Tour de France Stage 11 Preview

A likely sprint stage, the last until the race turns its back on the Alps, but with some obstacles in the final kilometres, a narrow road and a small climb. Before that the intermediate sprint comes soon after some climbs, a chance to spice up the green jersey competition.


  • Ill in Oléron: the stage started with a burst of press releases, all riders had tested negative for Covid-19 but one staff on Ag2r La Mondiale, Cofidis, Ineos and Mitchelton-Scott had tested positive and were sent home meaning all four teams risk being sent packing from the race should another member of their entourage on the race test positive. Stressful but Egan Bernal looked more worried by his attempts to cut his own hair. Then news broke that race director Christian Prudhomme tested positive and is off the race. He’s outside of the race bubble because it’s his job to meet and greet so there’s little risk for the peloton but it’s embarrassing as the French Prime Minister now has to self-isolate. François Lemarchand takes over his role for a week at least, he’s already done the same job for years now at Paris-Nice
  • Sea breeze: The race started and Stefan Küng and Michael Schär attacked, a low chance of staying away but a deeper workout for the former who has his sights set on the time trial at the upcoming World Championships. They were quickly reeled in by a nervous peloton as the wind got up
  • Traffic islands: and the race split for a moment and a big crash took down several riders and took out Sam Bewley. Other moves to split the race came to nothing but the tension and the street furniture – one radio station said 78 roundabouts – prompted many crashes
  • Ireland: Sam Bennett held off a late charge from Caleb Ewan to win the stage, he was helped a touch by his leadout Michael Mørkøv peeling off and then drifting towards Ewan, but it was more crafty than crass and the privilege of the team with the stronger leadout. The Irishman reclaims the green jersey

The Route: 167km north east, first across the Poitou marshes and then rolling roads, including a spin past Echiré, population 3,302 but with a farmer’s cooperative that makes butter that’s highly prized, there’s even a dedicated store in Marunouchi, Tokyo‘s banking district. Then comes a categorised climb but it’s gentle, the sort the Tour can roll over without noticing and there are similar climbs but they’re unmarked however they might give the Bora-Hansgrohe team ideas to put pressure on Sam Bennett.

Just before 10km to go the race turns off the main road into Poitiers onto a smaller road, this is a pinchpoint before the route drops downhill and it’s on a narrow road for three kilometres before reaching the city boulevards.

The Finish: a sharp left hand turn onto the Pont Neuf to cross the Clain river and then once under the 3km banner the road kicks up for a kilometre, it’s not steep at 3-4% but pitches up at the end and it’s the length that makes it awkward, it’ll upset the pace of the sprint trains. At the 2km point it levels out and soon after there’s a left turn onto a big road, it’s flat from here to the finish.

The Contenders: the climb between the 3km to go and 2km banners tilts the balance a touch today. There’s time to regroup and relaunch but anyone in oxygen debt here will struggle to repay.

Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quickstep) or Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal)? If this blog was cleverer it would have a random generator so that half the readers saw the Irishman tipped for today’s stage win and the other half get the Australian served up as today’s prime pick. Alas there’s no trickery so find a coin and toss it, both can cope with the climb before the sprint.

Cees Bol keeps looking good until the finishing straight when he and his Sunweb leadout get swamped like a boat on Austin’s Lake Travis. Worse for him today is the uphill finish, it’s not ruinous but just a touch harder for him.

Bryan Coquard‘s chances are better today. Nicknamed Le Coq, the B&B Hotels-Vital Concept leader used to be known as Le Moustique or the Mosquito as he’s so light so he could float up the climb in the final kilometres but the problem is the remaining two kilometres plus he had a hard crash yesterday and will be sore now.

Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) is close and could find the uphill finish helps but it’d now be a big surprise if he wins. Elia Viviani (Cofidis) was fourth yesterday after a difficult first week so watch for him today.

