The first ski station summit finish of the Dauphiné… but hold on, it’s not a big climb and more a hut, car park with a chairlift as a ski station. So imagine an uphill bunch sprint although the breakaway has a good chance.
Déjà vu? a repeat episode of Stage 1 with an early break up the road, then Dylan Groenewegen and other sprinters being dropped on the climb as Trek-Segsafredo, Ineos and Jumbo-Visma upped the pace. The breakaway of six riders never got more much more than four minutes and the gap was coming down nice and steadily, down to two minutes, a minute thirty and so on, it all pointed to a sprint between van Aert and Hayter once again.
Over the last climb the break, reduced to five, had 30 seconds and then suddenly the gap grew, just by a few seconds but the peloton behind was spread across the road, hesitant and having a breather after hitting the last climb so hard. Up ahead the leaders kept working and suddenly the gap couldn’t be closed.
The five breakaway riders didn’t play games until the flamme rouge. Olivier Le Gac made a late attack and looked to have a good chance but Alexis Vuillermoz had watched Sunday’s Brussels Classic win by Taco van der Hoorn and had the 400m+ seated sprint by the “Wanty guy” in mind as he chased, pulled back Le Gac and held off Anders Skaarseth. It was a big win for Vuillermoz, not comparable with his Tour de France stage but almost as good and it comes after a series of broken bones. It’s also a win for TotalEnergies, the team take another World Tour win after Paris-Nice… while Peter Sagan is due to return to racing in the Tour de Suisse where his performance will determine if he goes to the Tour de France, or not.
The Route: 164km across Romain Bardet’s training roads and and 2,700m of vertical gain, 300m fewer than yesterday but not easier. There’s a gradual uphill start that gets steeper through the town of Allègre around 8km into the stage and from then on it’s across lumpy rural roads all day.
The Finish: longer and a bit more variety than the profile shows, there are some steeper sections and also some flat and even downhill bits. It’s all on a big wide road and levels out into the ski area before a final little rise up.
The Contenders: Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) again? Ethan Hayter (Ineos)? Both riders have a similar ranges of abilities, they can win reduced bunch sprints and uphill finishes alike, and their teams have a shared interest in setting up a rematch, Primož Roglič is handy too especially if the final climb is ridden very hard. Bahrain are another big team with an interest in a finish here because Dylan Teuns has won several finishes like this. Staying with the big teams, UAE’s Juan Ayuso should be worth watching as well… while on a smaller team there’s Tobias Halland Johannessen (Uno-X) but how to beat the names cited ahead of him?
The breakaway’s got a good chance of making it again but they’ll need to take a good lead into the final climb to hold off the big teams. Rémi Cavagna (Quick-Step) is the local but he’ll surely be sitting tight waiting for tomorrow’s TT; instead Pierre Rolland (B&B) sort of a local as he has a holiday house in the area. But it’ll take strong riders not interested in the GC nor the time trial, think Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ), Patrick Konrad (Bora-hansgrohe), Samuele Battistella (Astana) or Andrea Bagioli (Quick-Step) but take your pick from the list of similar riders.
|Wout van Aert, Ethan Hayter, Dylan Teuns|
|Ayuso, Bagioli, Konrad, THJ, Roglič|
Weather: sunshine and clouds, 22°C tops at the lower altitudes but cooler at altitude.
TV: the stage starts at 12.20 and the finish is for 4.40pm CEST with coverage starting soon after 3.00pm.
Guide touristique: the Puy de Sancy (photo from Wikipedia by Clément Beckert) sits above the finish and is the highest point of the Massif Central mountains at 1,885m. Puy is a local word for a volcanic peak as today’s finish is amid volcanoes, albeit so extinct that they look more Alpine because the old cones have been worn away by glaciers… unlike the Puy de Dôme just to the north. Today’s finish is a new one but the Tour de France has visited the Super Besse ski resort several times and that’s just the other side of the mountain from today’s finish.