Tour de France Stage 13 Preview

A sprint stage on paper but beware the crosswinds today and there are some very awkward roads with little room to spare.

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Politt-esse: born into a cycling-crazy family, Nils Politt started racing from the age of 4 and racked up the wins on the road, track and cyclo-cross culminating in both the German U23 road race and time trial titles before turning pro. Like many, the wins just got harder in the pro ranks. Many might know him from the stage of Paris-Nice where he was outfoxed by Jerôme Cousin in a two-up breakaway; or the second place in Paris-Roubaix in 2019. Close and very promising but only a stage in the Deutschland Tour to show despite being a frequent presence at the front of the bunch in the classics and Tour with his trademark rictus. Now he’s got the big win.

The wind helped a frantic peloton was ripped to shreds at the start with both Ineos and UAE having riders caught out which probably meant a truce, nobody could test Pogačar’s team. Instead a group of 13 strongmen had barged clear and once the race turned into the shelter of the Ardèche gorge the wind dropped. All these riders knew they had a chance of winning a Tour stage but how to convert hope into reality? Nils Politt was the first to attack with 50km to go, it seemed very early but opened a flurry of moves.

You can make different attacks, from outright demonstrations of power to sneaky surprises and Harry Sweeny seemed to invent a new stealth more, the “ravito-bluff”, attacking while grabbing a mouthful of food. It worked, he was joined by Politt, Imanol Erviti and Stefan Küng. André Greipel chased but was he happy to see Politt away? Perhaps, they’ve both club mates with the Radsport Schmitter Köln. The four rode hard, exploiting the tailwind to get a gap. With a minute’s lead, Sweeny used the late climb to accelerate and test the others, this cracked Küng. Politt made a clever attack, dropping back a bike length to build up speed and attacking off to the right just as Sweeny was to the left of Erviti. The Basque is a diesel and didn’t jump immediately, Sweeny hesitated and with that Politt was free, his trademark rictus grin turning into a smile well before the flamme rouge as he celebrated.

The Route: a long day, 219km and a route that runs parallel, but well inland, to the Mediterranean coast. It’s a classic route with lots of roads shaded by plane trees and almost always exposed to the wind. There are some narrow, awkward sections. The first of these comes with the climb to Pic-Saint-Loup, a rough backroad by the eponymous vineyards. Then later after 160km through Minerve and the surrounding Minervois area come more difficult roads, a twisting road with several pinch-points over narrow bridges. The road opens up again for the approach to Carcassonne.

The Finish: the habitual route into town, the same finish as in 2018. It’s a flat finish on big boulevards alongside the Canal du Midi in Carcassonne. There’s a sweeping right hand bend under the flamme rouge and then a gentle left hand bend with 600m to go and the road rises a few metres to the line.

The Contenders: sprint or breakaway? Carcassonne is a regular on the Tour route but there’s never been a bunch sprint for the win. This is partly because there’s been a hilly approach, a time trial or the propensity in the past for a rider to attack late and get a win. Today’s relevant factors include few teams being up for a sprint and the risk of crosswinds.

Breakaway picks include Magnus Cort (EF Education-Nippo) who has won here before, Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo), Ivan Garcia Cortina (Movistar) and Oliver Naesen (Ag2r Citroën). DSM haven’t been very visible this Tour – they’re having a tough season so far – and Søren Kragh Andersen and Nils Eeekhoff can play the breakaway card if the team doesn’t have to back Cees Bol.

With the Pyrenees on the horizon, this is the last chance of a sprint before next Friday. So Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck-Quickstep) and a refreshed Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) are the obvious picks.

Wout van Aert, Mark Cavendish
Cort, Stuyven, Naesen, IGC, SKA, Asgreen, Philipsen, Bouhanni, Turgis

Weather: 27°C and sunny, a WNW wind at 20km/h but it could gust to 40km/h.

TV: the stage starts at 12.05pm and finish is forecast for 5.20pm CEST.

