Tour de France Stage 8 Preview

The Pyrenees and short and intense stage with three climbs and a fast descent to the finish.

Hard Lavaur: the Vent d’autan? The tramontane? No, the Bora got up instead. The German team exploited the uphill start to leave rival sprinters tasting their breakfast a second time. At first it looked like they’d drive the pace to the intermediate sprint where Sagan took enough points to take a lead in the points competition but they kept going, and the dropped sprinters and their team mates threw in the towel. Further on past Castres there was just enough wind, plus the riders were tired enough from the long first phase of the stage, to split the front group apart. Mikel Landa, Ritchie Porte, Bauke Mollema and Tadej Pogačar were caught out and Richard Carapaz punctured, they all lost 81 seconds to the lead group of 42 riders, down but not out. Wout van Aert won a hectic sprint, probably as much a test of stamina as speed but such is his luck that he can win on the days he’s not supposed to, an ace of all trades. Bora did the hard work but Sagan couldn’t finish it off in Lavaur, a roundabout near the finish line had been removed but the temporary works were not exactly billiard table smooth and several riders dropped their chains. Sagan then appeared to wobble as he tried to get through a gap past Hugo Hofstter and only finished 13th to collect four more points and lead Sam Bennett by just nine points. The waning of powers or what he’s called “unluck” in the past? Either way, we have a contest for the green jersey.

The Route: just 141km and after a quick dash across the Comminges area via the intermediate sprint in Sengouagnet and then a scenic approach up the valley to the Col de Menté, listed as 6.9km at 8.1% but that skips the first part of the climb, there’s an extra kilometre at 10% to scale before a quick descent, then it’s all solid climbing at 8% but on a wide, regular road. The descent is fast and technical in places, famous for the Ocaña hairpin but with plenty of other moments.

There’s 20km across the plains to the Port de Balès, an upstart youngster of Pyrenean climbs, the top was only tarmacked in 2006, and in large part so that the Tour de France could cross, a long-held wish of the region’s sénateur. It’s the odd one out today, an irregular climb with constant changes in gradient, one minute 4%, the next 12% and so on.

The Peyresoude’s a big boulevard, it’s wide road and the steepest part is at the start, otherwise there are no surprises, lots of 7% to the top. There are 8-5-2 bonus seconds at the top. The descent is fast but this is the more technical side, it can reward skilled descenders.

The Finish: a slight drag to the flamme rouge and then it drops down, it’s flat in the final kilometre, there’s a small chicane with 300m to go and small as in not very pronounced rather than tight.

The Contenders: spin the wheel of fortune to work out who gets in the breakaway today. Often late in the race we see the same names again and again in the moves but we’re only a week in. So yes to Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) and Jesus Herrada (Cofidis) again but without much conviction right now. Who else to pick? They need to climb well but having a handy sprint helps for the finish. Max Schachmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) is still recovering from a broken collarbone and could be tired from yesterday but he’s the archetypal rider for today. Davide Formolo (UAE Emirates), L-L Sanchez (Astana) and Marc Hirschi (Sunweb) come to mind but the latter’s a doubt for the high mountains. Alessandro de Marchi (CCC), Dani Martinez (EF) and maybe Ben Hermans (Israel too). There’s also the mountains jersey up for grabs today, Benoît Cosnesfroy leads on 25 points but win one of the first category climbs plus the Port de Balès and a rider will collect 30 points. Among the riders who lost time yesterday, Bauke Mollema‘s (Trek-Segafredo) must be good for a late attack.

A big GC day? Hopefully but maybe not, the Port de Balès is a hard climb but the Peyresourde is a big boulevard that suits strong teams. Still Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quickstep) can try, he’s got the jump to take a small gap over the Peyresourde and the skills to turn this into more during the descent and Jumbo-Visma don’t need to close him down. Otherwise Primož Roglic (Jumbo-Visma) is the obvious choice. Tomorrow’s stage has the very steep Marie Blanque, if people don’t move today they will tomorrow but you wonder if Jumbo-Visma need to strike while their irons are hot right now and profit from both of this weekend’s stages.

Alaphilippe, Roglič
Formolo, Sanchez, Lutsenko, Herrada, de Marchi, Martinez, Hermans

Weather: a sunny day, 25°C and a slight crosswind for the first part across the plains, this should make a lively start a bit edgier still.

TV: live coverage from the start at 1.30pm CEST to the finish forecast around 5.15pm Euro time.

