Tour de France Stage 16 Preview

The first of three consecutive mountain stages in the Pyrenees, today’s is the most accessible to a large part of the peloton with three sharp climbs to scale before a punchy finish.

The Route: 169km and over 3,000m of vertical gain, a mountain stage but relatively easier on paper which means more riders will try to get in the break which makes it a hard stage. The stage begins with a neutralised climb out of Andorra to the KM0 point listed as Pas de la Case but it’s really L’Hospitalet, some way down into the descent. From here on it’s the wide Route Nationale down into the Ariège valley and nothing steep but awkward for the breakaway, do riders need to start with aero bikes and a 58T chainring?

After Tarascon comes the Col du Port, listed here as 11.4km at 5.1% but that’s because the race has included the flat section out of Saurat as part of the climb. Instead it’s more like 7km at 7-8% before easing to 5% towards the top, a proper climb.

The Col de la Core is also made to look easier by the roadbook but it’s 7-8% for most of the way, there’s just an easier section midway.

The Portet d’Aspet is, wait for it, harder that the stats suggest too with the last 2.5km at 10% and then the famously difficult descent with its steep moments and blind bends and then things ease up with the faster road to Aspet.

There’s the wall climb of Sarrat, a sharp ramp with 12km to go, it’s no more than 10% but because it’s short it’s difficult, rather than riders sitting back and spinning up a climb, this one invites sharp attacks.

The Finish: there’s a quick descent with two bends that tighten up and then a quick run around town before an uphill drag to the line, steep enough to make a difference, outside the old grandstand of the Comminges motor racing circuit.

The Contenders: ahead of two summit finishes plenty will want to get in the breakaway today knowing their chances on the big Col du Portet and the famous Luz Ardiden climbs are limited. Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quickstep) is again the archetypal rider but he keeps going in breakaways rather than targetting one day. Assuming his rest day went alright he’s an obvious pick and finale suits with the wall-like climb late and the uphill sprint to the line but he says he’s tired. Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) is a pick too.

Magnus Cort (EF-Nippo) has been picked several times, today’s the last chance. David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) is stage-hunting but as he found out in Andorra, so are plenty of others. Still the colder weather today is fine for the Husky dog owning Breton and he’s handy in an uphill sprint. He might still prefer to hang back for the summit finishes on Wednesday and Thursday but few get to choose, if you can board the right wagon you’ll go. Chez Trek-Segafredo Toms Skujiņš and Bauke Mollema are candidates again. Bora-Hansgrohe’s Patrick Konrad is active. Bahrain’s Dylan Teuns is on good around today, the same for Astana’s Omar Fraile and perhaps Alex Aranburu.

Dylan Teuns, Wout van Aert, Omar Fraile
Alaphilippe, Cort, Aranburu, Mollema, Asgreen, Skujiņš

Weather: clouds will build and there’s the chance of rain, a cool 16°C.

TV: the stage starts at 1.05pm but KM0 and the racing is from 1.30pm. The finish is forecast for 5.35pm CEST.

Off on a tangent: in French the term montagnes russes literally translates as “Russian mountains” but is the term for a roller coaster, as in the funfair. In French cycling slang it’s also the term for an up and down course much like today’s stage. Now you know… but let’s go back to the literal meaning of Russian mountains because the final of today’s stage borrows the home roads of Pavel Sivakov, the promising Ineos rider grew up in Soueich, a village on the route with 15km to go and the same roads in the Comminges foothills were used in training by his father Alexei who rode the Tour de France three times, and by Ag2r’s Russian recruit Aleksandr Botcharov who moved to the area as well.

56 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 16 Preview”

  1. Offering a quick chapeau to Sepp Kuss, the first American to win a TdF stage since Tyler Farrar in 2011, a long time between drinks from the bidon there.

    • Yup, new era–Tejay Vangarderen retired in June. There were a couple American ex-pro announcers in an awkward position as Kuss sealed the victory, after they earlier condemned JV’s tactics in no uncertain terms. Maybe on Sunday the team didn’t want to ask too much of their youngest and
      least experienced team member.

      • I think there’s a bit of a cultural difference too. Dutch and Belgian teams do care about reaching the podium, but after that it’s all about the solo stage wins. Commentators will often say stuff like “Nobody remembers who came 8th in the Tour, but everyone remembers a great stage win.”

        Americans seem to care more about statistics and the team aspect of the sport, putting more weight on high GC classifications.