The 3km 3 second tangent: new today is that the 3km rule doesn’t apply, instead it’s at 4.5km to go and so before any of the city streets of Carcassonne. Why? It’s not obvious, yes there have been calls to extend the 3km rule (for a history and explainer of the rule see here) in the wake of crashes but the finish today is vanilla. Remember the rule only applies if there’s a crash or a mechanical, not a split. This means riders jostle to avoid a split… which increases the chance of a crash. But the rule has a purpose, it is a safety measure and no bad thing, especially when coupled with the three second rule. The problem is balance between safety and regulatory complication, that the sport risks being decided by small print rules that readers of niche blogs understand but the public – expecting the simplicity of timed race – doesn’t. Anyway today looks more like a logistical exercise in moving the 3km time measurement systems to 4.5km with an evening’s notice rather than a conceptual rethink.

69 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 13 Preview”

  1. It seems to me that the secondary sprinter teams (Alpecin, Bahrain, BEx) should accept that their sprinters cant beat Cav in a sprint and get someone in the breakaway. It seems so futile for especially Alpecin to chase down a breakaway hoping that Phillipsen might do what he hasn’t so far.

    • Will the someone in a breakaway have a better chance though?
      I would say that if one of your riders is a top 5 sprinter, this is quite big opportunity. Cofidis, Alpecin,DCQ and DSM should try to get a sprint in my opinion.

  2. IR, you are (as always) right about the Greipel/Pollitt connection. Andre revealed in interview that the ‘youngster’ was someone who he’d seen grow up – someone to whom he had given kit “to keep him warm in winter”… As to why he didn’t chase he offered the analysis that had he chased, no group of riders would have wanted to tow him to the finish… thus letting the wheel go was the sensible option.
    I’d like to think that Greipel had a chance of winning today’s sprint but Cavendish is just too strong ATM.

    • They are from different regions (Greipel from Rostock), Politt from Cologne area, but live close to each other in the Colgne area, where they have a training group together with Rick Zabel, Juri Hollmann (Movistar) and others… They have an instagram account for their group called “trainingstiere” (=training animals)

  3. The main challenger in a sprint against the greatest sprinter in the history of cycling is the guy who just won solo on Ventoux two days ago. It’s a funny old game.

    • Very true! But the unusual factor here is surely WVA’s climbing ability hung on the physique of a sprinter/rouleur.

      • Could be a bit controversial and say that Merckx won 33 stages also by winning sprints, mountain stages, breakaways and through sheer strength attacks.
        Or maybe it’s best just not to compare the palmares of two riders of different eras and types.
        It will be good when (not If) Cavendish gets his next stage. It makes him an outstanding sprinter.

          • When I hear or read “…greatest pure sprinter of all time,” I’m always thinking about what should be the rest of the sentence: “all time – meaning since I began paying attention to the sport” since that’s way-too-often the case.
            I remember a British bike mag feature “Greatest bicycles of all time.” in which they went back all of a couple decades 🙂

          • Maybe Freddy Maertens. He was as fast as any, as strong, but not as pure as Cavendish, Zabel and Cipollini. He could TT and roule too. He even won the Vuelta.

          • Larry I’ve been following the sport avidly since ’89 but was only born in ’74 so perhaps you can cut me some slack there! I’m no expert by any means but am an enthusiast for the history and culture of the sport since it began and have a half-decent library of texts so I could do without your pedantic assumptions cheers! I’d be more interested to hear what your definition of pure sprinter is and who if anyone you think is better and more successful than Cavendish, that would make the conversation more interesting for everyone I think.

          • If we just look at Grand Tour sprint wins (Wikipedia makes it easy that way 😉 ), Cavendish is at 33 Tour, 15 Giro and 3 Vuelta and Cipollini has 12 Tour, 42 Giro and 3 Vuelta. Unfortunately there wasn’t Grand Tour overlap between Cav and Cipo so we’ll never know head to head, though in their prime with their best leadout trains, that would have been fun to see.

            I’m not an expert about the competition (or if they were first week or last week wins) for Cipo’s 42 Giro wins, but those who are, how do the 42 Giro wins rank vs. 33 Tour wins?

  4. A dulling stage by congrats to Politt! A strong and aggressive rider who deserves a TdF stage on his palmares. Next a classic.

    Nice to see Harry Sweeney making a name for himself too. Apparently Phil Gil has taken this kid under his wing and you can see why – horse power, confidence and aggression. Maybe a little too much of those last two yesterday, but not bad for his first 6 months with the pros.

