Tour de France Stage 16 Preview

A stage to the Vercors range in the Alps, breakaway country and a scenic stage from start to finish.

Race Review: two thoughts on the GC battle: First is the Roglič-Pogačar duel, it’s not as gripping as 1989’s Fignon-LeMond or 1964’s Anquetil-Poulidor because the race lead is not changing between them but it’s definitely a duel. Jumbo-Visma will be delighted if a breakaway goes up the road from here to Paris as it’ll mop up time bonuses while behind the team tries to throttle the race as much as possible to minimise the chances of Pogačar attacking, the 21 year old’s only hope is the Col de la Loze where the wildly irregular gradient thwarts tempo riding. The second contest is for third place with Uràn, Lopez, Yates, Porte and Landa all in with a chance right now. Porte is the best for the final time trial and looks to be the strongest uphill too but it’ll be worth watching how much they all mark each other for this spot, with Lopez and Uran riding a passive race so far. It might not be exciting nor memorable but this economical style works, see Steven Kruijswijk last year.

The Route: uphill from the start via Montagnieu appropriately enough (“mountainous”), there’s 5km at 4% before a quick descent and the second climb of the day, this time with a KoM point, and steeper.

Listed as 7.5km for the race the Col de Porte is a 20km climb, the first is up the Gorges du Guiers Mort and, as the name implies, goes up alongside a whitewater river, it’s more scenic but decidedly uphill with some steep parts at 7-8% further up that the official profile skips over. It’s spectacular in places with the road cut into the cliff, small tunnels and giant rocks overhanging the road. This leads to the Chartreuse plateau, once legendary in cycling for the trilogie and post-war racing exploits but out of favour of late. The road is steady and wide to the Col, first past open meadows and then into the forest at the top and this second half in the woodland is steeper with again some 7-8% to the pass.

Then it’s down the Col de Porte, a fast descent on a wide road with few difficulties although it’s famous the place where Bernard Hinault once crashed and, face streaming with blood, remounted and won. Today attitudes have changed and a chance to crowbar in the mention that the UCI will unveil a new concussion protocol in the coming weeks (it’s not in reaction to Romain Bardet’s crash, it’s been under discussion for months). Then it’s across the valley and the climb to Revel, two hairpin bends and then straight up the side of the Belledonne range at 8%. Then it’s across a balcony road with views of the valley below and the table-top Chartreuse mountains on the otherside before reaching the foot of the Vercors.

The climb to Saint-Nizier is on a large road. The Vercors plateau remains remote as it’s surrounded by steep cliffs and only a few roads wind their way up and this is one of the biggest and easiest.

The Finish: it’s called Villard de Lans Côte 2000 but this refers to the ski lift which climbs up high. Instead it’s 2km at 6% to finish at 1,144m high. It makes for a punchy finish that’s hard, but short of an Alpine climb. Rui Costa won here when the Dauphiné visited in 2015.

  • Clincher time: some reports claimed Julian Alaphilippe’s stage win in Nice as the first on clincher tires. But there’s a good chance Laurent Fignon’s stage win in Villard de Lans back in 1989 was the first clincher win. In his autobiography Fignon was sceptical about Michelin’s 23mm tires as the thinking was that 19 or 20mm tubulars were faster, but tests proved otherwise and the team liked the safety for mountain stages he said, there was no chance of melting glue and rolling the tubular off the rim

The Contenders: a breakaway day? Normally yes but the early moves are having trouble sticking. Today should work because Jumbo-Visma will be only too happy to see riders go up the road and mop up all the time bonuses while UAE Emirates don’t have the strength to lock the race down so that Pogačar could try to take the bonuses.

Bora-Hansgrohe and Team Sunweb collectively offer the obvious picks today. EF Pro would have been the third equal pick but having lost Sergio Higuita and needing resources to shepherd Rigo Uràn they’re a step below, maybe Dani Martinez is freed today. Tiesj Benoot gets a stage to suit and if he’s been nursing a back injury he’s looking better, Marc Hirschi no longer needs an introduction but for all his solo attacking he’s good at uphill sprints. Max Schachmann is Bora’s best shot and having been beaten two days running last week he’s had a bit of time to rest while Lennard Kämna is active but might need to go solo to win as his sprint’s not so strong. Still Dani Martinez (EF Pro Cycling) finds terrain to suit.

