Tour de France Stage 14 Preview

The third of three stages suitable for the breakaway, today’s course is the most accessible to riders, many will have marked today’s stage as their big chance.

On the Peyrol: a big breakaway formed, as groups slipped Jumbo-Visma’s yoke, the Dutch team seemed determined to boss the stage from the start to the point of closing down Total Direct Energie riders who, unless they jumped on a motorbike and took an hour, represent no threat.

EF and Bora Hansgrohe had the numbers. Max Schachmann overhauled Neilson Powless on the approach to the Col de Néronne but  got swamped again. Two days ago it was Marc Hirschi on the Suc au May, this time it was Dani Martinez on the Pas de Peyrol. Bora-Hansgrohe played their tactical cards well with Lennard Kämna marking Martinez on the Col de Néronne and tucking in behind him for the long traverse to the final climb but those spatula legs never packed the punch needed and the Colombian won the stage.

Behind the GC battle ignited late. Primož Roglič managed to put some daylight between him and his rivals, except Tadej Pogačar. It was Pogačar who attacked first with less than 2km to go and the Slovenian tandem opened up a gap which they gradually expanded in the slow motion finish.

For a moment Ineos’s biggest worry was their first positive Covid test and the threat of having to leave the race if there’s another positive next Monday but the French health ministry helped them out saying the counter is reset. Now Bernal’s form is the prime concern, the team took up the pace on the Col de Néronne only for Bernal to lose 38 seconds in two kilometres on the Pas de Peyrol. But beware of extrapolations, this was a steep climb with a final two kilometres at 12-13%, an intense effort when longer climbs are to come, it was a perfect climb for Roglič and Porte rather than Bernal, Uràn, or Quintana who’d crashed earlier too. Still it reinforces what we’ve been seeing for a month now: Ineos run out of riders fast in the mountains and Bernal can’t match Roglič on a slope.

Meanwhile Romain Bardet and Guillaume Martin fell out of the top-10. Bardet had crashed hard and leaves the race with concussion. As for Martin perhaps a case of reculer pour mieux sauter as he’d come for stage wins and even if he was riding high on GC there was a time trial between him and the Parisian podium. Now there’s space to attack.

The Route: 194km east across the Forez. The first 100km are déjà vu with an identical route out of Clermont and over the Col du Béal to last month’s Critérium du Dauphiné. Once again the Béal isn’t climbed via the hard route, instead it’s a more gentle approach and the descent is gradual.

The climb to the Col des Brosses is pretty much as the profile shows, a long gradual slog uphill but zoom in and it’s a touch more varied, the odd descent here and the occasional tough ramp there especially towards the top with some 7-8% sections. But it’s more a change of gear than a change of tactics. The descent is gentle and at times barely noticeable and the roads often have a Roman feel, they’re long and straight into Lyon.

The Finish: an urban finish in Lyon, cycling is that most rural of sports in Europe but here’s a chance to visit a big population area… only today the finish is closed to the public for obvious reasons and the course has been tweaked. Lyon is France’s answer to Rome, a city built on several hills. Here we have two late climbs and both steep enough for attacks. The first to La Duchère on big boulevard roads and it’s over the climb and then down to the Saone and over. The Croix-Rousse isn’t as steep but climbs via a series of big hairpins, those will elephantine memories will recall a neo-pro called John Degenkolb winning a stage of the Dauphiné here and  somemore fatigued riders might think they’re in Paris as the Croix Rousse has a small steel tower that resembles the Eiffel Tower. There’s a flat section through the quartier at the top and then a fast descent on a wide road and with 1.8km the race reaches the flat finishing straight alongside the Rhone.

The Contenders: today’s stage scales the Col du Béal but it’s a more gentle side of the climb. Still it’s a tough climb to filter the riders so today’s picks need to be able to get over this climb and then have the zip in their legs for the finale in Lyon. It’s a stage half the peloton will have picked. Greg Van Avermaet (CCC) is the archetypal rider for today even if his win rate is low. Similar riders are CCC team mate Matteo Trentin and future team mate Oliver Naesen (Ag2r La Mondiale). Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quickstep) has burned up a lot of energy over the past two days, perhaps this terrain suits more but he ought be rinsed by now so maybe Bob Jungels is a better pick?

