Tour de France Stage 13 Preview

A hilly day along the chain of volcanoes in the Auvergne region before a sharp summit finish.

Merci Raymond: the tribute stage to Raymond Poulidor, the route was unveiled before he died and became a big tribute to the popular rider. Cycling can draw on its rich history past while serving up modern stories. The start of the stage saw six riders go clear, this wasn’t the battle we’d been expecting but it meant the action was being saved for later. The format was more like a spring classic with teams saving their moves for the final climbs. It was on the Col de Lestards that the break was reeled in and Sunweb got to work, Movistar’s Marc Soler jumped and Tiesj Benoot and Søren Kragh Andersen gave chase; then Hirschi got across to form a group of six with Quentin Pacher and Max Schachmann. Hirschi attacked on the steepest part of the Suc au May to go solo with 28km to go. A long way but he had team mates behind to mark chase moves. Just like the Col de Soudet at the weekend it as a pleasure to watch “Choco”, he seemed to ski down the descent and his high cadence on the flat showed little signs of fatigue. He’s now got one stage, there could be more although it’s common for pros in their first grand tour to retire after two weeks but Hirschi seems on the fast-track, after all he joined Sunweb’s development squad and quickly outgrew their plans so they had to give him a pro contract.


The Route: 191km south across the chain of the Auvergne volcanoes with over 4,000m of vertical gain.  Yesterday’s stage had some marked climbs but also plenty of small rises and dips, today’s rout is different with longer, more sustained climbs. It starts with a detour around the edges of the industrial city of Clermont-Ferrand. The Col de Ceyssat is generously awarded a first category climb but it’s 10km at 6% and in two parts with some 6-7% early on and 8% before the top but all on a wide road as it skirts around the south of the legendary Puy-de-Dôme. It’s an obvious launchpad for the day’s breakaway and maybe another chance for Bora-Hansgrohe to make Sam Bennett sweat. The descent is gentle, it’s then across to the next climb which is 5% out of Orcival and then eases off, a big ring climb.

The Montée de la Stèle, aka the Col de Vendeix is a long steady climb out of the spa town of La Bourboule and all on a smaller road and then a long descent through the intermediate sprint.

The Finish: part summit finish, part wall. First is the Col de Néronne out of Falgoux, a steady climb listed as 4km but there’s a long 13km drag up just to get to the official start of this climb. Over the Néronne there’s the 8-5-2 time bonus and then there’s a flat section and a brief descent to lead into the Pas de Peyrol climb, last tackled mid-stage during the 2016 Tour and a regular on the route but this time used as a summit finish. The slope pitches up gently at first and crosses a bridge and then it’s up and away, and once out of the tree cover the slope is 11-12% for the last two kilometres. There’s a tight bend with 800m to go before the last ramp up to the line.

The Contenders: a similar mix baroudeurs breakaway specialists to yesterday’s picks, minus the names who’d struggle with today’s summit finish. Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) is the regular pick but at one point he tried to get in the breakaway and then sat up, was it the legs not working or his nose for a breakaway telling him the move didn’t smell right? Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quickstep) got his eye on this stage but tried hard yesterday and even when it looked like the stage was a lost cause he kept on trying so he might be lower on energy today plus he’s not got three chainring form of last year; team mate Rémi Cavagna is one of two locals today but the final slope is not for him.

We can add a cast of characters for today, think David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ), Lennard Kämna (Bora-Hansgrohe), Daniel Martinez and Neilson Powless (EF Pro Cycling), Alexey Lutsenko (Astana), Tiesj Benoot and Nicolas Roche (Sunweb), Dan Martin (Israel) and maybe Warren Barguil (Arkéa-Samsic) as he’s playing a support role for Nairo Quintana but could get a day for himself here.