Caleb Ewan/Sam Bennett
Elia Viviani, Cees Bol
Sagan, Coquard, Trentin, WvA

Weather: warm and sunny, 26°C and a 15km/h breeze from the NE meaning a headwind.

TV: live coverage from the start at 1.30 CEST to the finish forecast around 5.30pm Euro time. The intermediate sprint is around 4.00pm.

62 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 11 Preview”

  1. It’s interesting. From yesterday’s stage Caleb has zero leadout and would’ve surely won if DQS were not perfect. Nothing has changed for today. Let’s hope he doesn’t miss out again. He is the fastest man in the race.

    • Agreed – that was the definition of a team win. Caleb wasn’t to know that he would be impacted by Michael Mørkøv but it did look like Caleb left his run a bit late – shown by the fact he didn’t get into his proper sprint posture.

    • It looked to me like Caleb was perfectly placed right on Bennett’s wheel. I don’t think he could have had a better lead out; he just didn’t have the speed to come around Bennett despite Bennett being out in the wind for significantly longer.

      But yes, in a couple of stages Ewan has been in terrible position and was a surprising non-factor in the final sprint.

      • I think Caleb clearly did have the speed as indicated by the fact he was coming around Bennett on the line. It was the quality of the leadout that meant that Ewan only had the final 100m to try and come around Bennett, an almost impossible task in such a short space.

        • In stage 1 Ewan was in a much worse position and came around easily, even though the team had already lost Degenkolb and Gilbert. The team lost another rider in stage 10. Ewan has won plenty of races by surfing wheels, and at this point, with only 5 riders in the race, complaints about Ewan’s lead out train seem off the mark.

          Ewan could see how for they were from the finish. He could have come around sooner. He’s the smallest, most aerodynamic sprinter in the peloton, but he made the choice to wait for Sam to make his move.

          • Complaints about his lead out aren’t off the mark. Yes he has other team mates in the race but they were not around him.
            You seem to be missing the point of the lead out. Your team sets the pace and pulls off at the right moment and the sprinter is in the front with no one to come around. If they time the moment right such that the sprinter with the leadout doesn’t fade before the line it is almost impossible to come around them if you aren’t faster.
            You put Caleb in the position Bennett was in he wins everytime. He has to come over the top like this then it’s a coin toss. Sometimes he’s not quick enough, sometimes he get’s blocked.
            You watch the last couple of seasons and Caleb was launching his sprint too early and fading and missing out too much. He knows he has to wait to win. But coming over the top is always a coin toss.

    • But apparently Ewan isn’t climbing so well this year.

      I was listening to a long rest day interview with him on the Stanly St Social podcast (thanks to INRNG for the tip on that one a couple of years back) where he said he’s got terrible climbing legs this tour. And he was just shooting the breeze with a couple of his ex-U23 Australian bros so I don’t think there was any foxing going on there.

      Also, Bennett’ll be riding on that relief and confidence wave that worked so well for Ewan last year. Money on Bennett again today.

  2. “get swamped like a boat on Lake Austin”

    well played, absolute classic!

    So happy for Bennett, it is a just reward and is well deserved. His interview post stage will be one of the highlights of this edition. It would be lovely to see him double up today but have a feeling Bora are going to try to crush him in the hills prior to the intermediate and it might be enough to dull his legs for the finish.

    I also can’t see Sagan winning a stage – he seems stuck in there or thereabouts territory and is lacking some top end zip thus far. If you are getting beaten by Trentin regularly in an intermediate….i don’t think he can contest for a stage against Ewan, Bennett etc. But happy to be proven absolutely wrong!

    • I Wonder the same. I am No experts, but to me it seemed to dangerous yesterday.. And perhaps wva used a lot energy to Keep roglic out of trouble and when the finish came, he has used a lot energy and ut seemed dangerous or more safe Just to pull back…

      Perhaps the situation Will be different today, less nervousness, less crashes? He might get the chance.. I think IT depends on how the race unfolds…?

