Tour de France Stage 15 Preview

A hard day in the mountains, today’s profile has y-axis of evil with three steep climbs and they’re very different from what’s come before in the Tour, these are much longer duration climbs.

Stage Review: half the peloton might have had the day in their diary as their chance to get in the breakaway and have a go at a stage win but Bora-Hansgrohe had other plans. They had the race under lockdown, first using the opening climb of the day to fire Peter Sagan up the road for the intermediate sprint and then setting a tempo on the Col Béal to drop Sam Bennett and make half the Deceuninck-Quickstep squad throw in the towel. They needed Peter Sagan to score points in the finish for the green jersey and, helped by CCC, kept a lid on the race, helped by the long straight roads of the Forez and the Monts du Lyonnais. This was another stage ridden like a classic, the winning move didn’t come out of the early break, however hard it was to get clear, instead it came from late moves. Sunweb could sit back until the finish and then they started firing riders. There was logic in each move, Tiesj Benoot made the first move as he’s less punchy but could sustain a long effort. He was caught and then it was Marc Hirschi’s turn amid a flurry of moves from Thomas De Gendt, Julian Alaphilippe and others. Then finally Søren Kragh Andersen attacked precisely when everyone was finished from the effort, Peter Sagan drifted right under the 3km banner and “SKA” dived left and that was that.

As for the points competition, Sagan narrowed the gap and trails Bennett by 43 points, his fourth place in Lyon delivered 18 points compared the 50 on offer for the winner. Sagan and his team can still run Bennett ragged who is accumulating fatigue but if the Irishman can get through the Alps then there are points to be won in Champagnole and Paris. But, to repeat a point made for weeks now, it’s great to see the contest, it’s bringing more flavour to each stage.

The Route: 174.5km across the Isère plains to the Jura. It’s flat for the first 100km to Artemare and déjà vu again with an identical route to last month’s Tour de l’Ain. The profile suggests the race slams into the Jura mountains but instead there’s a there’s 8km uphill to Virieu.

Then the “Selle de Fromentel” climb begins, there are several roads up the Grand Colombier this is the steepest. Its been used in the Tour once before and there are long parts at 14-18% and all on a rough road surface that makes the going even harder. The profile says 22%, that’s hard to find but it is tough, time seems to pass slowly.

Instead of going to the top the race turns off down another road, it’s a very steep descent and fast and with only a brief transition the climb of the Col de Biche. This is another tough climb, irregular in places. The col and KoM point isn’t the top of the climb, it descends quickly before rising up once again for over kilometre. The descent is fast, technical in places and bumpy at times. Then there’s a 14km breather down the Rhone valley, it’s mainly flat.

The Finish: the Grand Colombier from Culoz via the lacets, the hairpins. Ignore the 7% average, this is a climb in five parts, first the steep section straight out of town and via the lacets and beyond, there’s lots of 10% sections to force an early selection and the rocks radiate back heat. Next there’s brief respite with a flatter part and a chance to put it in the big ring. Then the road rears up again, there’s one hairpin but otherwise it’s a long straight section with more 10-12%  slopes. Then another respite where there’s even a brief descent and then it’s over the cattle grid and the road rises up again all the way to the line. Overall it’s a tough climb, the same vertical gain as the Galibier from Valloire but with an irregular gradient, often over 10% and a 50 minute effort.

The Contenders: Normally it’d be a certain day for the GC contenders to contest the stage win as teams compete with their mountain trains, resulting in an infernal tempo even before the climbing starts. Only if Jumbo-Visma will pace over the climbs, who will try to challenge them? Ineos had a go on the Col de Néronne two days ago and it backfired like a Trabant. UAE Emirates have lost all two strong climbers. So the break might have a chance and it’s worth trying, fail and some still stand to collect points on two first category climbs. They’ll still need to build up a big buffer during the first 100km but it could need team tactics to work, for example if Dan Martin (Israel) fancies the breakaway he needs Nils Politt as workhorse to help tow him clear, David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) needs Stefan Küng and Dani Martinez (EF Pro Cycling) needs Jens Keukeleire and so on.

Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) is the safe pick, he out-climbed Tadej Pogačar to the Pas de Peyrol two days ago and won on the Grand Colombier last in the Tour de l’Ain last month, plus he’s got the strongest team.