A GC day? There seems to be a lot talk of the GC riders battling today and this is prime “ambush country” but who is going to make a surprise early attack? It is up and down today but often with long sections of straight road, it suits a chasing team. It’d have to be a team with some GC outsiders looking to gain time, those who are down but not out, like Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), Richard Carapaz (Ineos) or Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo-Visma), all two to three minutes down overall. Even a late attack is going to be difficult, launch on the Col de Néronne and Jumbo-Visma look likely to reel everyone in. We’re more likely to see the big names save as much energy as possible for the final climb. Still the early breakaway can’t form or doesn’t work well together then Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) is the obvious pick with Tadej Pogačar (UAE Emirates) close and the other local today is Romain Bardet (A2gr La Mondiale).

Julian Alaphilippe, Alexey Lutsenko, Thomas De Gendt
Benoot, Kämna, Martinez, Gaudu, Martin, Barguil, Roche

Weather: mainly sunny, slightly cooler at 21-23°C for much of the stage as its at altitude

TV: live coverage from the start at 11.50 CEST to the finish forecast around 5.00pm Euro time.

36 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 13 Preview”

  1. You seem to anticipate a GC slug fest less than other forecasters for this stage.

    The final seems brutal.

    Can I ask: how, exactly, does marking a move work? Clearly, simply following someone doesn’t slow them down. So why does the mark defeat or contain an attack exactly?

    • By dragning that mark up to the lead you end up in a 2-1 disadvantage. And the marker most likely have fresher legs from sucking your wheel all the way there.

    • Additionally, if larger group tries to chase, as it was yesterday, the teammate can effectively disrupt the tempo by soft-pedalling and creating gaps. They were two, so there were many various ways to do it. As long as Hirschi was not fading, it was very difficult to chase him with in three riders with two of his teammates working against.

    • Because often the point to the attack or move is to win the race. But there are other reasons to attack that may affect ones attitude to having a competitor hanging on ones wheel.

      It’s is a much finer line than many appreciate in a race like this between a maximum sustainable effort and; on one side going too far into the red and on the other riding at a pace that’s hard but perfectly manageable. It could be only 10-30 watts difference.

      The guy in front is hovering between max and red the guy in his slipstream hard to max. They stay there, and if your objective is to win, forget it to the most part (although sprint strength and winning from the front is another skill entirely)

      But image the scenario yesterday, you attack from a bunch and ride up to the lead rider, however you bring their team mate with you. An even worse situation from which very few will achieve a win, so unless your Ian Stannard, what’s the point

      It’s only if the attack is for a reason other than the win, to improve ones position in a race by gaining time or points does the mark matter less, but no one likes a wheelsucker even when the objective is the town 30, they just (like the wicket keeper might seek to disrupt the batsman in cricket) get into your head

    • Hopefully two races for the price of one, eg a breakaway and then the GC riders trade blows but probably late, ideally early but harder to imagine.

      As the comments explain already, marking works well. It’s mentally defeating too, the rider on the attack is towing a rival to the finish, neither they nor their team will want to gift the result to a rival so it often saps the move this way too.

  2. Great presentation, thank you!

    I quite fancy Bardet today, if the GC men are close when the finish comes (I doubt he’d be given much leeway considering his current position). Given his profile as a rider and his knowledge of the area, I basically read his statement of “I’m going for stage wins on the Tour” as “I’m going to try and win on Puy Mary”. But instead of losing time, he’s been staying in contact, so he hasn’t made it easier for today.

    I like the chances of a breakaway too, but I wonder who’ll be allowed out. EF could have several options (Carthy, Higuita, Martinez, Bettiol, Powless) but most of their leaders have been disappointing so far, and Uran might need support from someone in form. Sunweb will be on a high and attempt to make it 2-in-a-row, but their best climber is arguably Benoot, and I think he’ll find it hard on those gradients. The profile suits Adam Yates, but he’s close on GC and he’ll be closely marked. We haven’t seen De Gendt yet, except on Ewan duties – but surely he’ll give a shot at a breakaway by the end of the Tour?

    I’m also looking forward to the helicopter shots today, those landscapes are splendid from above.

