Tour de France Stage 15 Preview

If Mont Ventoux was the Queen Stage, today is also mountain monarchy. Over 4,500m of vertical gain with a surprisingly tough start, lots of strength-sapping climbs and then the tricky Collada de Beixalis in the finish.

Bauke Knock-Out: a relentless start to the stage. One way to analyse stages is to break them down into different phases. The opening phase is where the race begins until the early break goes and things settle down. Sometimes this can last seconds, yesterday took hours. Eventuall y several groups merged into one and from this Bauke Mollema attacked them to go solo, a crafty move at the bottom of a descent when the others were hoping for a breather and a drink. Give Mollema ten seconds and he’s always hard to bring back, this time he quickly took 30 seconds and behind the group was too big to chase, for every worker there was a passenger. Mollema didn’t have to worry about tactics and stayed away for the win, but there was suspense until late, it was always possible that a climber could spring on the Col de Saint-Louis.

All that was missing were the GC contenders trading attacks on the final climb, this would have made it a contender for a highlight of the season. But they’re waiting for today, plus a proportion are hoping to stay put and defend their position rather than risk it. Guillaume Martin is up to second overall but only has a minute and half’s lead on the others and given he lost three minutes in the Laval time trial he’ll need to attack and take time to finish on the podium which is unlikely. So he’s caught in a sort of tactical nomansland, unable to get the space to attack for a stage win, unlikely to finish on the podium.

The Route: a big day, 191km and over 4,500m of vertical gain. A start in Céret, famous for cubism and the small bump in the profile at the start doesn’t have any categorised climbs but don’t be fooled, this will have plenty pedalling squares. The day opens with a proper climb from KM0 it’s 4-5%, a big ring climb but the difficulty is the way it twists up, it’ll line out the peloton and gaps open up. There’s a small break along the way before it kicks up again. It’s followed by a twisting descent on a narrow road for the best part of 18km but there are a couple of uphill sections along the way.

The difficulty for anyone dropped early is if the breakaway has not gone clear yet as the pace up the main valley road from here will continue to be high. But after the early climbing there are no more surprises, it’s all the kind of roads you could drive a team bus up until 25km to go. It’s up the Tet valley on a big main road and the mountains point is before Font Romeu and the Col de la Calvaire. The same for Puymorens and the Envalira, big, well-engineered roads and regular descents but watch for the wind, they’re open and it could blow today.

The decisive climb of the day should be the Collada de Beixalis. It familiar for all the peloton’s Andorra residents and more as it’s been in the Tour before, the last time was 2016, plus a staple of the Vuelta’s visits to the principality before. Listed as 6.4km at 8.5% these stats don’t it justice, nor do the 10.9% and 11.6% references on the graphic above. It has several muro moments between 14-17% and 22 hairpin bends which will line out any group left.

The Finish: a more regular descent than the climb up and down to the valley road with its tunnels before a quick tour around turn with two left hand bends in the final kilometre.

The Contenders: Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quickstep) had a day’s rest yesterday, as in he didn’t get in the winning breakaway. He’s a candidate for today but capable of winning big but he’s often a runner-up too. David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) didn’t have big GC ambitions but now he’s firmly a stage-hunter but today might be too soon. Dylan Teuns (Bahrain) can feature. Astana have been quiet and are all in for Lutsenko but Jakob Fuglsang can take his chance, ditto Ion Izagirre. Movistar aren’t even in the running for the team prize so a stage win close to Spain would be a consolation, can Miguel Angel Lopez make the break? Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) will want to score mountains points today but the long steady climbs suit him. Michael Woods (Israel) could try again or team mate Dan Martin could help mark Quintana for the points.

Tadej Pogačar (UAE Emirates) is an obvious pick but as ever his team are struggling to contain the race so if there’s a breakaway they’re unlikely to reel it in while rival teams are likely to hold back and let them burn themselves out. Richard Carapaz (Ineos) might not be able to win in an uphill finish but could try the descent.