      • I’m a rollercoaster fan but only recently came across the term “montagne russe” in Italian and didn’t at first know what it meant. The reasons for the term are a surprise to me: pretty obvious when you think about it, but not how I’d have assumed rollercoasters started.

        Always grateful to this blog for sending me on a quest for knowledge into unexpected corners of the internet!

    • You mean the first 20 km *after* “the KM0 point listed as Pas de la Case but it’s really L’Hospitalet, some way down into the descent”? Leaving roughly 15 km before the road begins to turn uphill in Tarascon?

    • Neutralised downhill in mist could mean trouble for riders that feel the cold, which seems to be everyone in the top 10 apart from Pogacar who always seems to be wearing the correct clothing.
      And please, Ineos, make today the day you actually show initiative and not inertia. Stop helping the GC leader and go get your own results for a change, like all the other top 10 riders have done.

  2. I had thought today might be the mountain stage for Julian Alaphilippe but get the point that he could be rather worn out from his efforts. I wonder if the same applies to Wout van Aert. I would also guess a big break will go as who is going to police & chase so choosing a pick of the day is pretty random. Given how tight the KoM competition is I wonder if today might be a good opportunity to pick up points.

    • The one very considerable consolation for Roglic’s injury is seeing Wout Van Aert let off the leash.
      Husky / Greyhound / St Bernard / Hunting Hound – cross.
      Let’s see if Mnsr. Gaudu can handle that 😄

  3. I can go to sleep tonight content in the knowledge that I’ve learned two funfair-related facts today; the montagnes russes one and the Russian term for a “true” rollercoaster – Amerikanskie gorki.

  4. One for Kwait, chance to salvage something for Inios. Carapaz at risk of losing time in the TT and not making the podium. 5th GC seems like scant reward for a team that could of achieved a stage win or two. Surely time to bank one as insurance.

    • I’d give all of Ineos a chainring as time’s running out for them. (Do they really need to keep employing the entire team to help Carapaz get third?)

      • I do wonder if it would be better for Carapaz to say to the Ineos riders go stage hunting for yourself and watch them spark attacks left, right and centre.

        • Agreed. It felt that the strategy could have yielded something on Ventoux, but the subsequent stages have shown that most of the top 10 are the equal of Carapaz, so it’s tough to drive a pace to drop anyone (or to expect a decisive attack from Carapaz).

          It’s funny listening to some UK pundits purring over the efforts made by the Ineos train and being flummoxed by Jumbo tactics, and then expressing mild disbelief that Jumbo can win stages instead of worrying about Vingegaard. Movistar, Bora, EF, Astana have all been similarly pushing for stage wins. In the absence of a train, It’s possible that some irregular efforts could be a better bet to distance the likes of Kelderman and Uran.

  5. After stage 15

    75   Deceuninck–Quick-Step
    49 Alpecin–Fenix
    41   Team Jumbo–Visma
    35  Team Bahrain Victorious
    27  Trek–Segafredo
    25   Bora–Hansgrohe
    24  UAE Team Emirates
    18 Arkéa–Samsic
    15  Movistar Team
    14   Team BikeExchange
    12   EF Education–Nippo
    12   Groupama–FDJ
    11  Astana–Premier Tech
    10  AG2R Citroën Team
    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.

  6. I also notice that there’s only three Arkéa–Samsic riders left in the race, but that shouldn’t bother Quintana too much, after spending years on the same team as Valverde he’s used to long stages in the mountains with almost zero support.

    • Hahaha
      Big Ouf there.
      Quintana this year and Bardet all those Tours before should just make the maillot a pois their main target. Would have made Bardet seem a far more successful rider than the GC wannabe he is stuck with.

      • I know people like to poke fun at Bardet, but it really doesn’t take more than a couple of minutes to look at his palmares and see that he has been extremely consistent for 10 years, contesting GC throughout entire seasons and is even a factor in hilly one day stage races.

        Considering that his competition has been Contador, Nibali, Froome, Quintana, Thomas, Dumoulin, Bernal, Roglic, Pogacar… I don’t think that he has done too bad at all.

  7. “The stage begins with a neutralised climb out of Andorra to the KM0 point listed as Pas de la Case but it’s really L’Hospitalet, some way down into the descent.” was a bit sad to read after the great story about 1964’s stage. Makes me think there’s been too much effort to take out real exploits in modern cycling and make it all too predictable, controlled and measured, as if that’s progress 🙁

    • Agree it was pretty pointless, it would have been better to start down the valley. The riders all stopped to take off the cold weather kit. I guess it was down to Andorra having paid money to “host” the Depart.

