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.