Clément Venturini (Ag2r La Mondiale) is a local which doesn’t mean he’s any faster but if he can get in the breakaway he’s got a chance. Alberto Bettiol (EF Pro Cycling) is hunting stages and today’s terrain suits. Trek-Segafredo’s Jasper Stuyven can cope with the late climbs and win a sprint while Cofidis could try to play Simone Consonni, an Italian version of Bryan Coquard. Maybe Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe), a shoe-in in previous years, now a marginal pick. Otherwise let’s through in some hanseatic riders known by their initials, Søren Kragh Andersen (Team Sunweb), Edvald Boasson Hagen (NTT) and Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) is a sweeper pick if somehow it all comes together for a bunch sprint but it’s hard to see. Finally the obvious breakaway nobility are Thomas De Gendt (Lotto-Soudal) but he’s not looking incisive and Alessandro de Marchi (CCC) who’s been discreet so far but posted a great ride in the Italian TT championships so the form must be there.

Greg Van Avermaet, Matteo Trentin
Daryl Impey, Jasper Stuyven, Oliver Naesen, Bob Jungels
Bettiol, Consonni, Hermans, SKA, Venturini, Sagan, de Marchi, De Gendt, WvA, EBH

Weather: warm and sunny, typically 28°C and no wind

TV: live coverage from the start at 1.00pm CEST to the finish forecast around 6.00pm Euro time.

71 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 14 Preview”

  1. Thanks for continuing to produce such high quality, incisive reviews.
    Was Bernal conceding the race or questioning the power output of his competitors yesterday post race?

    • If Pogacar is knocking out 6.7 watts per kilo as rumoured then I’m guessing he’s questioning their numbers. Even Sean Kelly remarked on the Eurosport live coverage how the Slovenians are out climbing pure climbers despite not being built like climbers. But then if you look through cycling history the likes of Anquetil, Merckx, Hinault and dare I say it Indurain, Ullrich and Armstrong weren’t frail super lightweights either. Neither was Kelly himself.

      • Anquetil was not heavily built, nor was Merckx in his best climbing tears (1968 & 1969), though he was more solid later, while Kelly was never a top climber despite a single win in the (very different) Vuelta. As for Ullrich and Armstrong – Riis too, we understand that now even if some did not at the time.

        Having doubts about performances is a sad reality for cycling fans but here we are anyway.

        • I was disturbed by the lack of any expression on Roglics face. He was barely breathing. I’m not sure his mouth was even open. Everyone else looked like it hurt like hell. Even Podagar looked like he was at his limit.

          • Some racers are stoic … eg, Nairo Quintana never seems to show much distress or grimacing, either. Even during most interviews, Roglic seems quite reserved.
            Quite the opposite of Thomas Voeckler’s grimacing 😉

      • Those last three are not really the riders you want to be holding out as ‘climbers’ given that they rode through the age of EPO.

        Roglic has a compact frame. A bit like Alaphillippe he carries muscle and power. Pogačar is a bit lankier and heavier and so his abilities are even more surprising.

        I wrote 5watts/kg was Armstrong’s ideal, but actually he worked at 6.7 for 20 minutes. Given we know how that was achieved you can imagine the surgery I’m going to need to pull my eyebrows down at the end of the Tour.

        • That’s the point, I’m not holding them out as climbers but as larger riders who won/dominated in their time. Pogacar in particular looks quite large torso wise, but others have in the past as well.

      • I would presume that like most journalists bernals words are taken out of context but in any case.
        6.5 watts /kg or 6.7 give or take some inaccuracy in power / weight etc and who you read or how sensational they need to be.

        But it wasn’t for an hour. Only 25 mins or so.
        So its not quite the same as saying he did a one hour 6.7 w/kg threshold. Its more like a 6 w/kg threshold equivalent which is awesome but not in any way unheralded.
        These short climbs sometimes suit different riders. One the longer climbs to come the tables may turn. Quintana is one that is more suited to longer climbs while froome was sort of best of the middle distance climbs. The 4 riders behind pogacar on the climb could have just about matched it i think if they had gone the extra few%.