What of Ineos? The wheels have come off their bid this year so they’re all free to attack and it’s easier to name the riders who won’t be winning today: Luke Rowe and Egan Bernal. Bernal probably just needs a steady day and he’s not low enough on GC to get a free pass for the day; while Rowe was towing the peloton uphill in years past but pulled on the parking brake the moment the first climb started on Sunday.

Barring a Lazarus-style intervention, the CCC team looks to be folding soon but the riders are admirably cooperating and today Alessandro De Marchi and Greg Van Avermaet look like the best picks.

A trio of French picks. Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quickstep) is obvious but he’s not got the magic of last year, still this is an ideal course. Nans Peters (Ag2r La Mondiale) is a local, the finish isn’t far from home but more importantly he’s suited for a course like this. Still, if he is a strong rider he’s not a strong pick for two stages. Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ) has looked strong lately but almost too much.

Ineos, Alaphilippe, Martinez, Schachmann, Benoot
Hirschi, Kämna, Madouas, Peters, De Marchi, Fraile, GVA, Bilbao

Weather: warm and sunny, 30°C in the valleys

TV: live coverage from the start at 1.00pm CEST to the finish forecast around 5.30pm Euro time.

76 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 16 Preview”

    • Just what I was wondering – Will we see Bora doing 50kph for a he first hour or Sagan in the break? And I’ll be wondering the same for the next four stages actually They all look like there’s just enough to drop Bennett, but it would be a mighty team effort and would make for some insane starts to an already punishing block of stages.

      A fantastic Green jersey race this year and one that’s really impacting the race as a whole through the overall speed and fatigue on GC riders and teams. Makes it feel more integrated into the race somehow

      • My initial thinking was that Bora might put Sagan, Oss, Kamna and Schachman into the break and then try and get Bennett off the back of the climb but going really hard up there.

        But maybe they will keep the break together until that climb and then go hard….Bennett said they dont really want to let Sagan into the break, so maybe that won’t happen?

  1. I’ve been enjoying the race so far, especially the breakaways and seeing some new blood, like Hirschi. Good to see a contest for green. And good to see a battle for the GC. Pogacar looks darn strong, not sure if Roglic can hold him off. Would be fun to see Porte on the podium.

    Any sports doctor who saw Bardet get up and wobble like a drunken sailor would call concussion. But without professional medical intervention right at the exact moment of an injury in the heat of the race, it’s going to be difficult to have a reasonable protocol. Worth trying though, as it was painful to watch him.

    I wonder if Bernal did any interviews and commented not-so-cryptically on the power numbers of the 17-ish riders who dropped him on stage 15. I’ve been trying to warm up to Egan, but was definitely turned off by his insinuation about the Slovenians doping. Some folks have defended him by saying poor translations are to blame, but Spanish is a pretty easy language to translate. Regardless, he’s toast, but I’m still curious what’s wrong, more back problems?

    • Some uploaded their rides to Strava and their numbers in the lower slopes were nothing ouderworldly, more in the mid 300w.
      That’s at or even below threshold for many 60-65kg pros. Hence the big group.

    • Where did you read Bernal insinuating the Slovenians are doping? Not doubting, just didn’t read that.

      I was turned off by his interview on the international feed where he talked about winning six TdFs. How about winning a second one?

    • I think there’s been a bit too much emphasis on making out that Bernal was insinuating something about Rog and Pog. If my memory serves me he actually only talked about himself and his numbers. People picked that up and thought that was a sly dig at the other two. Bernal is young, and naive, so I don’t read that motive. Most of what I see is a very young man struggling under the weight of expectation that winning the TdF has.
      I look at him and I see him struggle in the same way as Pinot. Anyway, as people have said, his goose is cooked.

