A stage for the sprinters, the last chance for them before three days in the hills and mountains.
Tasting notes: a breakaway containing Anthony Perez who took the mountains jersey, a small revenge as in the last Tour de France he was due to collect the jersey too after scoring points but crashed and had to abandon the race before he could get the day’s reward. Fellow escapee Julien Bernard, almost a local, lasted the longest from the breakaway but several teams were interested in the stage win and joined Jumbo-Visma in the chase. Descending Mont Brouilly for the second time Tao Geoghegan Hart and David Gaudu crashed, the Londoner abandoning the race while Gaudu made it back thanks to Bruno Armirail’s efforts. After some skirmishes on the lower slopes, Primož Roglič was the best of the bunch with a long finish, attacking with 3km to go to rustle the final intermediate sprint and staying away for the stage win. Roglič was only 12 seconds ahead of the chasers at the line but with time bonuses added on, he gained 25 seconds and now has 35 seconds lead on Max Schachmann. Game over for the GC? He’s climbing faster and has the strongest team so we’re now at the “anything can happen” stage, journalese for only a surprise or shock can change things. His rivals might start looking at each other thinking of the podium.
The Route: 200km south down the Rhone valley – with views of Mont Ventoux later – to Bollène, last host to a stage of Paris-Nice in 1971 and every time the race visited before a sprinter won. The Rhone valley rhymes with wind but not today, it should be a calm one. Instead the difficulty comes with a loop at the end, it climbs a little to the last intermediate sprint with 16km to go and then there’s a right turn onto a small road for the next 8km downhill. This detour won’t terrify the sprinters, it just makes things harder for them.
The Finish: a pinch-point in an underpass with 5km go to, then a roundabout where it’s quicker on the right. The final 4km are fast, flat and on a big road. There’s a roundabout just before the flamme rouge and again it’s quicker to take on the right side.
The Contenders: no easy pick today, several sprinters look promising but there’s no hierarchy yet. Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-Quickstep) gets another go and his leadout should help him again here, he’s the safe pick. Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) has the strong train for a big finish like this and he’s often better in long, predictable finishes too but less consistent at the moment, the same for Cees Bol (DSM). Pascal Ackermann (Bora-Hansgrohe) is still a touch short of form – bad weather at home before the UAE Tour meant he missed some training sessions – and Alexander Kristoff (UAE Emirates) could be there too.
|Cees Bol, Arnaud Démare
|Pedersen, Kristoff, Ackermann
Weather: getting warmer, 15°C and apparently no wind but a slight tailwind for the finish. Update: it’ll be windier with a stiff headwind at the start but will drop later on. There’s still an exposed section on after the second intermediate sprint.
TV: the finish is forecast for 4.00pm CET. It’s on France 3 for locals and VPN users, or Eurosport/GCN for most of the rest of the world and NBC Sports Gold in the US. For channel hoppers Tirreno-Adriatico is due to end 10 minutes later but zap back and forth to see which race is ahead or behind schedule.
You might ask why races clash like this? Well because TV sets the agenda and if host broadcasters France Télévisions and RAI want a 4pm finish, a 4pm finish is what they get and they only have to cater to the home market who make up the bulk of the TV audience so don’t worry what happens elsewhere.