        • I have no idea about the speculation, and I’ve not got to the point where my cycling viewing is tainted by such speculation, but just to point out that despite the course’s vertical design the race is still being led by, in effect, two ‘super TT’ers’.
          So no surprises there?

        • Hi Brent Sword,
          Don’t want to get drawn in to the speculation and not sure on where the 6.5-6.7W/kg came from – but just to point out that to translate a 20 min effort in to an hour “FTP” equivalent, the normal rule is to multiply by 95%. I guess we can apply the same for 25 mins. So 6.7 x 0.95 = just under 6.4 w/kg FTP equivalent.

      • Sounds to me like he’s just saying they’re better than him.., the rest is just people wanting drama. Maybe Bernal himself bought the hype at the end of last year that he was going to dominate the Tour for years to come.

        On Pogacar’s data, YouTuber / podcaster Lantern Rouge has been following his numbers all year and apparently Pogacar and UAE generally has had consistent problems with the accuracy of their power meters so the numbers given must be taken with a grain of salt… so perhaps an explanation that doesn’t sell banner ads

      • Power climbers tend to win stage races, and have historically out climbed the pure climbers especially during races when the pace is high on the flat and rolling stages. Lighter pure climbers are actually working harder on those stages and get to the their terrain with tired legs. Very few pure climbers win the overall in the TdF. They tend to shine for a few stages, but rarely makeup the bulk of the lead lead group on the big climbs. Yesterday’s final ramp was a relatively short but steep ramp. Roglic has proven over the past few years to outshine the pure climbers on that terrain.

      • Primoz was a world class ski jumper, so before building cycling muscles he was a light flyer. Different riders seem to express their pain differently, think Volkler at one end of that spectrum. Roglic’s demeanor normally seems more iceman-like. I hope nothing nefarious is afoot, but not much surprises me anymore.

  2. “I’m looking at my numbers and I’m doing some of my best numbers. If the others are stronger, I can do nothing. I don’t know, we will see what happens.”

    • Richie Porte is a 35 year-old ex-Sky domestique, Bernal is young and I don’t think numbers mean what he seems to think they mean. Irrespective of his numbers, he looked spent and clearly lacks top form.

  3. ‘Typically 28c and no wind’. How nice it must be to live somewhere like that!

    So is Bardet off the race now then? The French are having a pretty bad tour really. Alaphilippe hasn’t hit the heights of last year, Pinot Pinot’d, Bardet has fallen apart now though through no fault of his own, Martin has drifted out of contention and Barguil hasn’t got the form to win the mountains jersey and grin at housewives. Bit of a shame really.

    Interesting looking top 6. 2 Slovenians heading 4 Colombians. I’ve said above it’s a bad Tour for the French but really it is for all the traditional cycling countries.

  4. The race appears to be Primoz Roglic’s to loose though I thought the same after Simon Yates’ Giro stage at Grand Saaso a few years back. PR seems a tougher character with a stronger team though. I thought Egan Bernal’s comments were a bit odd, it wasnt as if he was beaten by a single stronger rider. Maybe he works best on long grinding climbs like the Col d’Iseran or the Galibier which dont really feature so much this year. I thought Richie Porte was impressive, though as ever there is a feeling of what might have been.

    The green jersey competition will influence today, presumably Bora will try to get Peter Sagan in the break. Sam Bennett should be able to get over the cat 4 before the early sprint but Bora may try to really stretch things to leave him behind, it might make getting in the break very difficult.

    Interesting stage in Italy yesterday, Simon Yates looks in good form and Geraint Thomas seems to be getting back to his best. It will be interesting to see how G goes in the final TT (not sure he can make up 30 odd seconds in a 10km TT) and potentially in the world TT.