Julian Alaphilippe, Dylan Teuns
Gaudu, Fuglsang, Izagirre, Quintana, Lopez, Woods, D Martin, Pogačar, Carapaz

Weather: hot and sunny, 30°C in the valleys and mild at altitude. It’ll be windyt

TV: the stage starts at 12.20pm and finish is forecast for 5.45pm CEST. Tune in for the start to watch the breakaway start and come back in time for the finish in Andorra.

66 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 15 Preview”

  1. I’m curious why JV are only weakly supporting Vingegaard for a podium — he’s the only rider who successfully took on Pog.

    • I don’t understand why everyone within 10min of the yellow jersey isn’t trying to get into a break and put proper pressure onto UAE,.who have no chance at containing the peloton for the entire race.

  2. There is some social media noise about Nacer Bouhani getting pulls from his team car during the Ventoux stage. There are images, its not just folk being racist or who dislike him (unfortunately he is not a very likeable character). He (along with Ces Bol) was very slow yesterday. Might be worth monitoring today as I guess the commissionaires will be keeping a very close eye.

    There seems to be a thought that Tadej Pogacar doesnt go so well in warmer weather, if so today is likely to be the only test of that. Forecast for latter in the week is not so warm and thundery showers.

  3. I don’t understand why so many on here think (for some unknown reason) that THEY have some fabulous insight they need to share about how the people who run these teams and those who actually ride the bikes can be so stupid tactically? Does this sport really look so easy on TV or are there video games that make it look that way? Zwift? How many of these keyboard DS’ have ever even pinned on a number and been in a bike race…at any level?
    I’m starting to get tired of Eurosport Italy’s commentary team wasting so much attention on social-media messages from them, or on “follower” numbers…to the point Ol’ Magrini gets so wound up he misses the action or calls the rider by the wrong name.
    OTOH, ya gotta love Wiggo on the moto. Eisel was just fine, but way too PC compared to Wiggo. He seemed to be a cranky drunk when commenting from home(?) but out-on-the-road he’s in-his-element, even if his moto driver won’t do what he wants. I love when he comes on…might be the only thing keeping me from switching to RAI TV’s Tour coverage.
    Vive LeTour:-)

    • Its all part of the enjoyment of watching bike racing. Of course we can all be better DS’s than those who have actually raced bikes and been at this for years. There is always Movistar whose tactics are beyond the comprehension of the world’s biggest supercomputer 🙂

      Wiggo is amusing, switching between berating his moto driver in French to shouting “Hallo mate” at some random person in a passing car or bike with the occasional strategic insight mixed in. Bernie Eisel was much calmer and perhaps a bit more informative and comprehensible!

      • Yeah Wiggins on the bike is great, clearly enjoying himself. I’m not keen on Eisel, he’s a bit bland if knowledgeable. I used to really like Juan Antonio Flecha when he had that role.

        • Always prefer the local coverage to where the race is being held. For France it’s Thomas Voeckler on the moto and he’s actually quite funny in his mannerisms and interactions with the main commentary team.
          Sporza of course for the Flanders Classics, when the director works closely with the info feeds to show you what Renat & co are talking about, as they are deciding what’s relevant and the motos are sent to get pics.
          Same for La Vuelta and Il Giro. Plus.. There’s no better way to learn the language you need for the important things in life.

        • Well, he speaks German and his job used to be babysitting Cav. What can you expect?

          Even when he was interviewing Cav, he managed to keep it pretty bland.

      • He was calling his driver useless on live TV. I was like, “are you sure this guy doesn’t speak English or know anyone that speaks English? Aren’t you not worried that he’d find an opportunity to flip you over in front of a speeding team car or something?”

        Since he is doing it in French as well then my worry is clearly unfounded.