45 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 8 Preview”

    • It’s been obvious from the start that he’s the on-form all around rider, and if he made even token efforts at the intermediate sprints he’d already be far ahead. But he’s proven invaluable to TJV’s GC plans, and came in repeatedly asserting that he was riding for the team, with hopes of getting a shot at a stage or two.

      He’s never completed a grand tour, and while there’s no doubt he can do that with panache, the question is how much of a team asset he’d be in weeks two and especially three if he is repeatedly trying to gobble up points along the way. He could probably do it (green jersey and team duties), but is it worth the risk? And if he saves his energy and plays the team game, who is to say he won’t have a shot at another stage or two?

    • He’s third in the standings now but will have to start working for his team. He could theoretically win Stages 19, 20 and 21 to 120 points for a late surge but by then Sagan and others will have racked up more, especially by contesting the intermediate sprints. With two stage wins I think he’ll be happy to save energy where he can for the team. One unspoken thing is teams can pay a win bonus to riders, eg if a leader wins riders get a bonus and this sort of thing can incentivise too. No idea if it applies at Jumbo-Visma but you could see the benefits of aligning everyone this way.

      • Today’s stage makes me even more sure WvA won’t seriously go for green – Kuss was surprisingly dropped just before he was due to take his turn in the TJV mountain train, and Bennett is still nursing his injuries and wasn’t able to help either. If WvA hadn’t stepped in with an amazing display of mountain climbing, the team might have been in trouble.

        If Tom Dumoulin can sacrifice his yellow jersey chances for Roglic’s, then you can be sure van Aert is expected to do the same for any jersey hopes he might have.

        That said, if Sam Bennett drops out during one of the killer mountain stages, and Sagan continues to falter, and Roglic build up a substantial lead in GC, then maybe WvA goes after a few intermediate sprints. Tomorrow could be a day where he has a chance to get to the sprint with no real competition, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him nab some points there.

  1. I think Sagan was thankful of his face mask. He was utterly contemptuous of having to be asked about his dropped chain and understandably so. For his chain set to let him down at that moment is more than aggravating.

      • He’s going to win Green by default by grabbing all the intermediate sprints nobody is contesting on hilly days, whilst getting comprehensively out done by Van Aert.

        • Sagan has had years of the Tour’s points competition being stacked against him in all manner of creative ways, and has still endured.
          This year’s competition is no different, a dominant sprinter that can get over hills or van Aert would be tough to beat.
          I mused the other day about any green jersey ambition that van Aert may hold; I’m not sure that it’s compatible with a double-pronged GC attack too, and that he may have to switch teams if he were to properly chase green.
          But if Sagan uses the intermediates to triumph this time round, so what? Payback for having the competition rigged against him many times over I say.
          (Although I admit I write as Secretary to the Peter Sagan Fan Club, NW England Branch). 😀

      • It also has given everyone an excuse not to discuss his barge into Hofstetter. He didn’t wobble in that finish he went clear across the road into Hofstetter. He was lucky not to crash and Hofstetter was lucky not to crash. If that had happened at the front of the sprint then some penalty would have been applied. It still should have been.

        • My impression was that just before he bumped Hofstetter his chain had slipped, causing him to lose balance. I’ve never seen Sagan make such an inept, almost out of control move, as he had an opening ahead and going into Hofstetter instead of forward served no purpose.

    • I’m finding it sad watching Sagan, not for his form, but because he seems to hate being there, trapped by money and expectations. I wish he’d take some time off or change teams or something.

      Then there’s the more entertaining show of Alaphilippe still on great form, but obviously frustrated at no longer being the star of the show.

  2. Felt a bit sorry for Landa yesterday. He’d almost done it, almost got to the mountainous part of a GT without losing time. It wasn’t even his fault this time either. Trek must be kicking themselves a bit, it looked like they had most of their team caught out.

  3. No proper breakaway and ending in a bunch sprint, another boring stage at the Tour!

    Today has many imponderables. The roads after the start are fairly narrow which makes a big break less likely. Will Bora and DQS want to fight it out for the intermediate sprint? If a decent break does go which team will want to chase it down?

    There has been some talk of trying to wear down JV to isolate Primoz Roglic and Tom Dumoulin so Julian Alaphilippe / Adam Yates / Thibaut Pinot can ride away to glory. That sounds a bit too much fantasy bike racing to me. More likely is a steady but high pace set by JV or Ineos. If a break does get the bonus seconds then there might be an attempt to grab a couple of seconds on the descent though clearly if the break is caught that will completely change the calculations. I suspect more likely today will be part of a strategy of attrition with little apparent change on the GC. Tomorrow’s stage with the climb of the Marie Blanque or Sunday week on the Colombier might be more likely GC showdowns.

