ton of GC riders still thinking they can make up time. We have not seen any high mountain test and there is plenty of opportunity for riders to crack.
        Sure, INEOS dictating things from now on is a scenario too, but remember last year. They were put under great pressure from Dumoulin, Roglic and to an extent, Kruiswijk. All the GC riders who survived in the first group in the crosswinds looked pretty good. Who is to say this year Thomas will not have a bad day? I’d say his clean run from last year was pretty unique and Bernal still has to prove he can do a 3 week GC. Lots of other story lines too, like the mountain jersey or how long Alaphilippe can hold on to yellow.
        Hey, if the racing really turnes out to be boring, at least the scenery of the mountain stages will be nice to watch ;-).

        • In addition, while there are some obvious ripostes to it, it should be noted that Ineos didn’t look their usual invincible selves on La Planche des Belles Filles. Movistar piled on the early pressure and it was left to David Gaudu to do the work to bring back Landa, while Thomas & Bernal were on their own for most of the climb…perhaps a sign of some more open mountain racing to come?

        • It would be far more interesting if the Ineos riders were behind the others rather than in front, but as usual that’s the other teams’ lack of competence when faced with wind.
          Were Ineos behind, we’d be much more likely to see attacking racing that had a chance of being successful. As it is, it’s very hard to see others overtaking both Ineos riders.

      • While this may be true you have a real knack for providing a clear and condensed picture, without all the superfluous stuff and hype of the media (I almost used the term mainstream (cycling) media, but that’s been corrupted to mean something cynical so decided not to). Even if you just provide a take that’s the exact copy of someone else’s then, by the virtue of being inrng, it allows at least this reader to see the wood from the trees. So if you ask me, feel free to add to the commentary out there.

        The above is my attempt at complimenting the blog and thanking you for making me a more knowledgeable cyclist with greater appreciation for the sport.

        • Hear hear, I always miss the pre-rest day post-match analysis on this site. Of course, it’s totally Inrng’s prerogative what gets written about (and rondpoints was fascinating and a wondrous example of the excellence and imagination of this blog), but you just can’t get the same insider’s insight in other reviews. And yes, wit and puns always help!

          Thanks so much for all the brilliance of this blog, this month and all the others.

    • Maybe inrng is so depressed about it he can’t bring himself to talk about it. Plus there’s m only so much you can say in 7 years about Skineos teamwork and professionalism before it gets a bit tired.

      • Huh?

        Anyway, I’m surprised by the lack of focus on Jumbo’s decision to send a 4th placed rider (and genuine top 10 contender) back to fetch water bottles just before cross-winds hit. Can you imagine the fuss if Ineos had done this with Bernal? Given how attentive some teams were to the winds, it seemed to have been predictable. Must have been an curious atmosphere on the bus following van Aert’s win.

        • My guess is that riding for two GC guys was never the plan, Bennett was always supposed to help SK and in a stressed situation Bennett was last on the team pecking order for the stage and had to do the dirty work.

          • You’re correct that SK is their main guy, but they’d rather have two cards to play in the mountains like last year. Jumbo Director told Dutch media they were surprised to see Bennett at the team car, saying it wasn’t his job but he’s too much of a good guy wanting to help the team.

            Still, could’ve communicated better but Bennett said communication was finicky at that moment.

        • It was a communication cock up that resulted in Bennett going back for bottles – he doesn’t state the exact nature of the cock up, but it seems that he thought he’d been instructed to fetch bottles and was confused cos the riders didn’t need them, and when he arrived at the car the DS didn’t know why he was there!
          A real shame, not only for his GC chances, but he could’ve had a good chance at getting into yellow had he stayed with the front group…

          • Oh no, is that right?!
            Worse than I thought and worse that the Roglic piss-gate affair.