    • I think it’s the confusion of their self-interest and the tactics/experience of a single race/running race with those of team cycle racing. Similar to the consternation about the fact that the guy with the yellow jersey can lose a stage, yet still be winning the race.
      The mindset is usually it’s better to hold your position and let others waste energy, unless their position is being threatened. The long view of a race of this sort is to conserve what you’ve got. I agree with the OP that sending riders into breaks has worked in getting Martin and O’Connor time – though I don’t see either one finishing on the podium. And, to this extent there is a point, but ultimately neither Martin or O’Connor will be deemed relevant threats to the likes of Uran and Carapaz, and definitely not Pogacar. They can all concede some time without it affecting their podium chances. If teams worked closely together, and identified a rider that cannot win at all costs, then the breakaway idea works. But they won’t and don’t because for Uran to appear in a break Carapaz has to be prepared to lose time too, and vice versa. At the moment they are happy and grateful to see outside shots cause UAE issues

    • People have opinions. Some are well-informed, some not. But subject to the normal rules of politeness, they have a perfect right to express them BTL.

      It’s not that difficult to sort the wheat from the chaff.

      Personally, I’ve learned a lot both from Inrng and from some of the posters BTL.

        • BTL in the world of film and entertainment means all the professions aside from actors, writers, executive producers, and directors, i.e. all the crew and production staff listed ‘below the line’ of the top sheet (summary) of a film budget.

    • This is not the first time you have made this point. I follow a number of sports, and one of the pleasures in doing so is discussing tactics, facilitated nowadays by the internet. I’m not a big DS criticiser myself, but I don’t have a particular problem with those who are (provided it’s done in a reasonably courteous, respectful way). But if I do criticise a DS or equivalent in another sport, of course that doesn’t mean that I think I could do a better job than them; it just means that in my humble opinion I would have made a different decision.

      (I wouldn’t pick Rice for England this evening, as I don’t think he’s good enough on the ball. That doesn’t mean I don’t have huge respect for what Southgate has done.)

      • You hit the nail squarely on the head, George. This is exactly why many people watch and follow sports. Full stop. Yes, we love great performances, but we also love jawboning about it, second-guessing athletes and coaches, etc.

      • Yup. Discussion on the internet is quite pointless, but discussing the discussions even more so. It’s professional sports and the whole world having an opinion about it, is a big part of why it is so popular.
        Personally, I have no problem with any forum user being the armchair expert. On here, there are useful insights or viewpoints to be learned between the ‘winners be cheaters’ trolls.

        • The “winners are cheaters” stereotype is unfortunate but alas inevitable part of any aerobic sport discourse, particularly cycling – for it’s history. Let’s accept it and move on. 🙂 Personaly I don’t care whether they are clean or doped because contemplating that makes no sense – I have no mean to get to a conclusion.

      • (Phillips, however… what a player, the best english player of the tournament. And it seems he learned some humility from his head coach, I believe he was the only english player to enjoy the silver medal.)

        I also enjoy the discussion btl here. (Albeit until recently never took part.) And, frankly, professional sport probably strives for such a connection with it’s fans – because professional sport is barely more than an advertising playground and such connection – discussion prior to the event, post the event etc. – in media but also in pubs and internet fora – makes professional sport what it is; a significant social phenomenon (and therefore a valid advertising playground). Thousands and milions armchair directeur sportifs of football managers are part of the bargain. (And most of them would probably ridicule my point about Kalvin Phillips, fair enough, being an Athletic Club “fan” /not exactly from Basque country, rather from central Europe/ I have a soft spot for Bielsa…)

        Also, it’s worth remembering that the original purpose of cycling road races was to provide some material for the media (and by extension media consumers) to discuss.

