Tour de France Stage 7 Preview

A likely sprint stage but watch out for the wind, the forecast says a breeze for the course but they’ll be stronger gusts not far away from the route so if things change just a touch it might be worth tuning in for the final 90 minutes rather than just the sprint at the end.

Mount Equal: Rémi Cavagna, Greg Van Avermaet, Alexey Lutsenko, Jesus Herrada, Daniel Oss, Neilson Powless, Nicolas Roche and Edvald Boasson Hagen (NTT) made the break, arguably the best part of the stage as they dangled off the front of the bunch at 10-15s for a long time. You wondered what Oss, Cavagna and Boasson Hagen were doing on a stage that finished atop Mont Aigoual? What they were doing is towing the group clear and if it the finish wasn’t for them maybe Lutsenko would not have won the stage without their generous efforts. Gravity, that mysterious certainty, applied on the Col de la Lusette and Lutsenko was the strongest and went solo over the top to take his first Tour stage win. After swapping karate for cycling he’s been Astana’s central project, perhaps even the team’s raison d’être for several years now to the point it’s surprising he’s still just 27 years old, he rode the Tour de France for the first time aged 20 and if it wasn’t for Covid-19 he could be the Olympic champion already.

Lower down Ineos set the pace but it wasn’t fierce, few riders were being dropped and it was less a yellow jersey group and more a peloton: more than 50 riders were together at the pass after long double-digit gradients. Everyone watching would have liked to see a race but it didn’t happen’ it’s surprising others didn’t up the pace a touch because riders like Emanuel Buchmann and Thibaut Pinot are still nursing injuries and there was a chance to see if the could be ejected and eliminated from the overall classification.

The Route: a start in Millau and a ride past the famous viaduct and then straight into a climb where if a couple of riders want to press the pedals they’ll get a day release ticket. The Col de Peyronnenc looks serious on the profile but it’s a gentle 3-4% all the way. After 120km the race has flat roads but it’s here that the race is most exposed to the wind, the roads are straight and often shaded by plane trees but exposed.

The final 33km are all on the same road, it rises and falls in places but otherwise has long straight sections and it’s exposed to the wind but the forecast looks like it’ll be calm but it doesn’t take much for the local Vent d’autan to get up around here.

The Finish: a dragstrip finish, a slight downhill run into town and then it rises to the flamme rouge but only just.

The Contenders: a likely sprint finish and the names get sprinkled into the same box below. Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Soudal) was off the pace in Privas the other day but still looks like the safest pick. Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quickstep) is close each time too while Cees Bol (Sunweb) would have won a stage were it not for Wout van Aert being allowed to race for himself. Even if Wout van Aert is on team duty today he might still have a chance if things split up in the crosswinds and he’s towed his Jumbo-Visma team mates to the first group.

Caleb Ewan, Sam Bennett
Cees Bol
Kristoff, Nizzolo, Sagan, WvA

Weather: hot and sunny, 31°C and a tailwind for the finish. It can be windy in the area but checking five forecast models for the race, three say it’ll be calm in the region, one says the Vent d’Autan will rise a little and the fifth predicts aggressive crosswinds but the route will only just touch the windy zone.

TV: live coverage from the start at 1.25 CEST to the finish forecast around 5.30pm Euro time.

46 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 7 Preview”

  1. Yesterday was a bit of an anticlimax as far as the race for GC. You know the yellow jersey group isn’t going fast when GVA is maintaining a gap on them up a Cat. 1 climb.

    • There was no impetus to take yellow by the big teams at this stage, and that last 13km made riders fear the extra effort to escape could be chewed up by a group of drafting riders.
      That breakaway was also the perfect formula to dissuade other riders from exerting effort as they soaked up the points and time bonuses.
      It’s a shame that the competition within that group wasn’t a bit stronger to make a spectacle of the finish.
      Another damp squib on FS Tour de France 2020.
      Is it the route, or the riders?

      • Seems to be a bit of both. The early mountains basically have the riders racing conservatively. It’s about not losing time rather than gaining it. Sure we have a notional leader but all the main guys are so close as to be effectively on the same time. Increasingly on the tour it seems that whatever the route there’s a few key stages teams target for GC and actually race. Everything else is basically ridden in survival, get round without crashing mode.

      • I think yesterday was definitely the parcours. That finish made any attack an exercise in pointless energy expenditure. I’m sure it would have been a different story if the finish was at the top of the Lusette or even, as you say, if the bonus points were still in play

        • I think it is more indicative of the timing in the race. Stage 4 of the 2017 Giro up Etna was similarly uneventful.

          In the top 20 there are 6 previous grand tour winners, 15* riders who have finished on the podium of a grand tour and 19 of them have finished in the top 5 of a grand tour before. The point being that there are still a lot of people looking fresh and in contention that have managed to hold it together for three weeks previously.