            Exactly what I was saying re Ineos budget.., you wouldn’t give these guys the same money, they’d mess it up. Bit harsh considering their amazing start, but I had high hopes for them to take it to Ineos this year

          • Another version has Bennett saying he’d go back for the bottles, the team said “no”, he said “are you sure”, they said “ok, why not” and that was that, or something roughly on those lines from the Dutch/Flemish reports. Luckily van Aert won the stage otherwise the blunder would have been a bigger story. Bennett is riding 100% to support Kruisjwijk but having a rider 4th overall is a strong card to play etc and losing it isn’t ideal.

          • Wow – that’s such a shame (although “Gone with the crosswind” is a great subtitle to the story!). Sounds like it wasn’t the team’s mistake if he simply misheard something.

  1. I wondered how long it will be before, instead of referring to MvdP as Poulidor’s grandson, we refer to Poulidor as Van der Poel’s grandfather.
    Here we go =]

  2. “palmarès many would trade a kidney for, with a Vuelta a España win, the Vuelta, Dauphiné, [….]”

    There is one Vuelta too many in the sentence. 😉

  3. Stage 10: the usual suspects fail when it comes to crosswinds – well done to Quintana and Dan Martin,who learned from previous mistakes.
    It amazes me that this happens every couple of years and despite riders losing more time than they will on almost any mountain stage many teams don’t learn.
    Look at Ineos: they’re always there in these situations (the biased amongst us would say depressingly so).
    Not all the teams can be up at the front, drilling it, but form an echelon just behind, keep your team organised and you’ll lose seconds, not minutes, and possibly rejoin.
    How has someone with Marc Madiot’s experience allowed his team not to do this?
    And if your team doesn’t/can’t do that, how have the likes of Porte not realised that if there’s a crosswind just stick next to Ineos or DQS?

    • People say: “Even Quintana made it into the first group” as if this shows how good an echolon-rider he is or how professional Team Movistar is. But of course it is the other way around: That Quintana made it in the front group shows, that from a certain point on luck is involved. As you have mentioned, the street only has room for a certain amount of riders and after that room is used up you can be as prepared and professional as you like, it will not help you as there is simply no room.

      And then you are of course only as good as the person, that is losing contact to a group. richie porte said, that he was the first/last rider, the one, who lost contact to the front group and this means everybody behind him has almost no chance to change that again, even, if they would be strong enough to do it when they would be first instead of porte. Because not only must they realise fast enough, that porte won’t make it, but also then have to go around him – and all that against the wind. In an echelon a tiny distance, like 2 meters, that you usually not even think about, can mean you are gone from a group forever.

      I think it is a bit, how do I say it, populistic to say, that the riders, who lost time did that, because they are not professional or good. In these situations there will always be losers and winners. A race is always in flux and you maybe were at the front the whole race and then another team decides to go to the front and in that moment the wind comes – it is just circumstances and luck, who made it. Some teams said, that they had the informations, that the echelons will happen at an earlier place and time and so they thought they were safe, when they actually happened, which explains why so many GC-teams were caught out at the same time. They were attentive the whole time and just as they let down their guard a bit, it happened. That is just human.

      And yes, as always, money buys you the best insurance against losing in form of having enough riders who are strong enough to ride echelons and make the tiny difference between winning or losing in these circumstances, when the situation is thus, that strong riding can still make a difference. But even that does not always help you and I remember quite a few situations in which sky did not make it in the echelons. And people then said: “No wonder they can’t ride in the wind, all they are good for is riding mountains in the Tour de France.” That was just as populistic as to say now, that all teams, that lost time are unprofessional.

      In all these cases circumstances decided, sometimes in a split second, what happened and sometimes you are lucky and sometimes unlucky (and yes, as I said, you can help your “luck” a bit with having a budget 3 times that of your opponents and taking away strong riders from other teams and bunking them at your team, although calling that making your “luck” is not the right word, more like doing financial doping).

      • But the same riders are caught out over and over again. Quintana is usually one of them and his Movistar team are noted for not being attentive enough in crosswinds. That’s why his inclusion in the front group merits mention

        • First: I don’t think this is the case (that always the same people are caught out). More often than not anecdotal numbers\knowledge differ from the real numbers as we are all quite biased (I am too, this is normal) and no computers, that can memorise situations and numbers precisely.

