A day to ease back into the racing for some and a likely conclusion for the sprinters. The weather could be a factor as it’s certain to be hot and could be windy.
The Route: 177km in an anti-clockwise loop north and then west of Nîmes. Pont du Gard, Alès, Anduze, Uzès are familiar to the peloton because of the early season Etoile de Bessèges race but it’s different from a grey day in February and the peloton’s more stressed and fatigued. There are no hard climbs, the challenge is the traffic calming street furniture in the villages and there are sections exposed to the wind, whether arid areas with little vegetation or vineyards. That bump you can see on the stage profile at the end is a drag out of the Gardon valley, 5% at most but not a problem for the sprinters.
The Finish: a big wide ring road around town, it’s flat. There is a roundabout with 400m to go but it’s wide rather than snide, it’s something to line out the peloton a touch and advantages a strong sprint train which can take the shortest route across.
The Contenders: we’re back to our trio of Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal), Dylan Groenewegen (Jumbo-Visma) and Elia Viviani (Deceuninck-Quickstep). Loyal readers might be bored of this but if you ran a Monte Carlo simulation of a sprint finish then the result wouldn’t always be the same and this theory probably holds true in the Tour so far, nobody has the edge. Ewan has been the most consistent so far, never out of the top-three and would could see a Giro-like scenario where once he’s won once he wins more so he gets the first pick today. Groenewegen though has been very close and he’ll miss Wout van Aert so he’s the next pick. Viviani is third because both he and his train might be that little more tired because of working for Alaphilippe but if there are crosswinds they could be the ones to exploit them.
Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) should be close to score points, Alexander Kristoff (UAE) rides on and has won in Nîmes before but that was 2014.
|Caleb Ewan, Dylan Groenewegen|
|Peter Sagan, Alexander Kristoff|
Yellow story: the yellow jersey’s such an icon that teams with yellow on their normal kit are asked or expected to change their kit design for the Tour de France, something they don’t worry about for other races with yellow jerseys, say, like Paris-Nice. This year Jumbo-Visma have a yellow kit but the black on the jersey makes them distinct so it’s not a problem but they did swap to a more black kit last July. In years passed other teams have gone with totally different kit for July, for example the ONCE team, sponsored by a ubiquitous Spanish charity/lottery for the blind, had a yellow jersey but switched to pink for July. The UCI allows teams to change their kit once every year and it’s not just to avoid a clash with the yellow jersey, we see this from time to time like Lotto-Soudal having a special kit for Paris-Nice in in 2016, Team Sky adopting their “Ocean Rescue” kit last summer or Trek-Segafredo opting for a whiter kit for the summer heat.
Weather: the heatwave is back, it’ll be 36°C in the shade and hotter on the tarmac and some riders will be on near-constant rotation to fetch bottles from the team car. The wind is a feature too, it’s not the Mistral but there will be a 20km/h breeze from the S/SE and which is just below the requirement for crosswinds but the forecast says it could gust to 40km/h in the afternoon. The most exposed section is from 54km to 28km to go and here there are many sections which are totally exposed.
TV: the stage starts at 1.20pm CEST and finish is forecast for 5.25pm CEST / Euro time.