Tour de France Stage 19 Preview

A sprint stage course despite the hilly profile but the today’s the very last chance for a breakaway to stick so there’s a good chance we get a strong move going clear rather than the forlorn “4×4” move.

Pole position: another day, another giant fight to get in the breakaway only this time the decisive break happened inside the Siaix tunnel outside Moûtiers so the precise split didn’t appear on TV. Having missed the move B&B Hotels and Total Direct Energie were forced into a punishment chase but didn’t have the power tand gave up. Damiano Caruso waited and used the Cormet de Roselend to float across to the large group.

Marc Hirschi’s bid for the polka dot jersey was looking good, he beat Richard Carapaz to the top of the Cormet but on the descent of the Col des Saisies he lost it on a left hand bend, and if he was up and riding within 30 seconds he couldn’t get back, presumably shaken by the crash. It left a lead group of Carapaz, Michał Kwiatkowski, Nicolas Edet and Pello Bilbao but first Edet cracked on the Col des Aravis, then Bilbao on the climb to the Plateau des Glières. This left an Ineos duo out in front and they were an ideal tandem to stay away.

The Ineos pair were sharing words on the descent to the finish but in the final kilometre Kwiatkowski was speak into his radio and relief seemed to spread spread across his face. Had team orders come through? Either way there was no sprint but smiles as the pair crossed the line and an equitable result with Carapaz taking the mountains jersey and Kwiatkowski getting the stage win, his first in the Tour.

Behind we had some action in the GC group, first with Mikel Landa who surged at the start of the climb to the Plateau des Glières but he struggled to build up much of a lead. Pointless? No, he started the day 7th overall but is now fifth as the change of pace was ruinous for Adam Yates and Rigoberto Uràn and they lost over two minutes. Enric Mas made a move and Tadej Pogačar in person followed but with Jumbo-Visma left with several riders nothing was going to come of it. Ritchie Porte punctured on the plateau – if it wasn’t for bad luck he wouldn’t have any luck at all – but after a dogged chase got back on to safeguard his fourth position overall.

The Route: 166km north with a late spiral around Champagnole for the finish. It’s uphill soon after the start out of Bourg-en-Bresse, France’s chicken capital, with the unmarked Col de France lifting the race away from the plains, this is not a steep climb but it’s useful to help a breakaway form and the riders might remember it from the recent Tour de l’Ain, déjà vu encore. Then comes a succession of long and straight roads.

The second half of the stage is hilly, reaching over 900m in altitude but most of the climbs are gradual. Any sprinters carrying injuries or severe fatigue could be in trouble for the unmarked climb from, appropriately enough, St. Germain en Montagne to the intermediate sprint in Mourans. This is the hardest climb of the day but it’s 5km at 4% with some early sections at 6%. Otherwise the final third has the odd feel of more descending than climbing, with gentle and long drags up but steep and fast descents into small canyons, it’s scenic passing grazing cattle that make milk for Comté cheese and diving into gorges where rivers have cut their way. With 19km to go there’s the last real climb of the day, a level crossing, a zig-zag across roads and its up via some hairpins but not steep.

The Finish: after the village of Loule with 8km to go there’s a long descent off the mountains, it’s not steep nor technical, just harder to move up position. With 4km to go the road reaches the plains and there’s a long straight road into Champagnole and then a dip down to cross the Ain river. Here there’s an 400m uphill climb and a right turn to pass under the flamme rouge and a long finishing straight, complete with a level crossing and if no train will dare to come pass, watch for bouncing on the tracks.

The Contenders: the route looks hilly on the profile but it’s suitable for the sprinters. There are two questions, first is whether their teams all agree with this, they’ve probably not ridden the course so they might think otherwise when glancing at the roadbook. The second is what all the non-sprinters think, instead of the usual “4×4” where four riders get four minutes, today is the last chance for the 12 teams who haven’t won a stage to try something so expect more of a battle at the start the terrain in second half is much harder for a team to chase.