    • With porte something always goes wrong. Crashes. Wheels changes. LOL.
      If he was a better skilled riders at least one dnf might not have happened (in a year in which he looked the strongest competitor to froome to rub it in). This times its his skill in the wind. More bunch skill or a better team and he would be looking 3rd best in the race only just behind the other 2 at this point.
      Over 3 weeks something always goes wrong for richie. Even the year he finished 5th (?) i recall he lost a couple of minutes for a puncture which none of his teamates stopped to give him a wheel. He would have been 2nd without the time lost.

      • I’m impressed with Porte so far. As you say, a combination of bad luck and tactical/technical blunders.
        The year he lost the Criterium du Dauphine to Fuglsang was laughable (if you can’t help schadenfreude). He sat on Froome’s wheel waiting for him to chase, until Froome explained that as race leader he needed to chase and close down Jakob, so he’d better get going. Alas, it was all too late.
        I think he’s going to be more Zubeldia, than Hesjedal, but with consistency he may be in with a shout of the podium. Possibly the late start to the TdF has played into Porte’s hands as normally the pressure is on for him to win the TdU, which may upset any training rhythm he has to compete later in the season. Anyway I’ve long been a critic so I have to put my hands up and applaud his effort so far.

  5. Possibly worth remembering these climbs were not at any altitude. The Colombian thing is growing up at 3000m so nothing in procycling is difficult relative to Europeans when the rise goes up. Trouble is, the Puy Mary didn’t go up enough

    • You can grow up at 3,000m, or spend three months training above 2,000m, but after you’ve spent 4-5 weeks back at sea level most of the benefits have gone, the body adjusts. A few people though can have genes for altitude, it’s typically seen in sherpas in Nepal.

  6. I don’t normally like to get in the muck – my view was that Bernal got outclimbed last year until we hit the Alps so it’s not a massive surprise but it’s the below quote (from Bernal, via Cyclingnews) that really stands out – just not what you expect to hear from a cyclist at the pointy end of the TDF.

    “Those Slovenians are next-leveling it somehow.”

  7. Yesterday’s stage was great for anyone who likes 90s nostalgia… Referring to Roglic’s breathing at the end of a tough climb. Not a good look unfortunately.

  8. It looks as if spectators are going to be banned from much of the course, certainly many starts and finishes plus a number of the climbs. I suppose it is probably inevitable but it does detract from the feel of the tour. One thing I wont miss is the clowns who insist on running in front and along side the riders , I have never understood what the point is, especially the folk dressed in bunny (or whatever) costumes.

  9. Ketones. The JV team like them – how much impact do they have?

    I had a beer with some friends last week and they laughed themselves silly when I said I thought the Tour was clean.
    They said every big team ‘dopes’ in ways that are legal and ahead of the legislation. Like virus and anti-virus software. They call it innovation until it becomes illegal. Finding an edge. Can’t change it, part of life.
    It does make you wonder about the Slovenians modus operandi, and I say that as someone who wants to ‘believe’ that this is all above board.

    • Explains why all of JV were in such super form going into the race, why Dumoulin quite MPCC and how WvA can crush everyone. Did Roglic also pass the science onyo his best mate Pogacar?
      On the other hand, if that’s the case, why didn’t Pogocar tell his team about them, clearly they didn’t get the memo. And surprised they make such little difference that they can only just outclimb 35 year old Porte and Uran. Neither of which are really at their best anymore (still good through).
      It could be but i think simplest (and therefore more likely?) explanation is that team Ineos approached the lockdown differently and encouraged all their riders to take some down time, recharge, relax. There was no idea when or if the season would resume. JV maybe just kept the level high and worked through.
      Would love to hear if anyone knows if their training levels were different.
      I know Bernal posted some monster rides back to back for a week or so. I think GT would have had him last year if the stage wasn’t shortened. Sat on Pinot until it was brought back together then gone on the last climb.

  10. I had the opportunity to explore the final 15 km of today’s stage earlier this week, and concur with inrng’s assessment. My impression is the penultimate, Duchère, climb, though quite broad, is a tad irregular, with some short portions close to 10%, making it perhaps a better place to attack than the last, Esses, climb which is more regular despite the hairpins. Also, the roads through the Croix-Rousse plateau, though not particularly narrow by local standards, do have some some corners in them, which might make it hard to catch someone who is in front before the final descent and finish straight (that last descent is not fun to ride in normal circumstances, as there is no bike lane, and plenty of merging traffic, whereas the descent from Duchère now has a Covid bike/bus lane). Looking forward to seeing how it plays out.

