A day for the breakaway or another reduced bunch sprint?
Pierre Rolland gathers no moss: thanks to an early attack and some persistent power to hold off an energetic bunch, Pierre Rolland took the mountains jersey for the day. Not the world’s biggest result but 14 years ago he took the jersey as a neo-pro riding for Crédit Agricole – yes, that long ago – and got tipped for the top. Now he’s mulling retirement – “unless a small Spanish team lets me have a nice calendar and be able to ride the Vuelta” – and he’s “saving the furniture” as they say in French for his B&B Hotels team as need any kind of result. Recently team manager Jérôme Pineau reportedly emailed the team roasting his riders for their lack of results; and he told L’Equipe the other day “if I could, I’d buy some out of their contracts so they’d leave“.
Otherwise it was a nicely balanced stage thanks to the likes of Dylan Groenewegen, Phil Bauhaus and J-S Molano getting dumped out the back on the final climb when Trek-Segafredo upped the pace. The dropped riders kept chasing, and with Bike Exchange calling back riders they got to within 30 seconds to supply some suspense. But they couldn’t get closer.
With around 3km to go Ineos vanished from the front of the bunch but soon Michał Kwiatkowski was towing Ethan Hayter back into place. Did this effort cost him the win? Put another way, Wout van Aert was always in position even if he had to send his leadout rider Christophe Laporte to close down a late attack from Rémi Cavagna. The Belgian champion won almost as expected.
The Route: 170km and 3,000 of vertical gain, the stage is defined by the long, gradual climbs of the Ardèche mountains. The Col de Mézilhac is listed as 11km but it’s really a 22km climb from Le Cheylard via the Col de Joux but it’s gentle and only reaches 5-6% for several kilometres before the top. It’s followed by some lumpy roads, ideal terrain to leave the sprinters floundering.
The late climb to Rohac is different, it’s short and has a sting in the tail with a small “wall” section at the top as it enters the village. Just 9km from the finish it’s a possible launchpad for a late attack.
The Finish: flat but twisty, it’s along the right bank of the Loire river, then left onto the bridge across for the flamme rouge, then a sharp left off the bridge, leading to a sharp right turn and another right onto the 500m finishing straight. It’ll be hard to make up ground in the final kilometre.
The Contenders: a replay of yesterday’s stage? The long Col de Mezilhac’s the perfect place for teams to up the pace and drop the sprinters over the top so a rematch between Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and Ethan Hayter (Ineos) is likely.
One difference is that yesterday BikeExchange rode on the front for the middle of the stage, they’re unlikely to try it today so this gives the breakaways more of a chance. Another is that Trek-Segafredo did much of the work to drop the sprinters yesterday and Jasper Stuyven was seventh, respectable but they’ll be asking if they try the same again, so this suits the breakaway again too.
|Wout van Aert, Ethan Hayter
|Madouas, Bagioli, Battistella, Skujiņš
Weather: sunshine and clouds, 27°C.
TV: the stage starts at 12.25pm and the finish is due at 4.40pm CEST.
Guide touristique: the race passes the Gerbier de Jonc, a big cone-shaped peak but it’s not volcanic. It’s famous in France as the source of the river Loire, France’s longest river at just over 1,000km.
Guide politique: the Dauphiné race took its name from the Dauphiné Libéré newspaper, a newspaper from Grenoble and local to the Alps, the Dauphiné being an old province in the Alps. The paper’s still going strong – with a strong cycling section that covers everything from village races to the World Tour – but the paper stopped organising the race and in 2010 ASO took it up and it’s gradually become the “Tour of the Rhone-Alpes-Auvergne” region, a much bigger area than the old newspaper’s circulation. Which explains why the race now ranges across a much larger area than a few years ago. Coincidentally the head of the Rhone-Alpes-Auvergne region used to live in Brives-Charensac, the town of today’s stage finish, and he is mayor of the next town over, Le Puy. So the race will continue to tour the whole region and perhaps it’s even time for a name change to reflect the bigger area?