For the breakaway there must be a hundred riders up for it. Oliver Naesen (Ag2r La Mondiale) , Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), Greg Van Avermaet (CCC), Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) , Søren Kragh Andersen (Sunweb) look like riders who can go clear and get the job done in the finish, and maybe Michael Valgren (NTT) and Daryl Impey (Mitchelton-Scott) but these two have been discreet until now. Maybe Matteo Trentin (CCC) goes in the break too but he’s possibly one of the fastest sprinters left as he won’t be smarting from three days in the mountains as much as others. As for Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) this could be his stage but he’s struggling, he hasn’t win an intermediate sprint all race and even Michael Mørkøv has been outfoxing him so a stage is now a big ask.

Otherwise for the sprint it’s not obvious. There’s not much climbing but enough to make life harder for riders already aching from three days in the mountains. So Trentin is a contender if he’s sat tight and Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal), Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quickstep) are the fastest… and of course the mini-cannibal Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), currently 19th overall but he’s got his eye on the final three stages.

Wout van Aert, Matteo Trentin
Naesen, GVA, Stuyven, SKA, Ewan, Sagan, Bennett

Weather: sunshine and some clouds, 23°C

TV: live coverage from the start at 1.30pm CEST to the finish forecast around 5.30pm Euro time. The hilly part of the second half begins around 4.15pm, tune in for the scenery.

71 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 19 Preview”

  1. Is Kristoff still in the race? I don’t think I’ve seen him since he was in yellow? He usually still has something of a sprint after 3 weeks.

  2. Looking at your profile for tomorrow there is polka dot points in the TT tomorrow and i presume it is on stage finishing time. That being the case i am going to assume carapaz will go in the break to try and get 1 more point to go 3 ahead before the TT. Looking at the profile i,m surprised there is not another cat 4 at the 132km mark. If carapaz gets 3 points ahead then i think pogacar needs to be 4th or better tomorrow to get ahead. I can’t recall the polka jersey being so up for grabs so late in the race.
    Looks like there’s a hill just before the print. Is it enough to get a tired sprinter far enough back not to be able to contest the print if bora or CCC smash it.

    • The KoM in the time trial would I believe be a timed section up La Planche des Belle Filles, not finishing position. Presumably Carapaz can afford to take most of the TT steadily and then do an all-out attack of the climb. Pogacar will be more constrained in needing to sacrifice the fastest possible time on the climb in order to ride the optimal time over the whole TT. There is probably a benefit for the other Sky climbers also attempting to ride the climb as hard as possible.

      Roglic also has mathematical chance of taking the Polka Dot jersey tomorrow as well, though the same constraints apply as Pogacar. My guess is that if either of them took it, it would be as a by-product of a storming ride in the TT, not by a planned assault on the climb.

        • Ooooo. Interesting. That should enliven the TT. We get two races for the price of one. It’ll also be interesting to see how much quicker a rider takes the hill when riding for it on their own, compared to one working at their limit. There should be a difference, but I anticipate that there will be little time differences between the TT winners and the KOM winner. Strava records on the Planche are going to tumble I think.

        • That’s a smart move by Amaury sports. I don’t suppose they could know the race for the polka dot would still be in the running this late, but I guess it always kept the option open.
          Now we get two races for one. Can you do rings for both the polka dot and the stage tomorrow?
          I’d like Carapaz to get it purely on the basis that he has enlivened the race, and (in a very “non-sporting-winner-takes-all“ way) because of his noble gesture of giving Kwiatkowski the win.
          Kwiatkowski has been a faithful and able servant for Ineos/Sky selflessly putting his ambitions aside for his team, and very ably. Would he have more WC jerseys? Monuments? Or GT stage victories? The answer to some of that is undoubtably “yes”. For Carapaz to honour that commitment is a measure of the content of his character.

        • In fact these “some points” available in the final stage are just 1, it’s a Cat4.
          Though there could be a theoretical scenario where it comes down to one point after the TT. That would be fun.

      • Thanks. I didn’t think about a timed section. I assumed because this would have been impossible / really hard to monitor in the past it would not be done this way.

  3. I think Carapaz earned himself enormous credit for yesterday. He’d been busting a gut for a stage win – his first in the TdF too – for what seemed like the entire last week of the race, and to hand it over so magnanimously and with such heartfelt celebration was a joy to see.

    It would have been so easy to sulk after all he’s been through, getting stuck in a race he never intended to be in and then with all the negativity surrounding the team… Chapeau sir!

