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.
|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.