A mountain stage but without any fearsome climbs, today’s stage connects two ski resorts and gets the legs turning ahead of the two crucial Alpine stages this week with the Col du Granon tomorrow and Alpe d’Huez the day after.
The Route: a short dash in the Alps, 148km and 2,700m of vertical gain. “This stage features breath-taking mountain scenery, especially when it runs alongside Lake Geneva” says the Tour’s manual, only ride the course and it’s often a bit more humdrum, and it doesn’t go alongside the lake. Helicopter shots should deliver some nice images. A downhill start outside the ski town of Morzine and a descent down the valley road before a right turn and the gradual climb to Chevenoz and beyond to Vinzier which has an average of 3% but there are steeper sections as it twists up through the Chablais Alps. It might not be enough to help the breakaway form. Then comes a fast and twisting descent down to Thonon and a quick spin around the town’s backroads.
It starts climbing out of town and a suburban feel as the road passes villas as it drags up to the village or Armoy. From here on the road gets straighter and the chances of gradient more steady on the way up the Col de Jambaz, a big ring mountain pass chased by a steady descent down to the valley floor, via the village of Onnion, without any tricks or traps.
They’ve added the climb towards Châtillon and it’s another drag up, nothing to steep before a fast descent back down to the valley to Saint-Gervais.
The Finish: a 21km summit finish? Yes, just not a steep one although it has its moments. There’s a hard section from the start at Passy for the first 7km to the roundabout, it’s not the Domancy “Hinault” climb used in the worlds and Tour, nor the steep direct road to Les Amerands but reaches the same place via a main road. It’s a wider road still to Megève with a softer slope. Once in town there’s a left turn and the climb up to the Megève airstrip, as used in the 2020 Critérium du Dauphiné. It’s 7km at 4.5% but starts with a 8-9% ramp before easing up, then with 2.5km there’s some 7% and right at the end they ride onto the airstrip which is 5% to the line.
The Contenders: a mountain stage of sorts, just without big climbs. This should be a day for the breakaway and a rider who can both get in the right move at the start and then dispatch their rivals in the final long section but not obvious when and where the move can go clear, the climb to Vinzier today is not so selective so the battle could still rage beyond. Carlos Verona (Movistar) had a good ride on Sunday and is bound to feature in more mountain stages to come. Lennard Kämna (Bora-hansgrohe) won the Dauphiné stage that went here in 2020 and is looking lively but that win had bigger climbs before, he might prefer them to soften up more riders.
Victor Lafay (Cofidis) is the local and looking increasingly capable over the past 18 months but doesn’t seem in peak form right now, he’s told local newspaper Le Dauphiné that the Tour’s turning into a calvaire, an ordeal.
Bob Jungels (Ag2r Citroën) is clearly in great condition and this finish is ideal, but he might have bolder ambitions for the next two days in the Alps. Alberto Bettiol (EF Education-Easypost) can climb well when the gradient’s not too severe. Dylan Teuns (Bahrain) is versatile and has been making the breaks but struggling on the steeper later climbs, today might suit more. Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) might like this course but often barges away on a flat bit of road, it’ll be hard to outclimb rivals or outsprint them. Andreas Kron (Lotto-Soudal) has a chance but an outside one. Pierre Latour (TotalEnergies) was in the break on Sunday but vanished on the tricky descent of the Col de la Croix, today’s course is much less technical.
Otherwise the easy picks are Tadej Pogačar (UAE)… and who from Jumbo-Visma, normally Primož Roglič actually for a finish like this but he’s looking less sharp right now and his back is so sore he apparently didn’t go for a rest day ride; it’s a big ask for Wout van Aert, while Jonas Vingegaard is obviously in the mix but may lack the sprint.
|Teuns, Verona, Jungels, Bettiol, Konrad, WvA, Latour, Izagirre, Schachmann
Weather: 29°C and sunny.
TV: a 1.30pm CEST start and finish is forecast for 5.00pm CEST.
Food and drink: after several days of cheese and wine talk, now for something healthier, if only for the consumer and not our planet. The Tour goes to Thonon today which has its own brand of mineral water, the kind you’ll find in French supermarkets. But just 10km up the road is Evian, home to the more famous mineral water and the kind you’ll find all around the world, the picture above is mid-way on a recon ride of the Tokyo Olympic road race route… the Pocari Sweat was the better option.
Mineral water is big export, France leads the world in selling water abroad. “Mineral” evokes differing compositions and many brands began as water sold by pharmacists to cure various ailments. Evian got going after someone sipped the spring water and their kidney stones vanished, albeit over time rather than in an instant, still inviting questions about causation vs correlation.
Today you can find waters rich in magnesium or bitter bicarbonate in supermarkets in France, they don’t export so well. Vittel is a more plain taste and for many years it was one of the Tour de France’s top-tier sponsors, the Tour even visited the town of Vittel (the day Peter Sagan was thrown off the Tour following Mark Cavendish’s crash); Vittel remains a Tour sponsor and belongs to Nestlé, whose lakeside HQ the Tour rode past on Sunday. But Evian belongs to corporate arch-rival Danone which begs the question whether the Tour de France could visit Evian, could the race promote a rival brand? You however can visit Evian and apparently there’s a fountain from which the Evian water flows where you can top up your bidons for free.