    • Oh boy. Larry T once again with another short novel regarding who should and should not post their opinions. With of course no mention of his own subjective amateur opinions. LOL 😆

  4. After stage 14

    75   Deceuninck–Quick-Step
    49 Alpecin–Fenix
    31   Team Jumbo–Visma
    31  Team Bahrain Victorious
    27  Trek–Segafredo
    25   Bora–Hansgrohe
    24  UAE Team Emirates
    17 Arkéa–Samsic
    14   Team BikeExchange
    12   Groupama–FDJ
    10  AG2R Citroën Team
    10   EF Education–Nippo
    9  Movistar Team
    8  Astana–Premier Tech
    7   Israel Start-Up Nation
    4   Lotto–Soudal
    3   Cofidis
    3 B&B Hotels p/b KTM
    2   Intermarché–Wanty–Gobert Matériaux
    2   Team DSM
    1  Ineos Grenadiers
    0  Team Qhubeka Assos
    0 Team TotalEnergies

    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.

      • I have to agree, and the points won’t balance out when we get to the mountain stages, since teams that specialize in those stages will rarely have two riders in the top six, and will often be doing very well with several riders finishing high up in the first finishing group behind a handful of breakaway riders.

        Not that I’m defending the current system. It’s never been a competition that I find compelling, and playing with the scoring system isn’t likely to change that for me.

      • Based on this year’s TDF I would agree with you, however it is down to the parcour & how the riders ride the parcour. See below this years Giro & last years Tour:

        Total – 2021 Giro d’Italia
        64  Ineos Grenadiers
        44   Israel Start-Up Nation
        43  Team Qhubeka Assos
        39  Team Bahrain Victorious
        36  UAE Team Emirates
        34   Deceuninck–Quick-Step
        30   Team DSM
        30 Alpecin-Fenix
        29   Lotto–Soudal
        28   Team Jumbo–Visma
        27   Cofidis
        23   Bora–Hansgrohe
        21  Trek–Segafredo
        16   Team BikeExchange
        16 Eolo-kometa
        14   Intermarché–Wanty–Gobert Matériaux
        12   EF Education–Nippo
        11  AG2R Citroën Team
        10  Astana–Premier Tech
        9 Bardiani
        4  Movistar Team
        3   Groupama–FDJ

        Total – 2020 Tour de France
        75 Team Jumbo–Visma
        57 Team Sunweb
        55 UAE Team Emirates
        54 Deceuninck–Quick-Step
        45 Trek–Segafredo
        39 Bora–Hansgrohe
        28 Ineos Grenadiers
        26 Lotto–Soudal
        26 Cofidis
        24 Astana
        18 B&B Hotels–Vital Concept
        17 EF Pro Cycling
        17 Mitchelton–Scott
        15 AG2R La Mondiale
        15 CCC Team
        10 NTT Pro Cycling
        7 Groupama–FDJ
        7 Movistar Team
        5 Israel Start-Up Nation
        4 Arkéa–Samsic
        2 Bahrain–McLaren
        0 Total Direct Énergie

        Very different battles of sprinter teams v overall teams v climbing teams etc

  5. The relaxed finish of the yellow jersey group seemed a bit at odds with the race, given G Martin is now solidly on the podium. The other podium contenders must have very high opinions of their own abilities.

    • As Mr Ring says, he’ll lose the time over his rivals in the TT. He also lost time in the high mountains before. It’s less about confidence in their ability and more about knowing Martin’s weaknesses.
      If teams could work together and choose someone to fire up the road for big time gains that would mean he seriously threatens Pogacar, there could be some fun and games (they won’t and not sure who as I haven’t scrutinised the GC).

    • He’s either pulled a Carapaz, or would exit promptly via back door.

      Judging by how exhausted he was yesterday, likely the latter. O’Connor at least had a rest day and a flat stage before he faced a hard mountain stage.

  6. Is today the best day for BikeExchange to put pressure on Cavendish with that early climb? Cav looked shattered (although perhaps emotionally?) after the last sprint stage, and the combination of an early climb and a windy day could make it difficult for him.