Tadej Pogačar (UAE Emirates) is going to be interesting to watch, he seems to be able to do anything he wants but for all his success, watching his career so far still feels like the equivalent of an unboxing video, he’s that fresh and untested. For all his wins on the Jebel Hafeet, Mount Baldy or Los Machucos last year they’re 20-25 minute efforts and he’s got double that today. Maybe he’ll do twice as well but it’ll be interesting to see.

Egan Bernal (Ineos) isn’t done with the Tour de France yet. He was second to Roglič here in the Tour de l’Ain last month so should be close again, the longer he can hold on for this climb the better he’ll get. Mikel Landa (Bahrain-McLaren) is almost two minutes down on the general classification so if he jumps there’s no need to close him down right away, the same for Ritchie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) although the Australian’s a harder pick, this is a longer climb and there’s some tough descending to get through.

Primož Roglič
Tadej Pogačar, Mikel Landa, Egan Bernal
 Gaudu, Martinez, Porte, Chaves

Weather: warm and sunny, 30°C and no wind.

TV: a long parade out of Lyon, there’s live coverage from the start at 12.50 pm CEST to the finish forecast around 5.30pm Euro time.

60 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 15 Preview”

  1. “y-axis of evil” – Great expression, very memorable!
    Pogacar has shown a liking for long attacks. I’m hoping he throws down the gauntlet on those fearsome lower slopes of the Grand Colombier.

  2. If somebody goes clear on the Col de la biche could they maintain the gap to the base of the final climb? Could we see Landa or someone else try a longer ranger or will they all wait for the final?

  3. If CCC assisted Bora in setting the strong tempo to dump Bennett, I felt that they let themselves down badly when it came to the crunch.
    After Sagan shut down Hirschi and SKA went, there was one or two CCC riders (GVA and Trentin?) who just refused to do their bit.
    I thought it was GVA, he just sat on Sagan’s wheel for goodness sake!
    I mean, come on. Their team does all that work and then that happens at the end?
    It honestly does my head in, I can’t be on with it all.

    • I thought much the same, and can only conclude that either GVA and Trentin didn’t have the legs to finish, or they would rather all finish off the podium than help Sagan and watch him win the bike throw at the line. Trentin finished 7th, and GVA finished 21st, so they were near the front.

      During the early parts of the stage the CCC riders were only dong a small portion of the work from what I could see, so perhaps they made the calculation that Bora and especially Sagan were so focused on winning that they (Bora) would chase down every move no matter the cost. That’s been the unfortunately pattern used against Sagan for years now – follow his wheel, make him chase, and then mug him in the last kilometer or so. And if he doesn’t chase, then you deny him the win, which sometimes seems like the sad goal for a few other riders whom he has outclassed over the years.

      • Or you could ask was it wise/good tactics for Bora to continually hammer the pace long after Bennett had been dropped, on a classics style finish he had no chance of contesting, leaving their man with no assistance to deal with the inevitable late flurry of attacks? You could also ask why was your man, who was there to win the sprint, chasing after an attack when there was still 5km left and CCC and Cofidis had two riders?

        • Was it really good tactic by Bora to fire away Kämna on that hill in Lyon? Sure, he could have won a stage for Bora had his attack succeeded. But considering how Bora had built their entire day on Sagan winning points in the final sprint, perhaps it would have been wiser to have had Kämna fresh in the end. Who knows if he could have gone after Kragh A to set up Sagan for the sprint. Well done by Sunweb though.

          • There does seem to be dynamic, shall we say, between CCC (or Trentin at least) and Sagan.
            Gestures made, words said, and green jersey points denied.

          • @Morten Reippuert
            Yes, that was what happened apparantly. At least Kämna himself said as much in a post race interview with German television. He said he just couldn’t bring himself to throw away the advantage after a short descent.
            Not really clever, but he is still very young.

  4. Primoz Roglic is the obvious pick but there seems to be some doubt if he can keep delivering. Clearly a commanding performance today would put him in control of the race. I suspect we shall see a small GC group, whether or not leading the stage, fairly early on the final climb. A key factor could be if one of the Ineos or JV domestiques can stay with the group which has not really happened up to now. Egan Bernal is very likely to try something (he tried yesterday) not sure it will succeed or if he really is as good as advertised (there is a question mark over whether he would have won last year without the neutralisation of the race) we shall see. Maybe Ineos will go all Movistar sending multiple riders “up the road” in an effort to disrupt JV. personally I think that is a pointless tactic even if entertaining to watch.