          *Mollema included, although he never actually stood on the podium

      • It’s strange but when we all saw the route announced we thought it was unusual with mountains all over the place but on closer inspection, they haven’t really played a part in GC, Stage 1 the climbs were all too early, Stage 4 the climb was too easy and yesterday the route after the CAT1 was too easy also. It’s not until a week on Sunday that we know for sure there will be a GC stage then after that, there is only Stage 17 then the time trial. Just to be clear I’m not complaining as I enjoy the breakaway stages as well.

        • I’d be complaining if we don’t get GC battles till a week Sunday!

          I agree that there is a chance we might not even get GC battles this weekend with both finishing downhill.

          What they seem to have forgotten this year is that it isn’t mountains that make the early part of the tour exciting. The first week gets action and excitement for a number of reasons – a TTT or ITT (splits GC up a bit), a classics style stage like a finish up the Mur de Bretagne, cobbles, a few unlikely yellow jerseys et

          What we’ve got this year is GC boys near or in yellow with no one really able/or wanting to chase it.

          I blame the route and not the riders. It’s so one dimensional including the ITT.

          I hope I’m proved wrong and this week has softened riders up and makes for unpredictable and fluid racing later on. But I can’t see it

        • Well, there are things the organizers could not plan for: weather, wind and corona.
          I think, although it might have not planned out like they have wished, it is still within expectation. GC is still close, nobody wants the GC more or less to be already set half way to the first rest day.
          And the so called “missing-action” as some are complaining, I fear it is an amalgam of bad weather conditions and corona. I think the organizers had hoped of a bit more GC action between some outsiders because the favourites would know they could pull back that time in the third week, but since nobody knows if the Tour will end in Paris the GC is in lock down. Also, if not for the rain on stage one, I think, it still would have been a sprint finish, but definitely more action along the way. Also, yesterday’s stage probably worked out mostly as they have wished. Breakaway action in the front, and a probable GC behind. I guess because of the wind and GC stalemate there were no attacks over the Lusette and Alaphilippe left his attack on Yates to the very last.

          • It always makes me smile when people say ‘the GC is close’ as a way of defending a dull route or uninspired racing. There was that year when Uran was 50 seconds behind Froome by the end, and Bardet not much further. You’d look at that in 20 years and think ‘wow, great race. It must have been like Lemond and Fignon all over again’, when in actual fact neither ever looked like winning. At the start of the race there are no gaps on GC. If you don’t hold the race at all there are no gaps on GC. No gaps on GC is a sign that nothing has happened. You want gaps on GC. If somebody is in the lead then they have done something to get there. If somebody is behind then they have to do something about it to get it back.

          • @Richard S
            I do not see myself defending the route in particular, just pondering what the motivation for the course was and how the organizers might assess its result so far.

            But what to do? Ppl complain about a snore fest if the first week is sprint finish heavy, complain if some climbs are thrown in…

            I totally agree about the uninspired racing, which as stated I believe is down to corona and the possible premature finishing of the Tour. Or at least making it worse…And not the course design.

    • I think everybody went into the stage with a plan to react to the aggression of others. But nobody blinked and nothing happened.
      Even aru going up the road. It seemed like a wildcard to put someone up the road in case his teamate needed assistance after the fireworks started.

  2. It makes you wonder if there is any point having all these climbs in the first week if nobody is going to race up them. I might be on my own on this but I’d much rather watch 4 or 5 ‘Sprint Royale’s’ with all the heavyweight sprinters involved and the adrenaline flying at 65kmh than the GC guys soft pedalling up minor climbs saving energy while everyone rolls in at 15kmh. Maybe Jean-Marie LeBlanc knew what it was all about after all.
    I quite like Lutsenko as a rider, it’d be good to see him pick up a Liege or something one day. He’s got quite an odd, jerky pedalling style though.

    • Indeed, Vino may know more than anyone else alive about ways to improve one’s chances at Liege. Iglinsky’s 2012 Liege win must be one of the most dubious monument wins of the last decade, and it’s still too soon for inrng’s joke about the 2012 Olympic race, if you ask me. Don’t believe any conspiracies about it, just wasn’t amused. Vino was a special rider though, I don’t think Lutsenko is in his class.

  3. Have a feeling, Ineos is trying to repeat Finestere.

    There’s a lot of similarity to Giro 2018. Bernal not as strong early in the race, can’t really rely on the final time trial. I guss what Ineos needs is a huge multi mountain stage, with a big mountain quite far away out. They will blast away all the helpers on that climb and launch Bernal.

    Part of me wonder what would have happened if Yates didn’t break in 2018. Would Froome be able to go all the way to the end? Would chase have more fire power? At least, Nieve would still be there.

    • How to isolate e.g. Roglic from Dumoulin or vice versa though? Possibly the race will need multiple teams still fighting for yellow in stages 15-18, so that JV are left unable to mark everything at once.