  5. At 1.92 m Politt is pretty tall for a cyclist.

    Are their any stats to indicate an optimal height range for a Tour winner?

    Does height have a bearing on what type of rider one naturally is – grimpeur, rouleur, etc?

    • For sure. It’s all watts/kilograms. That’s one of the things I love about cycling. There is a place for most athletic body types as long as you are physically gifted to start with.

      • But surely on the flat – and in yesterday’s breakaway, it’s the watts/air resistance ratio which counts with kg secondary. In climbing and when slower the importance of air resistance reduces and the watts/weight ratio becomes predominant.

        With no scientific study to support I have always thought that tall riders make natural rouleurs. Just look: Ganna, Cavagna, Kung, Dennis, Asgreen, Pollit…and Ray Booty. And yes, I know there are exceptions.

        • You can be shorter too, think Evenepoel, Porte etc. Generally it’s watts/CX, as in air resistance, on the flat and watts/kg for the hills but a matrix, or a trade-off. Riders can climb so fast that aerodynamics still matters, I think one advantage Egan Bernal has is he can climb while holding a low flat back position (but this might aggravate his injury problems). Being lighter on the flat is of less help but can mean the heart and lungs aren’t serving your shoulders arms etc, just the legs, plus there’s almost never a totally flat race, even on the track riders in a pursuit or points race are changing direction every few seconds so weight can count.

          Politt said in an article with the German press was that his secret is having (dis)proportionate very long limbs compared to others.

          • A quick calculate, and based on the mean heights in the top ten PCS climbers and TTers rankings:
            – Climbers: 1,773m
            – TTers: 1,836m
            The difference seems significant

      • Thanks.

        At 1.82 m and 78 kilos I’ve always been a rubbish climber and a more comfortable rouleur.

        And point taken about gravity replacing wind resistance as the main force to overcome when climbing. Hence there’s not much point in wheel sucking when climbing.

        • Unless the wind is blowing, not uncommon in the mountains after all. Anyway this discussion reminds me a lot of an interview with Jan-Willem Schip, the enigmatic track/road racer who is a little bit crazy about aerodynamics. He said that he got into aero-optimisation whence he had realised the the dash for free watts is pointless after all because racing is first and foremost about speed and better aero means free speed for the same amount of watts. Being stronger than your opponents only pays off if it also means being sooner at the finish. I guess it is not that simplistic in reality but it makes sense.

      • Watts/kilograms is all it is? Then why waste these three weeks racing around France? Set up the ergometers on the Champs along with a scale and hand out the yellow jersey! Or maybe Zwift? Thank gawd your attitude has not (yet anyway) taken over pro cycling.

    • When the wind is in your back and the road is flat, then it is absolute watts that counts – hence big guys who can push more watts ride away. Yesterday 4 big guys sailed away. If you’ve ever been riding races where echelons form often, you know how much these last few km/h means. As a powerful, but medium height guy I’ve often been at that second echelon just watching these big guys slowly, but surely pull away into the horizon. Sometimes a few smaller guys are there too, but they’re in top form then. I remember Higuita being in the Echelons in Paris-Nice alongside Pedersen, Kung, Sagan. Was a sight to behold!

    • Are you thinking the general classification winner?
      I think it is more complicated than previous commentators stated. Sure, it is all about W/kg in the mountains but then you have time trials, cold, windy stages… Small and light riders have the best W/kg (Pantani, Quintanta) but I think such riders also fare worse in falls. On the other hand, they say larger riders expend more energy which becomes problematic in grand tours.
      It also depends on the race. In the past, time trials were abundant. Today, time bonifications favour good sprinters (e.g. Roglič).

      Riders definitely shouldn’t have weaknesses (e.g. Bardet with TT, Roglič and many others fading in the third week, slow descending, riding skills, …)

      Anyway, I did some statistics for Tour and Giro. The average weight is 65±5 kg, the height is 178±6 cm and the BMI is 20.8±1. I am a bit surprised by the height since I was expecting 5 cm shorter riders.