  4. Yet we often see the same people caught out. Not everyone can be at the front but why are some teams better at exploiting certain conditions. Three ineos riders lit up that final section. But those who were profited were up there too. Mechanical issues are the nightmare scenario though.

  5. Super work by Connor Swift in getting – and keeping – Quintana in the front group. Some super footage of them embracing at the finish, Quintana all smiles and looking wholly different to the demeanour he presented in those final Movistar years. Starting to believe in him.

    • Swift and Quintana are interesting, they can’t talk to each other as neither speaks the other’s language and they’re both learning French but mid-race they work well together. Swift impressed in Paris-Nice, booked his place in the Tour with good riding then.

  6. Anyone have any idea whats happened to “Larry T”. I know the TdF is not as good a race as his beloved Giro 🙂 but his rather idiosyncratic view of cycling was always interesting even if I rarely agreed with his point of view.

  7. I bet Thomas De Gent will attack today. He showed yesterday thats he’s the same guy as every year. He should be mentioned… I also think Mitchelton-Scott would send a guy in a breakaway if there is, and Nieve is my guess. I totally agree om De Marchi and Hermans.

  8. The helicopter shots showing 3 or 4 Ineos riders at the front of the peloton with Adam Yates in yellow just behind them made me wonder if I had a premonition of next season. For a rider that usually rides at the back of the peloton I thought Yates was impressive yesterday.

  9. Hearing Caleb Ewan say in the morning that there was a giod chance that the breakaway made it to the finish meant that the riders had become sensitive of its need to deliver more unpredictable racing. Good. Fine stage yesterday.

  10. Two scintillating stages in a row. This was fun! So many stories and sub-stories to watch unfold and then process and debate. I’ll pass over the obvious big stories (Pinot blowup, Ala attack/implosion), to note a few things I enjoyed or was surprised by.
    – Nairoman really seems to be back. Loving this.
    – Kuss couldn’t do his mountain pull. Overcooked from previous days? Not eating/hydrating properly?
    – WvA filling in for Kuss. Incredible. (yes, I know, it was TD who really filled in for Kuss)
    – Bardet took a tumble, got back into the lead group, and then made a nice attack. Yes, only two seconds gained, but nice to see him riding with panache.
    – Impressed by how selfless Dumoulin was.
    – Always fun to see a French rider take a breakaway win, and Peters’ had a hell of a ride.

    • I’d agree with your list, to be sure and assessment; I would add:
      –perhaps the GC is more wide open than many have thought.
      –did JV pay for its tactics on Friday?
      –is Adam Yates more exciting than I thought? Could he be (It’s hard to see past the glasses…)
      –is Bardet a serious contender? (I’d guess no…)
      –was Roglic unable to attack, as the Eurosport commentators wanted him to, or didn’t want to?
      –can Pogacar overcome his lost time in the echelons? (And can someone explain: how do teams repeatedly get caught out when the echelons form? Was UAE unprepared? Was it a simple mistake? Did Bora et al. execute their move perfectly? I was out of internet range for 4 days and missed the action…)
      –will tomorrow be a day of attacking or will people hold their fire before the rest day?

      • I think the final stage ITT is the doom of Bardet, though I suspect he will not be in the top 5 already. I also think the knee injury from yesterday will hamper him more today than it did yesterday. If he does well today, then there’s reason to hope he’ll continue to be competitive.

        I forgot to mention that I’m also glad to see Uran looking spunky. He could be a threat for a top 5 finish.

        As for Pogacar, Bora did the initial move and drove things the majority of the race. It was Ineos who kicked off the madness when they hit the winds, and UAE indeed wasn’t in good position and ready for it. I believe the roads were somewhat narrow there, and so if you weren’t in the front eschelon you were quickly in serious trouble.

  11. Watching the narrow corridor of humanity on the final slopes can’t help thinking about the clouds of “droplets” the riders would have been deeply inhaling on the edge of the red zone. Cannot be the best idea during a pandemic.

  12. Wout van Aert is nothing short of amazing, especially after a potential career ending injury a little over a year ago. The true allrounder, thoughtful interview and team player. What can’t he do?

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