    • I think carapaz will not be the guy forgotten by the roadside in the new team sky. He will just force himself into a leader role (or else change teams – if possible) this giro-tour shuffle was not a nice thing to do, carapaz will look to it they dont try it again.

    • Chapeau to all commentators as well – for not descending into a shouting match about who would/could/should have taken the stage win!
      It was, for once, such a perfect, in every sporting and spectating sense, ending that it didn’t even occur to anyone who has followed road cycling for the past few years and who saw how the entire stage unfolded to frown and to complain that they should have made it a race to the finish line.
      I, for one, know whom I now want to see in the polka dot jersey in Paris!

        • I respect his opinion and even applaud him for expressing it. The same goes for any inrng-reader who would’ve liked to see Kwiatko drop Carapaz or Carapaz to outsprint Kwiatko.
          I was, of course, exaggerating a little in order to make a point (which was how right the outcome seemed to me anf a whole lot of others, probably even the vast majority and possibly to everyone but those who rooted for the Ecuadorian or had a dislike for the Pole) *after* one let what happened to sink for a few minutes or one had seen the interview with Kwiatko.

      • I’m an Ecuadorian and are enormously proud of Carapaz, not only as a rider, but as a person. Remember the last stage of the Giro last year when he himself was pulling Landa for him to end up on the podium. An amazing human being.

      • It was great to see Carapaz’s huge satisfaction at the finish even though he’d let his team-mate win. He deserves a lot of credit especially as he had been giving everything in breaks over the previous days to get a stage win

  4. Sad for Adam Yates who comes across as a top bloke and talented guy. He’s missing a bit which may be due to his illness before the tour. He can hold his head up high with his performance – totally isolated but got the yellow due to his gutsy attack on Stage 2.

    I thought Roglic would win, I put money on him and he’s going to unless Pog packs a rocket on the TT.
    I can’t get excited any GC people apart from Rog and Pog. Porte in 4th? So what, still a small return after 4 years at BMC and Trek.

    As for Sagan, he must feel like shit. Gets top billing but can’t compete. How does he feel about the Giro? I’m sure he just wants to take a break…. Perhaps its just too much fame, money and marital issues for a decade. I’m sure it would wear me down. The £16K medals are pathetic and I wonder if he’s really lost his hunger and focus.

    • I think yates is just where he belongs. among the world class climbers one of the few of the thousands of competitive cyclists who can stay close to the top and can follow almost to the end or sometimes even win amongst the very best gc guys. He is just not really much better than the other 10-20 riders in the world who can do about the same.

  5. I can not understand the point of a gravel section in a three week race. All that work over 18 days being able to be undone as a result of a puncture. It is just so random.
    I am old enough to remember when many of our races were held on unsealed roads and how happy we were when tar seal became the norm.

    • Riding over gravel isn’t the same as riding over a bunch of tacks, despite what a number of tv commentators might suggest – it’s not actually that easy or common to puncture on gravel, though it does reward those who are skilled at riding on it, being light & loose on the bike, and riding at the front to take a clear line.
      Personally I’d like to see more of it in the Tour and other races, to help reward skilled bike riding rather than just w/kg…

        • Fewer than I’d have liked, as there’s not many races in the UK with gravel roads.
          But I’ve ridden thousands of kms on gravel on a road bike, in various countries, often in groups at race speeds, so I’m pretty familiar with the concept 😉

    • Including a gravel section makes choice of equipment a factor. Do you opt to add some tubeless sealant to your tires, or use heavier, less fast rolling tires in order to minimize the risk of a puncture? Or do you choose the fastest gear and hope for the best?

    • It’s no more random than having cobbles on stage 4. It’s not 18 days of work – riders will have spent months preparing for the race, and to have all that unpicked as a result of something outside your control must be pretty hard on them at whatever point in the race it happens, and whether it’s due to puncturing on gravel or cobbles, or being caught by a crash, or a random mechanical when Bora are tearing the race apart. But that’s racing.

  6. Free Van Aert! Free Kuss! Free Dumoulin! It would be incredible if riders of this level continue to ride as domestiques, especially when half the teams in this Tour don’t have a decent GC contender, and should definitely have one. The logic that lumps many top-10 riders in one team has to be broken. Van Aert is especially important: if next year’s TdF has enough flat TT (optimally also before the mountains), and time bonuses are substantial Van Aert can go for the overall. That would force the pure climbers to attack, really attack, all-out.