  6. Just been looking around various weather forecast sites, which suggest a north westerly wind which is the right direction for splits but with a speed of 15km/h which is seems a bit low for any action. Maybe there will be some exposed spots on the route which might change things a bit. Even so DQS and any other teams with an interest had an fairly easy day yesterday (if any day on the Tour can be “easy”) so should have a bit more energy for chasing down breaks. The first few kms are likely to be critical, if a regulation no hope break goes it will make a sprint finish much more likely.

    Assuming a sprint Cav to equal the record!

  7. After stage 12

    56   Deceuninck–Quick-Step
    45 Alpecin–Fenix
    31   Team Jumbo–Visma
    31  Team Bahrain Victorious
    24  UAE Team Emirates
    19   Bora–Hansgrohe
    17  Trek–Segafredo
    17 Arkéa–Samsic
    14   Team BikeExchange
    12   Groupama–FDJ
    10  AG2R Citroën Team
    6  Astana–Premier Tech
    6   EF Education–Nippo
    6  Movistar Team
    5   Israel Start-Up Nation
    4   Lotto–Soudal
    3   Cofidis
    3 B&B Hotels p/b KTM
    2   Team DSM
    1  Ineos Grenadiers

    Over the last or so I’ve come to the belief that the Team competition doesn’t reflect the race. At present it is based on a team’s best 3 riders times for each stage. This leaves much of emphasis on the mountain stages. What I would prefer a points system that treats each stage equally regardless of whether the stage is a time trial, flat, intermediate, mountain or even a team time trial. The reason for this is that cycling is a team sport where the individual gets all the credit. I am thinking of a sprint train or a mountain train have the same effect in working for the teams objective of the day.

    I would love to see a points system based on the F1 during the 1990s. 1st -10pts, 2nd-6pts, 3rd-4pts, 4th-3pts, 5th-2pts & 6th-1pt. Each stage has the same points. It is only the top 6 positions because it puts the emphasis on finishing very well rather than just being consistent. Plus it follows the bonus seconds for the first 3 in each stage. I will try to update the list each day to show how it could work.
    This was inspired in part by Inrng’s take on team performance over the course of a year.

  8. Before someone follows the appallingly smug Boulting ( what has happened to him?) and points out that the imposing fortress of Carcassonne is ‘ actually a fake’, can I just say that Viollet -le -Duc’s restorations were mainly just that : restorations. The timber constructions which he added to give a better idea of the medieval fortifications, which have now been removed, were actually not a bad guess, judging from manuscript illustrations, at what would have been there during the Hundred Years War.

    The walls are extraordinary, there are successive courses of Roman and Visigothic masonry, rough-cast Early Medieval and regular jointed walls dating from the Albigensian crusade period. ( Simon de Montfort, father of the English rebel was brought here for burial in the church). So portraying Carcassonne as some sort of Victorian Disney castle is pretty annoying to those of us who are actually interested in the intricate history and heritage of this part of France.

    • I don’t know if this has been pointed out previously, but the city’s turbulent history gave rise to its name.

      After one attack, woman named Carcas mounted the battlements and sounded a bugle to signal the city’s victory. Hence Carcas sonne.

      Also worth point out that the English were used by the papacy to suppress the Cathars, and did so with extraordinary brutality, rape and pillage.

      • Except the “English” weren’t really English then, rather Franco-British. The nobility (who would have lead the fight -at least nominally) were culturally French with holdings on both sides of the channel (largely) and their feudal troops raised from wherever they had holdings – so also likely from Aquitaine rather than further over the channel, non?

        • Montfort was a son of a french knight and english – of norman origin, which probably still mattered – lady, daughter of the Earl of Leicester. (Therefore Montfort, famous for leading the bloody albigensian crusade, would become the Earl of Leicester while probably never actually been there – but his son, also born in Montfort located between Paris and Normandy, would lead the english second baronial rebellion.)

          The bulk of the crusaders probably originated in northern France rather than Aquitaine.

      • Nice story. But the name dates from the town in Gallic Narbonensis, in the Roman Empire, when it was called Carcaso. This seems to have a Gallic root ( it was not renamed by the Romans ), which ‘probably’ means rock.

        By the way, the main prosecutor, and indeed beneficiary, of the ‘Crusade’ was the the French crown, which was continuously pushing southwards from its heartland in the Île de France.