          Second: But that exactly is my point: The race is permanently in motion, like an organism. When the split happens at point y, team a, team b, team c might be affected. But if the split happens just 5 meters further at point x, team a, team d and team e might be affected. The race is in flux and just like a crash can take out the best rider in the most professional team – if something like this would exist – the wind can take out anybody anytime.

          Unless of course there is a situation where the wind always comes at the same moment at the same place. Then you could say, that the teams, that get caught out are bad prepared – and even then it would also be a question of power, because not all teams can be at the front and the stronger teams will muscle out the weaker ones (and stronger means not necessarily better, in these circumstances it could for example be helpful, when you have former mountainbikers or crossers as they are more used to rough bikehandling etc).

          Inside the peloton much more than „being professional“ plays a role and determines a situation. It can even happen, that your status in the peloton determines your place in an echelon, like it happened with De Marchi, who got in the break, because they slowed and waited for him or with Costa, who did not get in the break, because he is not seen as a good break companion. Imagine a rider, who is not liked much, is the one trying to close the gap between two groups – he will maybe have it not as easy than somebody else. Or two riders had an argument the day before and happen to rub shoulders in echelons, which means problems for all in line behind them.

          What I am trying to say is: There happens so much in the peloton, it takes so much to ride there and so much things are totally out of your hand and all you are able to do is to react, if you are lucky, that to say: Those, that did not make the group are unprofessional or bad riders, is really not taking into account reality enough.

          I know, that we like to judge and to simplify complicated things, we like it, when situations underline our opinions and so are biased, I do and am that, too and often have to stop myself from doing it. Because I think it is not very helpful as it is also not fair towards the riders in this case – and we have to try to be better.

          • I think it must be mentioned that bora, quickstep and sky pulled at the front. Thats quite an all-star field for these situations. Had the 2nd group faced lesser competition they might would have made it back

          • The more likely bias I’m seeing in your comments is a refusal to accept that Sky/Ineos consistently do this better than most other GC teams (DQS are also experts). We’ve all seen this over the last few years: they take time from other GC contenders in crosswinds.

            Saying this is luck is illogical because luck does not make something happen consistently.

            It reminds me – from when I used to watch football; with apologies for the UK cycling fan football analogy – of how the England team used to consistently lose penalty shoot-outs, but each successive manager refused to practise penalties because the default opinion of the entire nation was that ‘penalties are a lottery’ – a comforting delusion. I believe it took a Swedish manager to dispel this hogwash – unfortunately for we Scots (when I used to care) who have nothing else to cheer in football.

            Saying that what happens in crosswinds is down to luck is a similarly comforting delusion: don’t blame the riders you prefer, blame budgets and luck. Certain teams continue to bring a team of mountain goats to the TdF and then receive a kicking in the wind almost every time.

            I don’t like Ineos, but the reality is they ride crosswinds well – consistently (compare their record this decade over Movistar’s – I can remember plenty of balls-ups by Movistar in the wind, I can’t remember any by Sky).

            The most telling question is this: if Thomas and Bernal had gone out of the front group yesterday, what would have happened? – Their entire team would have gone back to them, formed their own echelon and lost seconds, not minutes.

            Having the strongest team helps, but having your riders properly support your rider and using the correct tactics – forming your own echelon – would negate a lot of your disadvantage (and any bad luck you’ve had).

            (You also mention Formigal in another post. That too was not down to luck: Froome lost out because he wasn’t near the front of the peloton where he should have been. Bad tactics.)

      • Anonymous,

        Interesting that Porte would admit that – you’d think he’d keep quiet about it.

        Riders can’t all stay in the front group, which is why I said above that teams should be organised and form their own echelons. That is all about preparation and certain teams are almost always prepared and certain teams are often not prepared – even though they all have the same weather forecast.