  11. This may be naive, but I wonder if there is not a more innocent explanation for the “increased level” that Bernal and Yates etc. are noticing in the peloton this year. As has been widely commented on, Covid restrictions have radically changed training regimes and forced the use of trainers at the expense of mileage. For the amateur rider, this is actually a very beneficial change and reduces “junk miles”. Obviously there is a massive difference in what pros and schmoes need, but I wonder if orthodoxy around the need for a pro to put in a gazillion miles might be reconsidered?

    • Would find this hard to believe: this is the biggest race of the year, we’ve had how ever many decades of riders trying to optimise their whole season around this one event to the exclusion of others. All sorts of sports science research that has been undertaken.

      That it takes a pandemic to reveal this hitherto unknown optimal training regime seems to stretch credibility.

      • It’s a long standing plan to try and do a blog post about over training and over racing, the culture of doing a stage race in order to be ready for a upcoming race etc and remarking how riders often hit their best numbers after an injury break etc, a forced period of time off. Of course a 10 minute power record is just that, it doesn’t win a race, especially a 3 week event. The problem has been turning these anecdotes into anything more solid but the stories keep stacking up, eg Guillaume Martin said he spent part of his strict lockdown in France building a stone wall, operating a digger etc… and then once he could go outside he soon started getting high scores.

        • It’s exactly this that makes cycling interesting for me, the balance of fitness vs freshness. I know that with my own personal tooling around on a bike, it’s impossible to keep both for any time. One has to do the work to gain fitness, while trying to maintain freshness and it’s not an easy balance. I suspect that it’s just the same for the Pros, the difference being that they have bigger consequences to how they balance it.

      • I hear you, but there are lots of reasons, including baked in tradition, institutional momentum, superstition, contractual obligations, that would cause teams and individuals to continue with sub-optimal training regimes. And the opportunity costs for radically cutting training miles for any individual or team are very high. A forced experiment across the field may have been a rare opportunity to learn.

        That said, I agree it’s still pretty hard to accept.

    • I’m still not convinced the level is that massively improved… established names like Porte, Landa, Quintana and (pre-concussion) Bardet look competitive. Meanwhile the emergence of talent at a younger age is more likely to be that young talented athletes are now choosing professional cycling as a proper career option… they see that investment in their development and monetary rewards could be available if they’ve got it.

    • re: “gazillion miles”
      Sports physi0logist Steven Seiler, and others, have written extensively on “polarized training”. Seiler’s work has focused mainly on elite, world-class, x-country skiers and 5km-to-marathon distance runners.
      At this level, very large volumes (20+ hrs/week) of low-to-moderate intensity training before the race season seems to be the common theme, amounting to 80-85% of the training load. Very-high-intensity vO2 max training might be only 10% of the training load. Very little training in the in-between, no mans land.
      Among the talented and high-performing masters amateur cycling racers in my region, the ones who perform best during race season were logging 250+miles (400km) per week during the few mos prior to race season. They also had a lifestyle & financial resources that enabled them to spend 20 hrs/week training.

  12. Does the pressure get to the French riders ? Are they simply not good enough anyway ? Are they too comfortable making good money riding in French teams ? Is winning just a bonus for them and not a necessity ?

    • I thought Bora should have stopped pulling when they had 5 minutes on Bennett and saved energy to help Sagan in the last 2 hills and finale. To many attacking type riders were left in Sagans group to ignore after Bennett was dropped. Fun stage to watch.
      Since Sagan crashed hard in theTDF a couple of years ago he’s lost some power in the last 50 meters.

      • Just like JV pull hard in the mountains, Bora continued to ensure there was no further breakaways. If they’d sat up Sunweb (or another team) would have just sent riders up the road. They really needed another team to help pull for the bunch sprint, but tactically they’d destroyed that option. Their plan almost worked, but the final few hills put pay to that by knocking their rouleurs off.