    • It’s a tough tactic but yes, if they push very hard they could try and there’s a rest day to recover tomorrow. But it’s not just down to them, they could set a pace that might drop Cavendish but other riders would be ejected too to form a group bigger than Bike Exchange, they’d need to keep things going and a fast pace throughout the stage with help from Bahrain and others interested in the breakaway or other objectives, eg if Philipsen wants the stage win in Libourne his team could ride too. But it requires a lot to happen and Cavendish can count on help from the likes of Asgreen. Cattaneo is interesting, a perfect wheel for Cavendish but is he going to save his top-10 place instead?

      • I’d wondered whether Cattaneo would be in a position to try the same as Martin/O’Connor, but then that might not align well with preventing an aggressive start.

    • Same guy I was grumbling about the other day. Do you believe a coach involved in teams known to historically dope, who have a vested interest in claiming his rider is clean? Or a bunch of riders who have made a career out of get themselves in a break and winning?
      Is it more likely that GC riders have arrived in bad shape? Or that a single rider is doing something extra-terrestrial that they’re not? Which rider is more likely to be doped? The one winning the race? Or the one struggling at the back?
      His comments don’t bear scrutiny.

      • RQS- OK, I’ll put you in the “he’s beating the crap out of my guy so…” category. The stuff you wrote about mitochondria and what a quack the guy supposedly is was missing in this piece, which is why I put the link up. I don’t think they employ quacks as professors at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, but what do I know?
        JC- I guess you’ll be putting Pogacar 2021 in the same category I put G. Thomas in…a guy who won LeTour against less than stellar competition? Thomas still won and beat everyone else who showed up but the 2nd and 3rd place guys were both certainly compromised by racing the Giro vs a custom, structured pre-Tour training program. What about Pogacar 2020?
        Finally, I’d bet Cavendish would have won just as much on that 2008 model bike – what’s so much better about the thing he’s riding now when it comes to a sprint? I assume both are plastic and weigh-in at the UCI limit and the lengths and ways he’s beating his rivals are way too big to be credited to superior aerodynamics of his Big-S brand bicycle.

        • If that helps you Larry. I don’t have a dog in the fight. I’m watching for the developing stories. One of which is that one rider is massively out performing all the others and isn’t breaking a sweat.
          Fuentes, Ferrari and Conconi all have doctorates too. That didn’t stop them in their subterfuge. That’s the authority fallacy. People are more willing to believe authority figures because of their title irrespective of whether what they’re saying is actually true.
          And, yes, I believe the same thing about G. I’m not precious about any athlete. There’s that well known survey which asked Olympic athletes whether they would take a drug which improved their performance if they knew they could get away with it. Overwhelmingly they answered positively. They’re not stupid!
          And, yes, I doubt the bike has made Cav competitive. It might have a marginal effect, but he seems massively reinvigorated. Were the bikes from 2016 worse too?
          I guess I’m happier when the race is competitive regardless of what anyone’s doing. But there’s are always plots within plots to quote one of my favourite films.

          • I cannot see where you guys – I know you know whom I mean – get this awfully handy picture of Pogacar “not breaking a sweat”. For one, the Pogacar I’ve seen on the telly has looked quite marked by his efforts and for two, some of the biggest dopers in history made a big show of having given their everything and being more exhausted than anyone in sporting history.

            The point about Inigo San Millan was not that since he is a professor, we who are not professors must approach him as an authority whose every comment must be accepted as gospel truth.

            What were Fuentes, Ferrari and Conconi doing as their day job? I mean when they weren’t drawing up doping programs?

          • I disagree Eskerrik. Pogacar has had the look of someone quite within his limits. Of course the term ‘not breaking a sweat’ is hyperbole. He was obviously exercising…but he has looked very much within himself when all around have watched him disappear up the road. I think someone else had made the comment about the same parlour as Bjarne Riis. He’s certainly not been like Dan Martin.
            I’m really unsure about your comments about the ‘good professor’.