  8. Been fascinating, and a bit frustrating, watching Alaphilippe. He’s like an excited puppy, always wanting to be involved and in the move, even going up the road to take sprint points from Cav’s rivals… I love seeing how much he’s invested in the Tour, but seems like he’d have a far better chance of a second stage if he just took a (metaphorical) nap every now and then.

    • Indeed or maybe it’s all a tactical masterpiece and today, while everyone is looking at Ala’s target on his back Asgreen and Cataneo tear up the breakaway. Both have shown form but so far in a rather subdued way.

      DQT snow have five stages in the bag, but with one baroudeur-stage, two flat stages and a ITT to come they are probably still not satisfied as they realistically can aim for the highest prize in those four as well.

  9. Could we have a little shout out for Mortan Lacklan (EF Education-Nippo) who has finished riding his epic Alt Tour de France (including all transfers) earlier this morning!! 6 days ahead of the Tour itself as well. awesome.

    • Why? Did he do this free with benefits to a charity or something? I admit I don’t know since I’ve paid zero attention to what seems little more than a publicity stunt, assuming he’s getting a salary of some sort from the team whose jersey he wears.
      I’m reminded of a guy riding up a climb in the Alps one year at the Tour: The cops were trying to get him out of the way and he kept screaming stuff about how he’d ridden all the stages every day “for the children!” All I could think was BFD…same for this guy who seems to be getting plenty of pixels elsewhere. Can’t we leave it at that?

        • OK, BRAVO! I’ll go to the World Bicycle Relief site now and make a donation. They were one of the charities we supported back-in-the-day so this is a good kick in the “arse” as some would say 🙂

          • And to appeal to your old fashioness, he did this on a sandal and flat pedal bought in a supermarket.

            And well, suppose this is France. Surprised that you can buy sandals in supermarkets.

    • Good on him. I thought he’d make to Paris well ahead of the Tour but not this much; was even hoping to time a recon ride in the Pyrenees to overlap with his and see if I could spot him – worried about getting downwind – but he was a couple of days ahead by then and has been flying since leaving the mountains. I wonder if how valuable his coverage has been compared to Uran’s stealth 2nd on GC at the moment although it’s foolish to compare too directly, each is targetting different audiences in different ways, one feeds the other in that you have a bike that can be raced in the Tour but also toured on etc.

      I heard Morton was going to do something big after the Dauphiné and thought “he’ll bikepack the Tour”… and sure enough. Like all exploits they’re big until they’re done and something bigger has to be done, you wonder if it’s all three grand tours for 2022?

      • It’s inspiring stuff and for those of us living under lock down the voyaging vicariously has been a real pleasure. All of that and raising a heap of money for a great charity. Am I right in thinking that under the original tour rules he would also have bagged yellow?

      • “worried about getting downwind”
        You can’t put a price on that hard-earned randonneur stench. Part way through LEL I had to warn civilians to stand well back. I was damn proud of that smell!

      • KevinR – Charitable? I just paid for my sin by paying for one of the bikes they give away to the people who can use ’em, OK?
        Since our cycling vacation company has enjoyed pretty much ZERO income during the pandemic the funds came out of my personal wallet.
        Before you take any more potshots at me, let us all know how many bikes you (and maybe others who post here?) coughed-up for in addition to the keyboard “shout-outs” (or potshots) which don’t cost anything.

        • Back off, Larry.
          Kevin’s comment preceded your post about donating by an hour. And if you’da just done 10 seconds worth of internet search you’da found out the same info Kevin already knew well before you.
          Shooting off your mouth in a way that disrespects people who are just enjoying the show is lame and you probly know it.

    • It’s a great effort and with the charity and all, it’s really commendable but also quite easily dismissable as a publicity sutnt for the age of social media. Various type of riders and even at least one journalist have been doing similar efforts for the last ten years. With or without charity-purposes. At least it’s the case in the Belgian cyclo-sphere. To me and I suspect many others it’s a fanciful footnote to the actual tour, especially because, let’s be honest, Lachlan Morton is not exactly a well-known rider outside the circle of die-hard followers.

      • I think what I’m trying to say above is that this whole endeavour either lacks imagination if it was about the charity and about generating publicity for the team or in the case it was merely about a personal adventure of Lachlan Morton it shouldn’t have been publicised as much as it has. It just falls flat now, which is a pity ’cause after all it is a tremendous effort by a likeable athlete.