    • Sivakov into the break to give bernal a target for long range attack? The noise out if ineos has been these longer climbs is where bernal will do damage.

    • “really as good as advertised” I mean, last year he also won the Suisse, Paris-Nice, 3rd in Lombardia and a slew of other hilly classics placings, and his history before that speaks for itself. he’s still only 23, it’s a singularly strange season, and unless it was just sandbagging (who ever actually knows with such things) he may be still be dealing with back pain. he may or may not be good enough this year – we’ll almost definitely know either way after today’s longer climbs – but there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that he’s pretty damned good in general.

  5. Lots of teams say they are going to the Tour to ‘hunt stages’, Sunweb are showing how it’s done!

    Should be an interesting stage today, hard to look past the Slovenians. No offence to the guy but I’m hoping Cosnefroy loses the mountains jersey today, he seems to get dropped with the sprinters on most climbs. That or he’s saving his energy for days like today.

  6. Backfired like a trabant!! Brilliant. I think that’s Ineos’ performance this year in a nutshell. I think they’re probably only about the 4th or 5th strongest team this year and their results reflect that. I’m glad to see their dynasty has come to an end.

  7. So Pogacar, at 21, has 5 GT stage wins, no? 3 in the Vuelta last year and now 2 here. That is just insane. Is there precedent for such an achievement?

    I love how he celebrates–he’s like a Peanuts character dancing in the Christmas special. Pure joy.

    If only he hadn’t lost time in the crosswinds-this would be an insanely exciting battle.

  8. Clara Beard from Cycling News mentioned that the Grand Colombier is one of four HC climbs not in the Alps or Pyrenees used in the Tour de France. I assume the Puy de Dôme climb is another (although I also understand it could not host a climb in today’s racing because of the logistics of having such a large race come through). What are the other climbs?

      • The Ventoux seems remote, but it is part of the Vaucluse mountains, which technically is part of the Alps.

        Is the “super planche” addition to the Planche des Belles-Filles classified as HC? I expect those classifications change anyway, depending on the position in the stage. I seem to remember the Col de la Biche was classified as HC when the Tour rode over it a few years ago, that stage that Uran won with a broken derailleur in front of breakaway-survivor Barguil.

    • I think Puy de Dôme might be too short for HC.
      Another one is Mont du Chat in Jura just south of Grand Colombier. Mont Ventoux, definitely HC, but is part of Prealps so maybe it doesn’t count. Crêt de Chatillon above Annecy if it is HC. Also even closer to the Alps.

      • Puy de Dôme is plenty long. Its’s Col de Ceyssat (cat 1 from stage 13) + 5km at 12% average gradient from the parking lot to the top. The climb starts down in Clermont Ferrand.

        It’s brutal. The tram has evened out the gradient a bit so its now a constant 11-14% for the final 5km. I snug out an early sunday morning in 2012 and did the climb. The few meters at only 11% is a true blessing. Remember there are no hairpins to ease of the gradients it’s just a 5km very long gracefull left turn. Alpe d’Huez might be a kilometer longer at a similar average grade, but Puy de Dome is much, much harder.

          • Ride a climb that is approx straight and one with hairpins at approx similiar lenght and average gradient and you will notice it right away – the gradient is variable in the hairpin and gradient eases off just befor and just after if you do it the right way. Lots of seconds to catch your breath and ease the strain on your museles in the hairpins (if you do it right). A straight climb never eases off.

          • Psychology plays a part as well, at least for us mortals. I imagine pros feel that way as well. We have two great local mountain roads here in Vancouver, each offering 10-12km at 7 percent or so–and their 4 or 5 hairpins are as important for the way they divide the rides into discrete sections as they are for the nice almost flat they offer up on the outside of the turn. You can easily get out of the larger cogs at each bend and get some speed up for the next straight.

    • HC is just a label applied by the race, but there’s the Mont du Chat, Mont Ventoux and the Puy-de-Dôme. The Puy-de-Dôme is a tough climb but HC? Debatable. It’s off limits to the Tour because of the railway that’s narrowed the road. You could try to hold a race up there but perhaps only after several other mountains to thin the field down and perhaps with it being closed to spectators but, pandemics aside, the Tour hates to do this, it’s very much a popular event. Other climbs that could get a HC label include the Col de la Lusette, the Col du Béal and the Montagne de Lure.