          • “ rider is massively out performing all the others and isn’t breaking a sweat.”
            OTOH one could say there’s a guy fairly easily defending a 5 minute league while the others seem to be having a pillow-fight rather than making any real do-or-die attack to get ahead of him. I expect a guy like Carapaz or Uran to (perhaps when there’s a mountain-top finish, as intimated by INEOS) make a race-winning move or blow up big-time in the attempt. Otherwise the pillow-fight continues for the lower places on the podium in Paris.
            None of that is Pogacar’s fault and I’m having a hard time seeing it (without any evidence) as the result of cheating…especially when the rest of the UAE boyz seem to be breaking a sweat in his defense. If they’ve got a “secret sauce” why aren’t the rest of the UAE team sharing it? Is that part of the plot – to avoid looking like the imperious mountain trains employed by the most recent multi-year Tour winners?

          • I’m not at all unsure about your comment about Inigo San Millan. It was a quite cheap attempt to turn Larry T’s comment into something that you could then neatly attack and simply demolish. A classic “strawman” tactic, in other words.
            But it wasn’t as despicable as putting your own words “good professor” within quotation marks to create the impression that I had described or presented ISM as such or, at the very least, I had tried to advance an argument that he could not be a bad character because he was a professor in Colorado.
            Further discussion is pointless. I’ll rather spend the time cleaning my bike.

          • OK. I look forward to the next time a team doctor decides to exculpate a riders performance. It is evidently comforting to some.

      • Here is a direct quote from Vaughters about ISM, as he had been one of three biggest anti doing voices in the sport.

        This is just stupid. Do you know Inigo’s history? do you know how he got kicked off all kinds of teams for trying to convert them to a non-doping philosophy? Do you know how he got physically assaulted by a rider because he told team management the rider’s blood values were off? He was messed up pretty bad.

        This guy is one of the real forces to change things behind the scenes. One of the few in the medical field that instead of A. Giving up on cycling or B. going ahead and doping the crap out of guys, decided he would get in the middle of it and try to convert guys to a more healthy philosophy. And his career suffered for years because of that stance.

        • Vaughters is an opaque character as much as he claims to be transparent. He has developed his own narrative particularly by putting himself in opposition to Armstrong.

          • I mean that Vaughters is clever and has vested interests. If you think that his beef with Armstrong was only about doping, and that makes him a converted Saint you should probably realise that he vested interests in presenting his team as clean, and his riders the same. It’s all smoke and mirrors. He’s the Arsene Wenger of cycling.

  7. These sort of articles were doing the rounds last year. Maybe this doctor has got some top secret undetectable go faster juice distilled from rare Tibetan herbs but it seems far more likely that he is just good at making money by persuading top cyclists he can help them. What exact help he gives is not clear but he cant be that much of a super doctor given that he has been around cycling for some time and previous “clients” hardly seem to have become world beaters.

    Unfortunately for a variety of reasons, much like Mark Cavendish, Tadej Pogacar has little real opposition this year. It makes him seem far better than he probably is. I know there are various old stagers in the peloton grumbling about how the speeds are faster, younger riders stronger etc but cycling preparation and technology have moved on. To use the Cav analogy again, would he have won the stages this year on his team issue Giant bike from 2008? The differences are small but at this level make all the difference. The real test here will come when Tadej Pogacar goes up against a cohort of other top contenders in future races.

  8. So de Gendt and van Avermaet say they’re going faster and San Millán says they’re going slower. Until we see the data, it’s all as clear as mud! No Roglic and Ineos struggling means Pogacar probably isn’t doing the same numbers as last year, but you can not compare a 1 week race to a 3 week GT.

    • Didn’t Pogacar also break the climbing records on Romme & Colombiere, whilst riding at these shockingly slow speeds?! Seems legit.

      • The trouble with comparing speeds is that they can’t be compared. Maybe the wind is favourable, maybe the weather is unfavourable and on and on it goes. All you can compare is who rides the fastest on each given stage.

  9. Well, I had Matthews yesterday and Chaves today but they’ve done it the other way round 🤣
    Anyway, good to see Bike Exchange active this weekend.
    Go Oz 🤛

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