    • I think the controversy comes because it wasn’t restoration work as would be required today but instead they had free licence to rebuild things and so you have all the slate towers, as if imported from the Loire etc.

      • Yes. The point being that the current construction looks better than it ever was when it was used as a fortification. It’s current construction as a medieval wonderland is perfect, but not in an architectural/historical sense. It unfortunately robs people of the ability to see it as it truly was, beautiful as it now is. So you either have a misleading impression of what castles looked like, or you are left confused as to the veracity of your experience. Unfortunate. I guess it could be said to be the Tyrannosaurus Rex of castles…

    • To digress slightly, as the Tour heads towards South West France, the kingdom of Aquitaine was once part of England.
      The coming weekend sees the final of The Three Lions v Italy in the European Football Championship.
      But why Three Lions?
      “It started with Henry I, fourth son of Norman William the Conqueror, whose coat of arms featured a lion rampant on a red background.

      In 1121 he married Adeliza of Louvain, whose father also used a lion on his arms – so Henry adapted his one to include a pair of them.

      Then, in 1152, Henry I’s grandson Henry, Duke of Normandy married Eleanor of Aquitaine – whose family also had a lion on its crest. Young Henry himself became King Henry II of England in 1154 – founding the great Plantagenet dynasty

      It was their son Richard the Lionheart – famed for his exploits in the Crusades (he actually spent very little time in England, was once held for ransom by an Austrian and a German, and was killed by a Frenchman while besieging a castle) – who decided to combine all three lions to make up his arms.

      That symbol – three golden lions on a red background – to be exact, Gules, three lions passant guardant in pale or – went on to represent the kings of England until 1340, when Edward III added the lilies of the arms of France“ (

    • I was very disappointed on my visit to Carcassonne, I felt it was far too “Disney” rather like Neuschwanstein in Bavaria. To me it is no more than a pastiche of a medieval fortress / town. The history of that part of France is indeed fascinating. The ruins of Montsegur, which the race passes tomorrow, are far more interesting and real.

      • In fact, Carcassone’s fortification were very real, as stated by the o.p. It was indeed the scene of a albigensian crusade drama of Roger Trencavell and Simon de Montfort – the people of the city notwithstanding. Compare the fate of Carcassone to the fate of Beziers… “Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius.”

        Neuschwanstein is also real – a late 19th century gothic revival, but mainly a stuff of dreams of a bizarre bavarian king striving to materialize the world of late romantic wagnerian interpretation of medieval mythology. In a way, Neuschwanstein is more real than other period “castles” such as Windsor, Hluboka, Bojnice etc.

          • On the other hand, I turn up to read about cycling and got some interesting knowledge about castles and 100 year war, how great is that.

            Only our host can provide a platform to do this.

          • It is – and it’s mostly built during georgian and victotian period in pseudo-gothic style. It’s irrelevant who resides there or how foolish monarchy is. 😉

          • Well, the architecture style is not period appropriate.

            On the other hand, it is real history. It is how the monarchy (silly as most of them are. Though you do grow fond of the poor old lady over the years) decided to have their home look like rather than other people imagine what their home should look like.

            Even if Charles one day does decide to turn the castle into a Disney land to appease his grandson George, it is still real history. Both the architecture and the silliness would be real😉.

        • +1! Very much digging your grasp of medieval Franco-English history. Carcassone gets a bad rep from the British commentators for some reason, but very important events happened there, in particular (as you quite rightly point out) dramatic, tragic events from the Albigensian crusade.

          I just joined in to add that anyone with access to the BBC programming should keep an eye out for the Dan Cruickshank program on Mad King Ludwig and Neuschwanstein. Of course it is a neo-gothic bonkers construction, but to see how the architects accomplished that is quite incredible.

    • Not sure this is related.

      According to their podcast, Ned had a result bout of self-doubt and imposter syndrome. The remedy apparently is to wake up early in the morning, set a specific time so that the alarm disrupts his REM sleep so that he can remember his dreams. He would then need to write down the dream and have it dissected by a friend who knows him well.