  13. Hanseatic ? Except from the kontors’s in Bergen and Visby Scandinavia is as un-Hanseatic as it gets.

    City of London is far more Hanseatic (and should be called new-Lübeck).

      • Seperators where the clitfs of dover, Elbe & Eidar rivers ? Unification: Nothing.

        Middle English and Niederdeutsch are west germanic languages.

        Dutch/Flemish cities like London and germanised Wends was part of the Lübeck domain struggling for trade of the baltic and north sea with the North Germanic tribes/states.

        Timber, Herring, Fur form the north vs. salt from the south (Lünenburg).

        • One thing that could be seen as unification would be the Frisian marches but in Denmark we have more or less managed to wipe out the Frisian language spoken in the coast from south of Ribe (northern europe oldest city and the realm of sea king Ragnar Lodbrog ) to north of Utrecht – the Dutch and the Germans was made an effort too but not quite as efficient as the Danes.

          Im only objecting to the Hanseatic analogy because Denmark, Norway, Sweden fought a 500 year war against the Hanseatic league before they started fighting among them selves – and the Hanseatic wars was what split up the the nordic languages and created the foundations of the present national identities and states.

          • AngloSaxon was a Germanic root language. By the time we reach Middle English there is a strong admixture of Norman French, and a fair amount of direct anglicisation of Latin ( the lingua Franca of religion and scholarship).

            And a fair bit of Danish in the North…..

  14. Just an observation after reading through all comments.

    Im amazed about the speculative accusations reg potential doping as soon as a non english speaking team or rider turns out to ride up steep mountains faster than english speaking riders or riders from english speaking teams here.

    I’ve always assumed that INRNG comment section was NOT cyclingnews, but i appear to wrong. I don’t recall reading anything similar from the 2011 Vuelta freakshow, 2012-2013 TDF, 2015-1019 TDF, 2017 Vuelta, 2018 Giro etc…

    • Then you remember incorrectly, because people definitely voiced suspicions and outright accusations of Froome and Sky in general throughout most of those years, whether or not there was evidence. Not unanimously, of course, but loudly and often – I seem to recall you as one of the loudest voices there.

      If one were to say there’s probably a slight overall bias toward English-speaking riders in the comment section here I’d probably agree, but not universally and not more than any other relatively gentle linguistic or national fan bias for Italian, French, Belgian etc riders. Certainly nothing approaching cyclingnews. And your accusation is of course undercut by the fact that it’s a non-English speaking rider, albeit from a nominally English team, fanning the flames of suspicion.

      It’s certainly unlikely that a tiny country without a strong cycling history should all of a sudden have the two best climbers in pro cycling, but it’s within the realm of possibility, and there’s no hard evidence against them. As a general rule, tho, I don’t see how any serious cycling fan can do anything besides treat all superlative performance with a healthy skepticism as a general rule.

    • After operation Peurto, Spanish riders were no longer a dominate force. A similar thing happened in Italy and France and their riders as a group were no longer dominate. Look at Armstrong and his americans after USADA. Then came the English domination from riders who would transform their bodies into tour winners in one year (Froome/Thomas/Wiggins (legal steroids).
      Now its 2 Slovenians who are doing great. Based on cycling history, to me, its suspicious but not proof.
      I guess I’m waiting for a 3rd Slovenian to become a Tour contender.

    • I think you have been starting with an assumption and then seeking out evidence to support it. FWIW, Ineos fans are probably generally relieved, because the performances of e.g. Roglic and Pogacar make Froome now look reasonably believable.

      • These 2 riders have an open past, while Froome never won anything in younger ranks or even showed up. Only after nearly dropped from the team he fell into a canister of Zaubertrank at a freak show Vuelta.
        Besides that, totally comparable. Not. dream on.

        • I know nothing of Froome’s life but maybe it would be more concerning if Froome was beating that earlier generation (and young people can dope too). Anyway it’s just entertainment for me so I choose to dream.

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