    • Cyclingtips did a pretty detailed power analysis of that stage and the power output of a rider who managed to stay in the lead group through the lacets. They also compared that effort to prior days power data to help develop a better picture of what happened.

      Bernal was just on a bad day and was riding well below his threshold. Ditto the day where he “insinuated”. No one was riding like an alien with any outrageous power or VAM data.

      There is still no explanation for the root cause of the bad day however, and Ineos pretty much never release that type of power data and causal analysis.

      As for Bernal “insinuating”, I think he was just looking to deflect in a moment of despondence with his statement. It just goes to show his learning curve for PR still needs some work.

      • The quote: “‘Those Slovenians are next-levelling it somehow,'” the 23-year-old told reporters.
        When I read that my first thought was: “People will immediately assume he’s accusing them of doping.” But I think the interpretation seems a tad silly and over-reaching.

        He’s clearly not even at the same level as 10 other guys in the race…

        He should try some slivovitz and see if it helps!

      • The Bernal 2020 saga of ‘ misinterpreted comments’ seems more interesting to me as yet another symptom of a serious malaise in The Ineos Factory. They just seem to completely lack the cohesion and focus of years past.

        Starting with Bernal’s declaration of independence/ dominance (‘I won’t sacrifice myself…’) which led to an unbecoming renegotiation of Froome’s contract in public , the disarray of the split DS situation, the sudden and possibly resented reallocation of riders to the Tour from their scheduled programme …the whole year has been a catalogue of marginal losses. Some of this lies fair and square with the management, but maybe some of it is attributable to Bernal’s leadership. There’s more to being the leader than having the best legs.

        I’m loving seeing the ‘Grenadier’ forlornly parked in the mountains, its eponymous team having singularly failed to ascend them. Maybe there is some justice for treachery, after all.

        • “marginal losses”…. 🙂 haha…. the bus is “forlornly parked”…. nice writing…
          I also liked the use of “crowbar” when inrng discussed the concussion protocol…

        • The transition from the froome ers into a new age is not going so well atm for ineos. But i think its extremely hard to do this well and not just done by hiring all new young talents at once (yet they missed out on some names)

          • It’s interesting to consider just how much Bernal’s Tour win last year was down to Froome and Thomas’ riding. He’s certainly lacking that kind of firepower this time around.
            All sporting success is cyclical and it was inevitable at some point that Ineos would fall upon harder times.
            Under Bernal’s leadership there seems to be a lack of team identity. We knew very well what the Froome / Thomas style was; it was coincidental that both their respective styles suited the train approach. I’m not sure that Ineos have got their heads around a new approach as yet? It certainly seems less clear. I’m sure that Froome had an input to Sky’s recruitment and I wonder if Bernal will be allowed that facility? Perhaps this accounts for the several new South American riders already on the team this year?

        • Bernal is a complex yet simple character. I don’t want to draw too heavily on stereotypes, but there is something of both the nerd and the simple country boy about him – or at least naivety of youth. I’m sure that part of the messages coming out from him are largely a struggle to assert who he is, who he thinks he should be and express himself in the most dominant cycling team over the last ten years (until now).
          Much of cycling’s hierarchy can be determined through numbers – quickest up a climb, most watts/kg. Riders know where they stand – GC rider, puncheur, sprinter, climber, TTer, domestique or break specialist. It’s particularly evident for GC riders and so Froome would have known even before the Dauphine that he wasn’t ready to win, so evident he was pretty quick to pull off anytime the racing got going – what I’m trying to say is that he knew he was just there to test himself. I think the surprise was that Thomas was so far off the pace, and that Bernal was not in form.
          The Sky train only works when a) your lead rider is performing, and b) your Domestiques are very strong. I think INEOS miss Poels, but as a team they don’t look in form and probably haven’t trained much together. Team JV look the opposite – very together, well drilled and in great form. INEOS are in disarray.
          This must all be very dispiriting for Bernal, but he is often philosophical about it all and kudos to him for choosing not to let this get him down.