  3. Also there was more sidevind yesterday.. IT might have been more tiering for the lead and the guys who protect riders take more wind? If there is less wind today perhaps wva Will have more energy and Will have more fredom the last 3 km?

  4. Well done Sam Bennett. People are talking about Ewan being the better sprinter but Bennett must have put in a shift to beat him. After all Ewan had the aero advantage of sitting in his wheel. It was always going to be a matter of timing and Bennett finally got it right.
    By his own admission he ‘waited longer’ than he would’ve liked and perhaps that’s the secret. He’s been sprinting too soon.
    Sagan got caught behind Ewan. He’d picked his pony and was glued to his wheel. The ‘late’ sprint meant he scored well being on Ewan’s wheel, but failed to compete.
    Sagan certainly seems like a fading force. But I reckon he will surprise us yet.

    • Bennett left Mørkøv’s wheel just inside the 10om signs so yes, that is really late. Perfect timing, but couldn’t be done without a perfect lead out. Wow.

    • I think the strong headwind in the finish yesterday surprised many, including the Sunweb sprint train. Waiting for a while before launching was the smart thing to do this time, but that’s easy to say in hindsight.

      • I saw an interview with Cees Bol yesterday. He said they choose wrong side of the road long before the sprint came and he took way to much wind. I’m sure his stage win will come soon. Sunwebs sprint train looks impressive, but a mistake like that during last 5 km, hurts for a sprinters legs.

  5. I wonder how much effect the crashes and general attrition yesterday will have as the race goes on. Davide Formolo appears to be out, not good for Tadej Pogacar. Robert Gesink had a bad crash though seems to be riding on. Plenty of others involved in crashes too.

    There was a lot of stress, with some of the team managers suggesting that the route was not safe or suitable for the TdF. There is a certain irony in that towns and villages are installing more road furniture often in an attempt to make the roads safer for cyclists but that means less safe for bike racing. Again this is using up energy which needs to be carefully saved up for the tests to come. Difficult to know who will benefit from this.

    • A comment from one of the ITV4 presenters, I think it was Matt Rendall, struck me the other day.
      He said that riders’ bodies heal faster when they’re riding and active.
      Which makes sense, but it also at the same time suggests high cortisol levels and I wondered if they were tested for this against the MPCC guideline for raised cortisol if it could put them out of the race?
      There was talk a while back about the UCI adopting this guideline.
      Perhaps where you have a race like this, with high crash attrition numbers, the cortisol standard would decimate the race numbers?
      Throw in a Covid-19 withdrawal or two and the winner might almost be the last man standing, which would be very in much in keeping with the original Tour!

      • Yes, even a light crash can have delayed effects as the body adjusts, muscles overcompensate, tendons and ligaments get new strains etc.

        The MPCC test for low cortisol but it’s for the reason you say, if someone is taking doses of cortisone the body reduces production of cortisol. This is a problem as it’s an anti-inflammatory, someone on cortisone who crashes won’t have same recovery response and it’s a special concern for brain injuries. The UCI is supposed to be adopting this protocol and testing, just as it did with the tramadol testing above and beyond the WADA code, but it’s more a grey area, as it’s a matter of degree etc.

  6. Greipel was 6th yesterday, and copes well with a hill (or did) might have got though the tougher days a little better than the youngen’s. Probably too much for the win, but surely he get’s a chainring above Trentin and Le Coq (7th yesterday)? I’d give Kristoff one too.
    None for Le Coq – Stage 7 was his best chance and he arrived with no other sprinters and was beaten by EvB and WvA, how can he beat all the rest?
    I think Caleb today.

  7. 6 of us on a group ride around Lake Travis that day being obnoxiously berated, honked at and almost “brushed” by pick-up truck loads of participants. Karma.

  8. Sagan is one of the all-time greats, and I love watching him ride. But lately, in the last couple of sprints at finishes and midpoints, he just didn’t seem to have his usual zip.