  3. I going to pick Zakarin again. No downhill finish and he’s in good form. I know i am down on his descending but i like him and he’s good for these stages. The finish seems like it would be good for a steady climber. Enough steep longer sections to get rid of the climber who can change pace and sprint better.

  4. Going to be interesting start. What is thr likely hood of sagan getting in the break and do u guys think Sagan could climb with them till the Intermediate sprint? DQS surely won’t let a break go with him in it?

    • The positioning of many of the intermediate sprints so far this Tour has been quite lenient for the sprinters?
      In my mind I can recall the Matthews / Kittel green jersey battle from a couple of seasons ago when the intermediates were buried deep in the stages and Matthews had to turn himself inside out, often on breaks, to get at them.
      This year, not so much. There’s probably less pure sprinter stages but it’ll be interstellar to see how the points contest goes from here on in.

  5. I too am dubious about the GC battle thing. If there is only a small break that would change the equation but a fair size strong break seems more likely. Who is going to chase all day? Do JV really want to use up energy chasing a break? Maybe Bora will chase to get points at the intermediate sprint though I would have thought the best strategy for Sam Bennett is to conserve energy and climb aboard the “autobus” early, there are much easier intermediate sprints to come.

    I can see the GC group trying to test each other on the final climbs and one or two falling back but I think Sunday’s stage is a more likely spot for the first GC showdown. Probably will be completely wrong and someone will take two minutes on the field!

  6. For those not fortunate enough to have ridden in the Auvergne it is a tough bike riding region. Hardy ever any flat of note, with ‘sticky’, twisting roads, As there will be some tired legs today and with even tougher challenges on the near horizon, today should be well worth watching.

    • Mildly interesting (for me at least) is that Hirschi rides a S5, when perhaps you’d think one of the R models would be more suitable?
      Looking at bike trends of the last couple of years, where once they were marketed for their differences and specialisation, now it seems to have gone the other way and their characteristics are merging.
      The Tarmac, for instance, has gone more aero in its last incarnation or two.

  7. That saw tooth profile makes it a horrible stage to try to estimate the effort required. You could work pretty hard to get a gap and then find that you lose time earned on the decent. And, then repeated climbs are going to sap the legs. Riders are going to be thinking about the climbs to come also. 1 minute gained here may equate to two lost tomorrow or Sunday.
    It just doesn’t look the sort of stage where you want to leave anything hanging out.
    That final climb looks like a leg bender. Bernal needs to lodge an attack on it to see if Roglic still has his legs.
    Could Ineos send Sivakov up the road to try for a win? With the back-up being that he can offer a wheel to Bernal on the final climb if it all comes together.

    • You’ve never heard of a Hirschi Bar?

      Personally though I reckon “Hirschi bars” should become the default term for talking about the aero position holding the cycle computer – it’s very noticeable how much he does it.

      • He does look great on that bike, doesn’t he?! The split stem and phone-sized computer configuration must help. Any one know which computer he his using?

        Hershey chocolate bar came to mind the first time I heard his name only about 10 day ago! Great to see these kids using one of the worlds largest sporting stages to build their brand and setting their financial value for what should be, all things going well, a stellar career.

        • It looks like a Garmin 1030 to me but that’s a guess. The S5 with that split stem and the internal cabling looks absolutely gorgeous. Love the paint job too.

          • It’s a Sigma, who sponsor Sunweb (I had to look it up)

            I was wondering if computer mounts will be made more secure and we’ll have a Cinelli Spinaci situation again.

      • According to the Book of Knowledge (Wikipedia) the founder of Hershey’s was of Swiss German descent, so maybe the original spelling of the name was Hirschi. There’s a sponsorship opportunity there.

  8. Very happy for Hirschi.
    A great rider already despite is young age, with a very good attitude. He dares to take intiatives and to try things.
    Tactical execution has been far from perfect in the 2 stages where he ended up on the podium, but there was little to say this time. So big congrats to him.
    He is classics winner material for the years to come, be sure of it.

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