    • Yes, I hate to be so Pollyanna and uncynical about it, but it’s a pretty great race overall. Ineos going down, TJV dominating but not locking it up yet, Pogacar nipping at Roglic’s heels, and this thoroughly entertaining and impactful Green Jersey race.

      Two good TdFs in a row is a good thing.

    • It would be foolish of him to insinuate doping by the two Slovenians, when firstly he was dropped by the combined work of Gesink, van Aert and Dumoulin (not Slovenian), and secondly as you say 15 others managed to keep up. If anything it points towards Team Sky / Ineos not doping in the past – the mountain train really does work. Froome must have a big smile on his face 😁

      • The comment about his numbers being good came on stage 13 when he finished 18th, six places down on Rog (five behind Pog), and that’s when the press picked up on his comments about his numbers which were interpreted as an insinuation on the others.
        Bernal was magnanimous about his performance on stage 15 saying he felt empty and didn’t have it.

      • Also, I don’t think it points to anything of the sort about Ineos/Sky – one way or another. Scepticism is required.
        What we know is that doping is a secret arms race which goes on behind closed doors. But it also takes a lot of discipline and still requires hard work. When Armstrong won (or when T-mobile lost) it wasn’t because other teams weren’t doing the same thing also. US Postal/Discovery were just doing it better.
        Also, changes to anti-doping controls, and the timing of any controls are aimed at disrupting not preventing doping. ADA know they are fighting a losing battle because they do not have the resources to test every athlete comprehensively. The doping passport is their best method of testing anomalies, but we know that even this can be manipulated so that increases in numbers appear as steady Improvements. It makes it harder to go from 0 to 60 for those looking to short-cut, but it can be done. You just need clever doctors to keep testing your blood values.

        • I very much agree that it doesn’t prove innocence and one must be sceptical given cycling history, but I’m of the opinion that it is evidence for the defence.
          A well drilled mountain train is a big advantage for the team leader, and JV are not even close to peak Team Sky yet (Bennett the clear weak link in the chain).
          Sadly that may mean less exciting GC races for another few years as they improve. We can only hope for more from the likes of Pogacar, but is that reasonable if he is clean? I think that part of the reason why the mountain train works is because there are no doped up mutants able to break it (no evidence, just my opinion, and it only applies to GC contenders).

          Plus, I appreciate the civil response, all too often if someone gives an opinion it gets shot down in a blaze of insults.

          • Really Ineos need to go all out to sign Pogacar.

            Also I’m wondering if anyone has any idea how long the final TT might take. 40 seconds seems a decent advantage but when you look at the profile, length and climb at the end 40 seconds seems pretty do-able. We know the final TT in the TDF can be a bit all over the place. Poggerz beat Roggerz by 9 second in the Slovenian TTs, and that was over a very short 15km course. We’ve all been saying Pog needs to claw back some more time on Rog….but is it maybe even the other way round? Does Rog need/want to put some more time into Pog to make his position safe?

    • Very discouraged to hear Bernal whine. Spoiled grapes in my opinion. Jumbo has been dominant all year and have been together to train. I guess Porte, Landa, Iran and everyone else that beat him are doping. Great to see a change. Tired of Sky dominating.
      Btw, he quickly blamed his back and kidneys afterwards.

      • I remember George Bennett doing a pretty ill-disguised accusation a few years back that made everyone chuckle rather than feign outrage. It’s still on Jumbo’s twitter feed actually.

  2. I think getting in to the break will be hard-fought again today. Others have already mentioned the green jersey competition. To that you can add that anyone who leads over the Cat 2s and the Cat 1 gets 20 points, and there are a number of riders broadly in the vicinity of the polka dot jersey – behind Cosnefroy on 36, you have Peters and Hirschi (both on 21); Rolland (26); Herrada (25);Skujins and Gogl (25); Pacher (21); Geschke (18). Several of those would have the motivation to go for it, particularly I think Rolland, Pacher and maybe Geschke. Cosnefroy looks cooked to me, which probably means Nans Peters is the obvious AG2R rider to try and defend the jersey by being in the break and taking it himself.