        Some luck is involved, but a lot of it is good tactics. (And if it was just luck it wouldn’t consistently be the same teams who prosper.)

        Also, make sure you’re not behind known weak (in these conditions) riders like Porte. And that’s the point: strong classics riders like Stuyven should be helping the likes of Porte.
        You have your strong riders around your leader and you form an echelon. That way, you only lose seconds.
        Calling it ‘luck’ is a poor excuse.

        PS As a general rule, can we please desist from using the preposterous term ‘financial doping’. Much like ‘mechanical doping’ not only is it nonsensical but it continues the incessant chatter about ‘doping’ in cycling even when the issue has nothing to do with ‘doping’. (It’s like giving every scandal the suffix -gate: Watergate was the name of the hotel – ‘gate’ does not mean scandal. Similarly, not everything that gains you an advantage in cycling is ‘doping’.) Furthermore, whilst I am in favour of a budget cap and very unhappy at the financial disparity in the sport, it is not cheating and ergo should not be referred to as any form of ‘doping’.

        • Didn’t mean to sound quite so ‘sniffy’ in that last bit: the term ‘financial doping’ really riles me, I think mostly because of how illogical it is.

        • Apparently Brailsford *rode* the course in front of the race the other day, passing through the point where it split about an hour before the peleton… preparation or luck?

      • I agree that you are only as strong as the person in front of you when these things kick off…

        But if I’m hearing teams getting vocal, the speed is going up and I’m feeling the wind coming across… I’m not sitting on the wheel of Richie Porte (who is about 5′ 6″ and 9 stone) thinking to myself ‘I’m safe here’.

      • The front group was pretty small so the real problem for porte was not his position so much but lack of team mates protecting him. It was so close to the group forming he was nearly in the right position.
        For a lot of those who made the break or did not make the break the difference was having teammates run shotgun for them (or the lack of). If those who missed out had some good help they may have made it and if those who made it had to fend for themselves they may well have missed out.
        Its a team sport and days like this the teams matter.

  4. There was a short clip on ITV4’s recap show last night with Madiot and Pinot before the assembled Press.
    Madiot was trying to be upbeat and Brailsford-like in a positive outlook, Pinot was rather more circumspect and seemed slightly disheartened at his ill-luck in the wind.
    It’s amazing really that no sooner does the Tour hit southern France and some team / GC hopeful gets caught out with the wind, it seems to happen virtually every year.
    At least Quintana and Movistar looked to have learned their lesson

    • Thibaut Pinot has suffered from stress and health issues in the past at the Tour, hence why has has concentrated on the Giro. He had looked as if he had got over all that but maybe not we shall see. There must have been much focus on him in the French media over the past 24 hours or so plus, I guess, the pollen count will go up with the hot weather and also lower elevations, possibly not a good combination for him.

    • Pinot was more than disheartened.

      Confronted by a phalanx of microphones just after coming in he described the day to the assembled French journos as “une journée de merde”.

      • he looked hugely depressed. Marc Madiot was being all jolly, trying to put a brave face on things, and Thibault was just staring off sideways

        • The body language spoke volumes. Pinot just wasn’t buying what Madiot was selling. And Madiot, for his part, seemed to be doubling down on the rhetoric….”it’s a good sign that you are all here!” “We all have our ups and downs, and this was a bigger down, but we will be up again” blah blah blah. The bluster must have made the result all the worse because such words ring hollow. If Pinot is to win he needs Thomas to fail. As well as a lot of others.

  5. Today seems likely to be a bit of an anticlimax but the “quiet” period between Planche des Belles Filles and the TT has not seemed to materialise so who knows. From the weather forecasts I have seen the suggestion is that the strong winds will be well after the riders are in bed but there is always a random element in all this. Nicolas Portal said that it is only about 10% of the time when wind is deemed to be a possible factor that it actually is. The day after the rest day often brings “odd” results but that seems unlikely today.

