A time trial with three reference points: first to win the stage, second to shape the overall classification with a view to winning the race outright by Sunday… and third a form test ahead of the Tour de France.
Puy-mature celebration: an unusual start to the stage with the break forming only for one of its members Omer Goldstein to sit up and return to the bunch, perhaps deterred by the pesky wind that made life harder. The break already had a B&B Hotels rider in it with Sebastian Schönberger but we got a rare “taxi” move from B&B Hotels where rouleur Alexis Gougeard and German TT vice-champ Miguel Heidemann attacked with team mate Pierre Rolland, the two big riders towing their leader across the four minute gap to the breakaway only the gap began to fall and the move was reeled in. Still, it wasn’t for nothing as Rolland got some more mountains points to keep his jersey and it’s the kind of move that if used more often could pay off for others.
We got the expected reduced bunch sprint but with some GC riders attacking, notably Ben O’Connor but he went into a headwind and the group started to huddle. This let Wout van Aert get back in contention and, towed to the front by Jonas Vingegaard, he launched a strong sprint and looked to have it, sat up and celebrated only for David Gaudu to throw his bike and take the win.
Van Aert’s loss was the story of the day but… Primož Roglič had a hard time too, as everyone was sprinting for the line he seemed to lack the power and finished 12th when he’s normally very handy in a finish like this.
The Route: 31.9km and almost flat, there’s a drag up the second time check but it’s still a rise to take in the tri-bars. Much of the course tracks a canal, it’s that sort of terrain. Last year’s Dauphiné TT saw some surprise results in part thanks to the hilly, technical course with a hard finish but today’s course is much more straightforward.
The Contenders: Filippo Ganna (Ineos) is the obvious pick, he’ll enjoy the flat course. Ganna’s not invincible in time trials – he was beaten in the UAE Tour this year, lost out in the Olympics, Euros and Italian championships last year – but the course suits him and a big goal this season is the Tour de France’s opener in Copenhagen so he’ll need to be approaching top condition by now.
Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) would prefer a climb or two to give him an advantage over the Italian but still won the Tour’s flat TT stage in Bordeaux last year. Primož Roglič could be close and has a big test for the GC and a skinsuit dress rehearsal for the Tour de France but he was going backwards in the finish yesterday which doesn’t auger well, we’ll learn more today. Jonas Vingegaard gets an important test too.
Rémi Cavagna (Quick-Step) is almost a local and he’s starting to win World Tour level TTs but it’d be an upset to beat the names above. Stefan De Bod (Astana) is a TT specialist but how to win? GC contenders like Brandon McNulty (UAE), Wilco Kelderman (Bora-hansgrohe) can place high too.
|Wout van Aert
|Cavagna, Roglič, Hayter, McNulty, Vingegaard
Weather: 21°C but with a high chance of rain showers. It won’t be windy and the course is often sheltered by woodland and roadside hedges.
TV: it’s a time trial so up to you but it’ll be on TV between 3.00-4.45pm CEST. Look out for any new TT bikes ahead of the Tour de France.
Local info: the start is in Montbrison, home of Astrid Chazal. Who you might ask but she’s had an interesting sporting career. She started out in football and thrived, being on the French U-19 team and she captained Saint-Etienne in 2011 to their Coupe de France trophy win. So far, so football but those tackles brought injuries and she was forced to stop playing early… and took up cycling, quickly. She soon made the French team and took part in various international races. Unlike football there was no silverware and she picked up more injuries and soon had to stop too telling local newspaper Le Progrès “with hindsight I think the transition between the two sports was too quick” and now works as a physio in the area, presumably adept at spotting worn. She’s not the only cyclist to change sports of course, Remco Evenepoel played football for Anderlecht and Belgium, Elise Chabbey paddled a kayak in the London Olympics and so on… but unusually she did win big in her first sport… plus of course she’s local for today.