    Add to that a number of teams have had a quiet tour thus far and the likelihood of a battle between Sagan trying to drop Bennett, and Quickstep aiming to avoid that, and it is possible the break won’t go until the first Cat 2 but after a very frenetic hour of racing.

    • I agree that the break won’t go until the Cat 2 climb once the sprint points have been picked up. It’ll contain most of the usual characters who’ve been getting in them so far I’d imagine. Rolland definitely, Alaphilippe maybe with Cavagna for company, most of Sunweb, several Bora, maybe Geschke, Van Avarmaet and De Marchi from CCC, Maduoas, Peters, Herrarda, Barguil perhaps now that Quintana is out of it, hopefully De Gendt and maybe Kwiatkowski now.

      • Surprised no-one has realy mentioned Pierre Rolland for today. He’s surely going to be targeting Polka and has looked one of the best pure climbers in the race not in GC contention.

        Also kudos to PR for the facial display on Sunday, Tommy V would be proud

        • Probably because he’ll give it a go, have a short time on the front before being left behind (maybe with the Bernal group like the other day!!). His stage-winning days are long gone I’m afraid (I’ll probably have to eat humble pie now as Rolland solos to victory 15 minutes ahead of the peloton)

  3. Just a small correction about the route: there is no whitewater river in the Gorges de Crossey. That’s the short defile a little before the intermediate sprint. When the riders turn right in St Laurent du Pont onto the Route du Désert leading up to St Pierre de Chartreuse, that’s the Gorges du Guiers Mort, which despite its name is very lively.

  4. Sorry for hijacking this topic.
    Does anyone know if spectators will be allowed in Paris along Champs Elysée? What about the final ceremony? The only thing I have found is that finishes (last 200 m) will be closed in the red departements.
    It would be a shame living in France and miss the ceremony when fellow Slovenes will win TdF.

    • The answer to that may change on a day-to-day basis due to COVID-19. Just keep your peelers open on the Tour website. At present spectators will be allowed, but places will be limited. Even without COVID-19 it can be hard to get a good spot, so be prepared to queue and hang around for a long time if you’re gunning for a good spot.

  5. As has been noted by numerous commentators, both Dave Brailsford and Geraint Thomas must be having a certain number of regrets, even if they would never say so. Personally I always thought this year’s Giro was ideal for G, 65km of pretty flat time trial gives him a big advantage over the better climbers like Simon Yates. Until Egan Bernal manages to win another TdF there will always be a question mark over the neutralised stage up to Tignes. The Slovenian’s have not been that good, Egan Bernal has not been able to keep up with Richie Porte or Rigobert Uran so nothing to see there beyond lack of form for whatever reason.

    The opening today is likely to be tense with DQS and Bora scrapping, JV would be happy for a break to go early but I doubt that will be the case. Fingers crossed for Sam Bennett!

    • I think it’s worked out quietly rather well for G. I’m not sure he has the pure chops to hang with the Sloveens (I may dispute yr claim that they haven’t been *that* good!) but him v Simon Yates should be a great battle in the Giro and yes lots more TT miles.

      • Agree Giro was always the best option for Thomas. He can climb pretty much as well as Yates and outblast him in TTs. Having wins in the Tour and Giro would look good on his palmares and would set him up for Vuelta clean sweep bid.

    • I was looking at that first climb of the day before the sprint points. It’s about 150m of climb, the one that dropped Bennett last time was about half that, so I can’t see him doing it. But it really depends when the break sort themselves out, and if Trentin makes the climb too. A tricky one to get points from. But more in Sagan’s favour than not.

    • There not banned as they are not really a drug. Just a food supplement.
      There’s no real evidence from large independent reputable studies that they work that i am aware of like pretty much all supplements you can buy. The only study evidence that they work is that they may help people that are running a calorie deficient eat more calories. Pretty weak effect and not relevant for most pro cyclists that regularly do well in grand tours.
      Personally i see it as expensive snake oil. Last years winner and many winners didn’t use it showing how unimportant it probably is.
      JV dominance is no real secret. And it’s the same as sky/ineous. By a bunch of good quality racers and dedicate them to the race. Probably the biggest surprise is that JV have the budget to compete. They must have been very canny on the negotiations.