      • There is a good chance they can’t and that may make all the differences (Close but not quite as favourable to chasers as if Yates was still there in 2018).

    • Sorry but I can’t agree with that. Froome went into that Giro with the aim of peaking later on but then he had a couple of crashes that set him back so much that the Finestre move was a death or glory approach, although he took most of his time on descents rather than the climbs

  4. I’ve heard some commentary that yesterday was a show of strength by Ineos, but, as Mr Ring says, they barely dropped a domestique. It looked a bit pointless and that, tactically, they’re having trouble adjusting to their non-dominant status. Brailsford said before this Tour that they’d ride a strategically different race, but this was Ineos 101 just without the hurt.

    Still, probably doesn’t hurt to build some confidence and get the group feeling solid.

    • There are interviews saying they feel safer and could save more energy by riding slow on the front due to the bad road surface and technical nature of the course.

  5. Van Aert as an inter-echelon shuttle service? Well times are hard and work is work.
    Also I wouldn’t be surprised if some GC riders are left regretting their early-race conservatism by the time they get to Paris… there are known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns .

  6. Sagan is clearly a bit off the boil. Did he come in a bit undercooked with one eye on the Giro you think? He’s looking quite a bit slimmer than usual as well.

    • It appears to be a variety of things. He openly didn’t train hard during the lock-down. He seems to want to do well in his first Giro, which is weeks away. He seems disenchanted with his program, and I suspect now that he has the green jersey record he’d perhaps have rather targeted classics and the Giro, not the TdF/Giro double. Plus it’s unclear if he every really recovered 100% from his hard crash in the Tour. Finally, and I hate to mention his personal life, but his divorce seemed to pop what was for him a happy bubble of domestic life.

      Bottom line, it seems like he’s stumbling a bit both psychologically and physically, and to some extent just going through the motions. However, watching today’s stage (now with 124 km to go and nearing the intermediate sprint), his inner racer appears to have been awakened, and this is the most exciting beginning of a stage we’ve seen this year. It might all fizzle out by the end, but right now this is gripping.

  7. As ever thank for preview.
    I have a theory – Inoes rode at the front up the steep gnarly hill yesterday because Bernal isn’t race fit yet and they were scared of what JV could do if it kicked off!
    Remember a few years back the day that Sky rode at the front all day and then Froome lost 30s up the climb to a Pyrenean mountain air strip. I think Aru (remember him) took yellow. Later transpired Froome was on a bad day but they bluffed it and ‘only’ lost 30s that day and then won the tour.
    I wonder if it was the same yesterday?
    The pace was steady (lost time to the break) on a very dangerous climb if JV pulled the trigger and there were reports of Bernal telling Kwia to slow at the end of final climb when Ala attacked!
    Inoes banking on Bernal hitting form for the longer climbs of the 3rd week?

  8. Unfortunately, the sports directors, in their eagerness to super-optimize the tactics of the day, create a spectator-hostile scenario that repeats itself day after day in le Tour. Sorry but true. Only the nerds sit back in front of the TV screen and drool over the latest gear types and tubeless tires. Too bad le Tour has lost itself to the sporting directors /the roncadores…. Sorry your not racing anymore, guys… 🙂

  9. Bit surprised JV didn’t want to get a smaller group contesting the stage win and also test out the form of others. Would have expected Roglic to outsprint his competitors on that sort of finish for 10 seconds at the least.
    Hey ho.

  10. Haven’t tuned into today’s stage yet but would be surprised and honestly utterly disappointed if none of the GC contenders attacked on that small bump on the profile 5 kilometers or so from the line.

  11. what a stage, you really want to thank the riders for taking it easy on stage 5 so they could race hard on a day like today… honestly fans who complain about boring stages don’t realise that without those recovery stages you’d never get an awesome stage like today.

    Bora blew this thing up from the start, then the GC teams who were paying attention blew it up again in the cross winds. Would be great to see a big GC battle between Roglic, Martin, Bernal, Quintana, Bardet, Pinot, Uran, Dumolin, Lopez… I don’t know, but considering where the world was 2-4 months ago, I think this TdF is going to be a cracker and we’re very fortunate there is a race at all!

    Sorry to keep calling out the complainers, but they do their best to ruin Inrng’s forum – we’re so fortunate to have this medium to discuss and analyse the races, please keep your negativity to yourself.

  12. Didn’t have a chance to watch stage 7 yet but I see the result. It seems to me that, if he had a free rein to ride the Tour for himself, there’s no reason to think WvA couldn’t take the green jersey. He seems to have the requisite versatility – and has amply demonstrated that he can beat the sprinters on their own terrain.

    What an impressive rider.

  13. The day everyone attacked?

    Over egging it obviously but a wonderful day of racing. Felt for Sagan at the end – a moment of bad judgement compounded by a mechanical was a bitter end to a day of racing inspired by him and his team.

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