      • Whilst many others have ridden the Tour route (usually a few days ahead of the race), it’s worth pointing out that Morton is not only riding the route but also all of the transfers between stages as well. I think he ended up doing more like 5,500km vs the Tour route of 3,300km…

        • And unsupported, as far as I can tell. Whether that’s normal for this kind of endeavour I don’t know – it’s not something I would even consider trying. Very glad to have been given an excuse to donate to a good cause though.

  10. Lachlan Morton has done some awesome rides, and along with CyclingTips has made them very memorable – remember the Thereabouts series? Really amazing efforts and very interesting.

    Great that he tied this to a charity, and it’s good that EF is giving their riders the freedom to do these things – it helps that they’ve started winning more too.

  11. If Pogacar finishes this TdF with the Yellow Jersey, I think his winner’s payout should be as follows:

    ~ his 7 teammates get 10%, team staff get 20%
    ~ the remaining 70% goes to Ineos (32%), EF (25%), JV (10%), the remaining 3% he splits up into tiny portions and gives to anyone in the bottom 100-places as thanks for all the breakaways that “forced” the other teams to pull for him

    The tactics are ridiculous. UAE is getting Christmas early this year.

  12. Colbrelli is impressive this year, climbing with Gaudu, competing with Cav for sprint points… seems he is on the form of his life.

    • Yes, which must frustrate him to some extent because he’s have remarkably little success converting that form into wins. On stages he climbs well he’s beaten by breakaway riders, and in bunch sprints he’s rarely better than third or forth fastest. All he has to show for this form is two WT wins and a handful of second places. I’m not sure why he keeps going so hard for the green jersey points, that ship has sailed, even if Cavendish drops out. He needs to figure out how to succeed at the ends of races, not the intermediate sprints. It seems like it’s his race craft, otherwise he might have half a dozen wins.

      On the other hand, he only has four WT wins for his entire career, so this year has been pretty good for him from that standpoint.

  13. Quick comment on UAE tactics. Much has been made of their lack of strength in terms of not taking control of the race. Could this be looked at in another way and it’s actually a tactical master plan showcasing a different style of riding?

    On flat stages they let the sprinters teams control it. On others they don’t attempt to control it and so everyone has to work very hard to get in a break. A rider can’t do this consistently so by allowing it to happen UAE are effectively allowing the fire to burn wildly but burn itself out.

    Over recent years we have been accustomed to trains and riding at tempo, perhaps UAE are showing that if you have a strong rider there is a different way of going about things ?

    • Good points! I for one am happy to (maybe) be seeing the demise of these mountain trains and their suffocating tactics. For many younger Tour fans it’s disconcerting because they haven’t seen LeTour raced any other way in recent years.
      OTOH, Wiggo summed things up pretty well at the end of today’s stage…another day to try to change things flushed down the loo by Pogacar’s challengers. I have yet to read what those teams will claim they tried to do today but whatever it was, the logic of it escaped the TV commentators that I heard today like Wiggo and Magrini. If they don’t get it, what are my chances?

  14. I think our host summed it up very well yesterday. For virtually all of those trailing the yellow jersey, they have much more to lose than they have to reasonably gain by being reckless or bold. And you can say “thirty years from now no one remembers who got second and third,” which is true, but this year it will be huge for EF-Nippo if Uran takes second, to take one example. He has a good enough ITT that he has a good shot at it, while it’s inconceivable that he is going to drop Pog and the rest on a mountain stage and move into yellow. Vingegaard is a bonus for what could have been a complete wash-out for TJV. He looks good for the podium, and could well pass Uran in the ITT to take the second spot, but has there been any sign that he could take 5+ minutes on the leader? No. A podium finish for him will be a victory in the circumstances. For these two to go all in to win the GC, which my guess would be a one in a thousand shot, would more likely result in them plummeting down to 15th place after they are dropped on a mountain finish.

    As for the rest, Ineos and Carapaz are the ones who have to be most disappointed, and if they’re capable I think we can expect to see them try to blow things up in the remaining mountain stages. Perhaps today simply wasn’t challenging enough to put a dent in Pogachar. Certainly it looked like, for the first time, he had his whole team with him virtually the entire way. It may be that Ineos is so used to competing from the front that they don’t have the riders to pull off a reversal of fortune, but I expect them to try.

    • Do you think MVdP will be satisfied with being another “Eternal Second” like grandpa? I don’t think the original was all that satisfied with it himself during his career.
      Seems to me MVdP himself doesn’t think 2nd is a BFD when he gets beaten, but what do I know?

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