    • For Van Aert to realistically challenge for GC I think you’d need a late 70’s Giro made for Moser/Saronni style Tour. We’d be talking about 150km of flat TT, 30 seconds bonus on the line and no steep summit finishes. I’m not saying he’s not a great rider, because obviously he is, but I don’t see him challenging for GC no matter who he rides for. A more realistic shout would be winning all 5 monuments. Sanremo’s already in the bag, Flanders and Roubaix are well within his skillset and on the basis of his climbing on this Tour so is Liege. They just need to get rid of the Sormano from Lombardia and it’d be game on. Mind you, all this could be true for Van der Poel too.

      • Bring on the Spring Classics 2021 when Remco Evenepoel could be back…
        Those three will be everyone’s top pick.
        If we’re over this thing, and the sponsors too, it could be a golden era.

    • How good has Kuss been ? Maybe his performance hasn’t been talked about that much because of Van Aert . I’d love to see him riding for himself as I’m not sure what his potential actually is .

      • There’s an interview/article about Kuss on velonews where he talks about his GC prospects. He says he doesn’t really see it…“I don’t know. I don’t think it’s for me,” Kuss said when asked by VeloNews. “If one year there is a course with tons of high altitude climbs and no time trials, maybe I can go for it.”
        But who knows.

      • The whole cycling following world seems occupied with what van Aert and to a lesser extent Kuss *should* do.
        – Dumoulin could have been this years’ JV GC contender, if he had proved that on the road, but he did not. He’ll have his chance again – they do not have him under contract to be a domestique.
        – Kuss has stated himself he does not see himself riding for GC. Also, his timetrial is an unknown, which probably means it’s not brilliant.
        – Van Aert is in absolute top shape and has invented himself as a climber. He and his team / trainer have been realistic though: Maybe he could contest a stage race, but it will first be a one week race. Also, he has no potential left to get any leaner and stay healthy /strong. The amount of work he has done this tour is undeniable, but to be able to contest the GC both mentally and physically, is another ballgame.

        • Want to see Kuss go all out in the TT so We have an idea how He performs on TT’s.
          With that climb, it should suit Him also…

  7. Yeah I mean it’s nonsense. People made the same complaint every year with Sky and their domestiques never magically turned into true GC threats when they went elsewhere. Kuss is 26 and has never shown the remotest indication of ability to be a GC leader. And WVA, I mean Richard has it exactly. It’s a fantasy barring course design which will never happen for many reasons. G turned himself inside out to become a serious GC contender and WVA has what, 4″ and 15-20 lbs on him? People made the same speculation about Sagan when he was younger and a bit climbier than he is now, and WVA is obviously a better climber than Sagan ever was but it’s just as much a fantasy.

    And, when was ever there a year – in any Grand Tour – when even half the team had serious GC contenders? There’s always 4-5 real contenders, if that, then a tier below of guys who hang around and very occasionally win if everything breaks their way i.e. Carlos Sastre, currently represented by Rigo Uran etc.

    • I’m not sure how exactly you define a true GC threat but if former domestiques are finishing in the top 10 on GC then surely they should be team leaders and not helpers for somebody else . I’m talking about guys like Landa and Porte .

    • I think there’s always this idea, especially with those new to cycling, that you’d like your favourite rider to win the Tour de France, rather than those that are most suited to doing so.
      Personally I think Kuss will be leading a one week stage tour soon and winning it. The next step will be a GT. But the suggestion of it would probably be met with the words “over my dead body” by Dumoulin and Kruisjwijk.

      • He’s free to leave to another team. We can all name riders who have left a strong team to try and win a grand tour or make the podium for themselves. Outwardly we see plenty of failed bids but contenders become millionaires if it doesn’t work out and there comes a point in a career when riders, especially past 30 will opt for this.

    • No less than 3 former Sky domestiques are contesting this year’s podium. As for Van Aert, I maintain that, with this year’s level (and no less body weight), over a 1984 kind of course (more than 100km of flat TT, plenty of bonified sprints), if the mountain passes are climbed like they are these days, he can win, not to mention a podium or a glorious top-10. (Probably the same, more or less, can be said of Mathieu). Anyway, it would make for great racing, and I’d love to see it.