      • Col de Beals si not really HC, its tough from Vertolaye but not that tough.

        Signal du Lure from the south is a steady gradient on the smoothest pavement imaginable and even curved like a track.
        Lure form the north is harder despite a lower average gradient, but its on very uneven gradients, badly tarmac’ed and the final 2.5 kilometeres from Pas de la Graillue is more exposed to the Mistral than Ventoux and Augial and since its from east to west there will be a headwind 360 days of the year
        Additionally Lure is the same mountain as Ventoux, so it’s part of the Alpes (Pre Alpes which extends all the way to Alpilles, Jura is as also part of the Alpes – Vorgese is not).

        Another climb worth mentioning is Col du Pre de la Dame on the Lozere – from Genolhac to Villefort. 980m of elevation in just under 14km but its a very regular climb and its used for races in the Cervennes. The ridge of the Lozere can be reached if your continue up the gravel road to Mas de la Bargue but those extra kilometers does only add about 50m of altitude at a moderate gradient.

      • When it appeared in the 2013 Paris Nice race the montagne de Lure was graded as a category 1 climb.
        I agree with the comment below from Anonymous that the climb from the north is much less enjoyable. The Mistral only blows on average for 100 days a year although it doesn’t always feel like that!

        • In this instance ‘Annanymous’ is me (by error)

          Wen i climbed Signal de Lure from the rear in 2010 it was at 2-4 m/s when i left Sisteron in the morning and approx 6-8 m/s when i rode across the Vaucluse towards Banon, Saint-Cristobal and Sault. Im pretty s+ure it was 20 m/s when i reached the Pas de Graille and started the last push towards Signal de Lure.
          20 m/s at 1600-1800m may not be ‘mistral’ but its the kind of wind where world class riders ends up in the ditches in the Gent-Wewelegem and just bellow the threshold where they are canceling Gent-Wewelgem. When its a 20 m/s headwind 4% is really nasty because that gradient is insufficient to provide shelter.

          • Forgot my point which is: Rear side of Signal du Lure is just as hard as Ventoux via Malaucène & Bedion and way harder than Ventoux via Sault.

            Ventoux from Sault is approx like Signal de Lure from the south.

      • Clara Beard was so kind to respond. Her list of HC climbs outside the Alps and Pyrenees include: Grand Colombier, Col de la Biche (reverse of stage 15 TdF), Puy-de-Dôme, Mont du Chat.

  9. What next for Ineos? The team prize? They’re not too far off it, but I would reckon 27 minutes is too much. I’d like to see their riders off the leash, and hunting for wins. But their riders seem out of sorts, and due to their training regime seem to lack an explosive top end which might help them escape any breakaway riders come the finale.
    I sort of think they’ll leave empty handed. INEOS need to start winning stages it seems with the likelihood Thomas will only podium at T-A.

    • They’ll be already looking at next year, which is about 9 and a half months away. Porte and Yates are showing that Ineos’ demise might yet be greatly exaggerated, but for now there’s no point wasting another week on a lost cause. (Will Covid get them out of jail early?)

      • Indeed – 9.5 months away already. This year’s unusually long offseason will be matched by an unusually short one next year. Just as some riders seemed to thrive with the longer break this year, I wonder who will be hurting from the shorter break next year?

        Also, it’s been nice seeing Porte compete as he has – makes one wonder “what could have been.” I’d love to see him ride into Paris in yellow before the end of his career. Maybe the ideal situation for him might be to be the #1 support rider for Bernal next year, but also minding his placing as a #2 option in case Egan has an off-day… he’d be up in the standings but without the pressure that comes from leading the team.

  10. Both Roglic and Pogacar are the standout riders in this TdF with no apparent weaknesses. But if there is chance for someone cracking during the business end of the Tour, I think it will be Roglic. Betting on that, I think Pogacar is going to win this tour. I am a Roglic fan, but have a feeling given how Pogacar has matched Roglic and surpassed every time in 2nd and 3rd week of this tour, and given his TT prowess, it will be a very difficult and nervous battle ahead for Roglic and TJV. Tom Dumoulin is also peaking at the right moment, and Roglic should support him for a Vuelta bid if he decides to compete 🙂

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