    • In my opinion Sagan hasn’t been the same since he lost the World Championships. Its almost like he’s lost interest since then. The Richmond worlds was arguably his first really big win too. His best stuff, barring his early precocious days with Liquigas, being condensed into the 3 years he wore the rainbow bands.

        • I’d say he was more than “pretty good”. To win that many tour stages in ’13, seemingly out of nowhere, and all the green jerseys and so forth, he announced himself as great.

          Do 3 WC’s in a row make him legendary? I wonder.

          Sagan doesn’t have enough monuments. I think that’s what missing most on his CV.

          If both of their careers ended today, is Sagan more productive than Gilbert?

  9. Inrng – Viviani over Sagan? Viviani did come 4th yesterday, but Sagan did come 3rd on a pure sprinter stage, seems he does have good legs this year.

    I don’t know why people are discounting Sagan but he’s doing pretty well against the pure sprinters so far.

  10. Sagan is relegated for doing what Cavendish did to Sagana few years ago in the tour but that ended with Sagan getting tossed even though he was innocent. It was a good call to relegate him he disrupted Wout. Looks like Bennett needs to quit the tour to lose the green jersey.

  11. maybe I am missing something, but on the finishline photo of todays stage one can see Caleb riding Campa Bora Ultra One wheels. To my knowledge it is the third best wheelset by Campa.
    Any known reason for this?

    • It may well be that in fact the choice of wheel is much less important for actual professional athletes than it might be for leisure riders out to impress their companions. Perhaps Ewan just likes them, or wasn’t even aware he was using them.

    • probably lateral stiffness. it’s a 24/24 spoke pattern instead of 18/21.

      pros very much care what wheels they ride, but since they have their choice on the day select the best for the application.

  12. Hectic sprint for sure, I think Sagan’s relegation is a tough call – but for sure wasn’t Van Aert going backwards at that time? He sprinted early and was being passed when Sagan nudged him – correct me if I’m wrong, but I watched the tdf highlight on youtube a few times.

    • Quick to add – I just watched the overhead and it looks like Van Aert was drifting to the right… but on the other side, Van Aert might have had enough of a lead to hold on for the win – even the other 3 riders were catching him.

      I’m not sure, very tough call for sure.

  13. If you watch from the front. IT is Sagan who drifts to the left in the final meters before the line. So he dont Just nods wva with head/should er. But he also closes his space a bit.. Yes wva started a bit early.. And would probably not have won anyway.. Caleb ewan would probably have got him anyway.. Also the road can seem to turn a bit.. But clearly Sagan moves from the fence where he passe UP on the side of wva.. And strays in towards the midle.. Making wva move towards Bennett.. And at one point bennet and Ewan also is close.. So the movement seems to go influence and continue.. IT is ofc not possible to sprint hard and go totaly strait in that speed.. But This was a bit to agresiv and creating a dangerous situation.. Also a dangerous situation for him self.

    I dont totaly agree that sagans move ment was defensive.. IT was a bit of both.. Because he created the whole situation by fôring him UP on the side where there was No space and hopping that space would Open UP a bit.. When IT didnt.. IT became increasingly dangerous for him self.. And IT could posibly have gone wrong if he didnt force This space to Open.. But when wva did a so clean and strait sprint to Stay safe.. Its not very fair that some body take so much risk on his behalf.. When you watch that sprint in tour of poland who went so wrong.. IT is easy that moving sideways This much in a sprint must be hit down hard.. Wva showing clearly that IT is very possible to sprint strait forward without straying sideways either be lack of awarenes or by intention to Block some body from comming UP.

  14. I’m surprised nobody has mentioned the symbolic passing of the torch, perhaps, with Sagan’s gesture vs WvA. I know they’re not exactly the same type of rider, but you’re kidding yourself if you think WvA wouldn’t get the green jerseys if he had a team there to support him specifically for that purpose. I, for one, have never seen Sagan act intentionally malicious in what was certainly an offensive move against WvA. Seems like WvA has managed to get under Sagan’s skin.

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