      • WvA has said on record that he doesn’t want Grand Tour wins – he’s built, and has the attitude for, one-day races. I want to see him race Roubaix, Flanders, before I want to see him contest for a Tour, Giro or Vuelta. He’s been amazing in this race, his adaptability and recovery is extraordinary, but we shouldn’t forget what he WANTS to do.

  8. Anyone know yet what Richie said to E Mas when he got back on the bunch. Kudos to Rog & Pog for shutting down to let the little Aussie battler back on. Would have been a travesty if that idiotic gravel section cost Richie the podium

    • Crevaisons can and do occur at the most unfortunate moments on paved roads, too, and even on the smoothest fresh high-quality asphalt.
      I won’t go into an argument that if you puncture on gravel you first have to ask yourself whether the line you took was the culprit rather than the rock you hit, but I must ask how many other riders suffered punctures yesterday on that 1.8 long stretch of gravel? If not too many, then it cannot have been such an insanely perilous section, can it?

      PS I don’t think the gravel section was included for its sake, in other words, it wasn’t a case of “We gotta have some gravel” but “If we want Plateau des Glières, we can’t avoid a stretch of gravel”.

      • A mate of mine was there as a spectator and he had a chance to ride the gravel road. In his opinion it was better, i.e. smoother than he’d expected. (He had read the Inner Ring’s description and seen pictures.)
        Could it be indeed so that road maintenance has made some difference between 2018 (or 2017 when our excellent blog host rode it) and this year’s Tour stage?

      • If they can build a 3km bike path up to Col de la Loze surely they can seal the 1800m of gravel across Glieres. Or maybe a compulsory change to gravel bikes for that section, just to be fair for all. 3 weeks hard slog too easily undone by bad luck on a bingo bit gravel.

    • Trek should have had at least 2 people alone the 2 km section with wheels. They didn’t seem to have any which is poor planning. I didn’t see anybody fall off or even really struggle to stay upright. You can get a puncture anywhere and when the race is on at the end of the stage it’s on.
      Gravel – super steep slopes are a reality of racing these days. Its the only way to separate the riders.
      That said. I was really happy Richie got back on.

  9. Born under a bad sign – I like your taste in music, sir.
    On another note: The regulations state that each rider must race his (or hers) chances and we saw nothing on that on the line yesterday. I have – in vain – tried to find the communique, do you by any chance have the opportunity to see and read it; were they fined for not racing to the line? (I would assume so, a symbolic fine at least)

      • That was fast! Thank you for clearing that up.
        I have seen it before and the DS’ know of this, of course, so I don’t understand why they not even pretend to defend their chances. It’s their choice anyway, of course, but it looks strange – but understandable, being team mates.

  10. God, how about Lukas Pöstlberger eating a wasp and going anaphylactic? What a way to leave a Tour de France–and a potentially terrifying one. (I wonder if they have epi kits in the medical car.)

    • Yes to the kits in the car, I’ve seen a list of the medical kit they carry a couple of years ago and it’s comprehensive, it looks they can perform almost any field medicine if needed, there’s more than ice spray and paracetamol. There’s also more than one car plus an ambulance with the broom wagon ready at all times too.

      • That’s good to know. They clearly had the goods when Froome wiped out last summer, though that was a local ambulance, if I recall.

        Back in my youth I was an Outward Bound instructor and watched a fellow instructor drop like a stone after a bee sting. Or so it seemed. The epi kit was a literal lifesaver, and it was kind of miraculous to watch its effects.

        (They should put a shrink in the medical car as well–I could see dropping back for a quick session after a frustrating mechanical or after being yelled at by Tony Martin.)

    • No comment on 2017 – other than that although we cannot know what would’ve happened after stage 4 it is indeed likely that it would’ve taken a ton of bad luck, an injury or illness, to steal the green jersey away from Sagan.
      But this year: the relegation cost Sagan the 30 points, the penalty cost him 13 points and Bennett gained 10 points. Bennett would still be the one wearing the green jersey on Sunday morning; I don’t think we can assume that the racing would’ve been different (if Sagan’s second place had stood) and the outcome of stages and intermediate sprints therefore more in his favour.

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