    Assuming the anticipated sprint happens then I would hope Caleb Ewan gets it.

  6. I am kind of surprised that Kruijswijk hardly features when GC contenders are discussed in the various outlets (Cyclingnews etc). Of all contenders in the Tour right now he was closest to Thomas in the final GC ranking of last year’s Tour. He looks to be in very good shape considering his time trial result in the Dauphine – best of all GC contenders. He has also never been so close to the top of the ranking after the first week. My money is still on Thomas, but Kruijswijk could make it an interesting battle, he is well-known for his ability to retain his form better than most in the 3rd week. Unfortunately Laurens de Plus is not in the shape he was in earlier this year but hopefully Bennett can be there to assist in the high mountains.

    • might even help now that Bennett has lost time and can focus on being a proper mountain domestic rather than trying to aim for a top 10 himself (maybe that was always the plan?)

      I still think this tour will be all about how folks handle the high altitudes, and we will soon forget about these early skirmishes (exciting as they are). I’m also guessing that Ineos will have spotted this and done the necessary altitude work to have their guys ready (and Poels rested up etc)… Jumbo-Visma are all over this race and doing a great job, but I’m concerned that they will run out of puff. I’m quite liking Adam Yates low profile (and Simon’s soft pedalling) in that respect.

      And Di-data…. Cummings and Bak (highest finish by either so far 91st place) are leaving it late to make any kind of mark on this race to justify Doug Ryder leaving out Cav. Even if he’d just been in the mix a couple of times that would have generated a ton of comment and copy….

        • Cummings and Bak have done nothing thus far and don’t look that likely to given their form over the last couple of years.
          Cavendish, even if unfit, would have been more likely to win DD a stage than those two and possibly more likely than any other rider DD have (even if he’d just had a go at the first few stages and then done a Cipollini and gone home).

          • I think there was obviously some personal problem between Doug Ryder and Cavendish . I guess Ryder has the ultimate say on the team but I’m not expecting anything from DD really , Cummings might give it a go but it’s a long shot.

  7. You mention Kruijswijk, but we have a ghost at number 5 Emanuel Buchmann, he has never been mentioned, I cannot even remember seeing him on TV😳

        • I think the “Manny” thing comes from Carlton Kirby, no idea where he got it from. Germans do have a habit of shortening first names eg Basti for Sebastian (not unlike the Brits, G for example). I have come across Emu as the diminutive of Emmanuel before but it is not impossible that Manny might work too but always thought Emu more likely. Manny sounds more “British” to me, as in “Froomey”, but might be wrong.

          • Same place Kirby gets everything from: he just makes it up. Sees what he wants to see (e.g. last stage ‘Viviani wins!’) and far more interested in his own voice than what is happening on the telly.

          • Most german names have several dimunutives, for emanuel, mani, manu(guess most common) or emu comes to mind, it depends what the other kids in school, who usually give you the name, like most.

          • It wouldn’t surprise me if “Mani” is a Kirby concoction – I recall reading that Simon Clarke hates being referred to as “Si”, or “Little Si Clarke” as Kirby insists on calling him…
            And of course there was Tao’s recent tweet calling out some of his nonsense…

          • I know for a fact he’s called Emu by all German riders since young age. Ans o does the rest of the peloton. Total fabric by this old far Kirby.

          • I think I read somewhere that the ‘G’ handle originated in the fear of English commentators mispronouncing the Welsh name Geraint’s, so they just avoided it.

    • There is some sort of ignorance especially by anglo commentators. They have 5 names they talk about all day and week, but they refuse to see other contenders like Enric Mas or Buchmann. Buchmann’s worst result in a stage race this year as 7th, podium in Itzulia and Dauphine, why shouldn’t he end top 5 here? He already is 5th and his time in mountains is just to begin.

  8. So who will be the Movistar leader next season ? I’m not really too surprised that Quintana is leaving but surely they wanted Landa or Carapaz to lead the team next year ? Will it be 76 year old Valverde ?

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