      • Tony Matrin, WVA, Dumoulin – 3 superfreak riders. I don’t even think they are *that* strong in depth terms. Just have 3 riders who can do insane turns. Bennet and Kuss have been quite well protected really. I think there is some weak spots to be exposed in their team if anyone has the balls to do it. I think Sky had a lot more quality in depth in their team, JV have just done very well to give people that perception. That’s my take anyway

        • Kuss has been pretty good for a year or 2 but also Bennett.
          Despite working for others most of the time Bennett has a top ten in a GT and 2nd in a hilly monument. More than handy as a helper. The team has plenty of depth for the final mountain or 2.

          • Kuss has chops. He just looks a bit awkward. Froome-ish perhaps. Huffs and puffs but fair play when it came to the real crunch today he pretty much won the tour for Roglic.

      • At the core of their success are a few simple facts: they got a lucky break with discovering Primoz Roglic and next up realised that they didn’t have much else in terms of riders to back so they went all-in behind him. Banking on decades of experience and a reinvigorated staff it was possible to turn Primoz into a prime GT contender (as proven already by his fouth place in the TDF two years ago). I would consider Sep Kuss their second lucky break, he was on the brink of becoming a failed prodigy. After that both Dumoulin and WVA joined because they were attracted to the team’s way of working and ambition them joining was also partly due to very fortunate circumstances (remember that they both had to break a contract for it, it might have gone differently).
        Not to say that all of their success was pure luck, it involved a lot of planning, tacticts, ambition and a solid supporting staff with experience and knowledge but to me it’s undeniable that a series of very fortunate circumstances and coincidences delivered them the strong team they have now. But how will it evolve, will Jumbo ramp up the budget even higher or will they soon be overtaken again by INEOS or another team? Bora is having a particularly unfortunate tour, they might decide do things differently next year, have a budget (certainly in a post-Sagan era) and a solid core team and staff as well…

    • 8 WT teams?
      “Some teams and riders are still using it in competition, but teams and riders are primarily buying this stuff to aid in recovery,” said The Feed founder Matt Johnson. “We can’t keep it in stock. The average order is US$20,000, and they’re probably ordering it every other month [or, rather, they were before all the races got canceled – Ed.]. We have eight WorldTour teams that are buying it from us, and at least half of the top-30 of the WorldTour rankings are placing individual orders with us. Each of those riders are spending about US$5,000-6,000 per order. But they’re all a little quiet about it.”

      • Says the guy who is selling it! Pretty coy about naming the users, though.

        I, on the other hand, have for sale some remarkable energy bars, they are made to a secret recipe handed down to me by my great grandfather, a renowned shaman who fled the wild forests of……….etc etc. As a qualified scientist, I have analysed the formula and can produce them to hygienic laboratory standards….

        Everyone is using them, honestly.

  6. Don’t you think it’s possible Jumbo can try and send Dumoulin & Bennett in the break in the next few days to isolate Pogacar, making his teammates work, with Roglic controlling ? This would seem a good tactic to me ; but maybe it’s just because I fear three other boring stages like the Colombier one…

    • Sending Dumoulin up the mountain early might be a good tactic, if nothing else it will put pressure on the guys in 3th to 9th to keep the tempo high and that in turn may help JV to save their legs for later and try to dizzy Pog with a flurry of attacks by Kuss, Bennet and Rog.

  7. I’m quite surprised by some of the reaction Bernal . The guy is 23 years old and clearly had a lot of expectation and pressure coming into the race . He has underperformed (along with his whole team) and seemed nowhere near good enough to win the race . Why do people jump on any comment at all and try to make some drama out of it ? Let’s be careful or we’ll get the standard answer from sportspeople which is to be as bland as possible and say nothing at all .

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