      He decided to do this on live podcast for the whole period of the Giro each morning and the the dissecting part fell to David Miller. I am afraid David had taken the task a bit too enthusiastically and promptly grilled Boulting for his imposter syndrome for a total of 21 days (or at least the few episodes I listened to).

      I was questioning the validness of the treatment and having your REM sleep disrupted 21 days in a row can’t be good for you. But if Boulting is appallingly smug now then the treatment must have worked. Or he is just being extra British for today.

      • Apologies to Boulting. He repeated the Carcassonne slur this afternoon, but attributes it to Cav.
        Maybe not the greatest authority on Medieval architecture?

        • Ned Boulting: handed a job lots would die for, with no knowledge or love for cycling. He may have skills as a wordsmith but I find him incredibly dull, and if I haven’t made it obvious I resent him. He may have grasped the nettle with both hands, but I find listening to him like listening to a pretender; insufferable. People complain about Carlton Kirby, but I find him ten times worse. The main positives for the ITV are the laconic Gary Imlach, Chris Boardman and Daniel Friebe. David Miller can be insightful, but he sounds like a geeky fanboy with a rather overly heightened sense of self-regard and reference to cycling.
          I’ve just sat through their poor excuse for Tadej Pogacar’s extra-terrestrial performance so far which didn’t explain anything. Obfuscation seemed to be the name of the game. “I study mitochondria and so I’m an authority and I say he’s not doping” says his coach…please spare me.

  9. Bonjour mr. ring, can you elaborate a little on this passage: “Anyway today looks more like a logistical exercise in moving the 3km time measurement systems to 4.5km with an evening’s notice rather than a conceptual rethink.” Is there really a time-measurement at 3km, it doesn’t seem necessary because the 3km rule dictates that riders encountering an accident within the last 3km receive the same time as the riders who they were with at the moment of the mishap, the time when those riders pass the finish line that is. I think there is some confusion here?

    • I presume they have a time measurement system at 3km (or 4.5km) to identify who’s in each group. Otherwise they would have to scrutinise video, not so easy when 150+ riders are often whizzing past in a few seconds.

  10. +1 for “rictus”
    Even in the bunch from far away it is always easy to identify the yesterday’s winner: Katusha/ISN/Bora jersey with the whitest patch in the place of mouth.

  11. GC guys want a quiet day before the Pyrenees, so it all depends on how Cav feels – tired? The break wins. Up for the sprint? Then it’ll be a fast and furious finish. Maybe a small group sprint for the win – Van Aert or the return of the sprinter Colbrelli.

  12. If Cav is in a skin suit….he’s up for the sprint. If he is in a jersey and shorts…he’s going to have another quiet day.

        • I still remember my first visit to LeTour in 1988. I took a photo of 7/Eleven’s Raul Alcala’s jersey drying in the hotel window long before there were team trucks with washing machines inside. These daze it seems the riders just have to pedal the bike and (maybe) wipe their own a__ after using the toilet….someone else takes care of the rest.

  13. I’ll go with wielerflits: Asgreen

    I dont think Quickstep will control the race today. Yesterday Allaphilipe and Devenyns covered the breaks, assume duty is assigned to Asgreen and Ballerini today.

    WVA will be on Vingegaard duty…

    • Would love to see Ballerini get an opportunity. After a strong season last year and a very exciting start to this season he seems to be stalling a bit but being selected for the tour in this team must mean his legs are good no?

  14. Wonder if the crash-limit zone will be extended further…how about 62 kms? They showed an overhead shot just once where it looked like a lone rider managed to veer off and hit one of the plastic bollards marking the roadside to initiate the fiasco. Will they show it again, or just blame it on Sonny Colbrelli? 🙂

    • Watching the head on shots of the peloton in the last ~20km, Colbrelli does seem to have a hard time riding a straight line and appears to have a perpetual bike shimmy.

  15. I thought that was Pello Bilbao a guy I’ve nicknamed “The Wiggler”. He must wear out headset bearings at the same rate as the crankset’s. 🙂
    Meanwhile Colbrelli was looking good on the run-in today, then suddenly was left pounding on his handlebars in frustration, though the Manx Missile is looking pretty imperious these days…where was Matthews for example? Did he hit-the-deck back at 62 km?

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