Tour de France Stage 14 Preview

A day in the massif central to Mende that’s almost a mountain stage.

Great Dane: the breakaway won. The sprinters teams did their best to control things but Fabio Jakobsen was being dropped on the climbs and so Quick-Step stepped down, Caleb Ewan crashed so Lotto-Soudal’s lot was done.

BikeExchange were confusing in the Dauphiné, working for Groenewegen on stages that were surely, and later inevitably, too hard; then not pulling on days when he had a chance. They took up the chase in the final 40km but didn’t have enough riders, other teams didn’t join in and so the breakaway was clear.

Mads Pedersen attacked the breakaway hard, only Hugo Houle and Fred Wright could get across. The Dane was the obvious pick to win but that was his weakness. Wright tried an attack while Houle looked to be betting it all on the sprint, perhaps hoping Pedersen launched too soon. He did start his sprint early at about 300m but kept going. After missing out on the stages in Denmark and Northern France, he took a hillier stage and one that adds plenty to his palmarès and range as until now he’d been someone you’d back to win a classic on a cold day. It was a hard day, many post-stage interviews had riders saying how tiring it was from the chase all stage.

The Route: 192km across the Massif Central and with 3,500m of vertical gain, a mountain stage of sorts. After a quick valley road, it’s uphill out of Firminy on big wide road, it’s well-engineered, the kind trucks use to cross the region and so a launchpad for those with big ring brute force.

It’s then across a series of rural roads, none of the climbs is hard by itself, it’s the accumulation and also all the sections in between on exposed rural roads with the sun beating down.

If there’s a heavyset rider left in the breakaway, or just someone who fears they’ll lack enough punch for the climb, then the long descent after the “Côte de la Fage”, the Col de la Pierre Plantée in reality, is probably the last place to make a move. A big route nationale that descends to Mende and where a few determined riders can work together and try to build a lead to defend.

The Finish: the profile doesn’t do it justice. 3km at 10.2% doesn’t sound too bad but the second kilometre is more like 12-14% and it’s an eight minute effort for the best. What it makes it so much harder is that because it’s so steep it’s hard to make up for lost ground so all the big teams will be going elbow-to-elbow to place their leader into place. The race won’t be decided here but time gaps can appear. Once over the top there’s 1.6km to go before the flat finish line on the runway of Mende airport.

The Contenders: normally it’s a breakaway day and could be one of those days when the break can take 15 minutes once it’s gone clear as everyone else wants a breather. So who can cope with the final climb?

Tom Pidcock (Ineos) has a good chance on an uphill finish but could be drained from his stage win. Neilson Powless (EF Education) is going well too but will be tired as well.

Carlos Verona (Movistar) has a chance today. Normally Max Schachmann (Bora-hansgrohe) would be a great pick but his form seems more discreet, Lennard Kämna is going well. Likewise Dylan Teuns (Bahrain). Bob Jungels (Ag2r Citroën) however has shown he’s going well. Michael Woods (Israel) should like a finish like this but he could still be sore after his crash and while some have the knack of sniffing the winning break, this isn’t is forte, team mate Jakob Fuglsang has had a quiet race despite his Tour de Suisse form.

Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ) is riding well but could be better for tomorrow’s course. Team mate Thibaut Pinot  got mugged in Mende in 2018 and won’t really be out for revenge, instead he’s taking pleasure these days in making the crowd cheer and a Saturday stage in the mountains is his thing, although he wouldn’t chose the heat and would prefer a longer climb.

Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) but how to win, he’d probably have to punch clear before the descent to Mende and build up a cushion.

Pierre Latour (TotalEnergies) is good on a mountainous course and today’s descending is not so hard, except the section from Le Bouchet-Saint-Nicolas, but his phobia makes him a harder pick.

The GC contenders have a chance if the breakaway is too weak or, outside probability, a team lays down an ambush mid-stage and the race resembles a poked wasps’ nest. If no move can stick then Tadej Pogačar (UAE) is a safe pick if he can reach the finish even if his team is depleted because he keeps sprinting.

Pidcock, Jungels, Kämna
Verona, Pinot, Pogačar, Woods, Mollema, Vingegaard, Teuns, Schachmann

Weather: 33°C and a light tailwind for much of the stage. A breeze can be pleasant but when it’s hot it can be miserable as it cuts down the ventilation.

TV: the start is at 12.15pm CEST and finish is forecast for 5.25pm CEST. This should be one of those stages where it pays to tune at the start and then come back for the finish, the battle to get in the breakaway could be furious but once this finally goes, things should calm down.

Food and drink: staying away from cheese and wine and a second vegan option in a row as the race visits Le Puy which is famous for its lentils, they’re a dark green type (photo from Flickr’s Jessica Spengler). Now these legumesare a staple in many part of the world because they’re easy to grow in harsh conditions. But for Le Puy it’s a gourmet dish, it has the AOC label. The volcanic soils of the area are supposed to add extra iron – handy for vegan/vegetarian cyclists – plus some taste. They hold up when cooked, there’s a bite to them when other lentils are soft.

70 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 14 Preview”

  1. Can’t imagine they let Pidcock go a second time before he loses a few more minutes.

    Pogacar would like those ten seconds, but his team won’t be strong enough and Jumbo would like a decent group to go clear.

  2. Lentil soup after five hours on the road must be one of life’s great small pleasures. Makes it worthwhile to get drenched wet and to freeze like the proverbial dog for the last two hours!

    Mads Pedersen’s win was the third for a Dane in four days. In 1994 it took Bo Hamburger, Bjarne Riis and Rolf Sørensen seven stages. (My memory is what it is, but three different stage winners in one year must be a pretty rare accomplishment for any nation other than France or Italy?)

    24 stage wins, 15 different winners. Damn impressive! “Vi er røde vi er hvide vi er danske dynamite…”

    • On this particular finish worth remembering how Cummings helped a trio of British riders collect stage wins. I bet there are other nationalities who have managed it, excuse my biased memories.
      Froome, wiggins, cav in 2012,
      Cav, Froome Cummins 2015
      Cav, Cummings, Froome 2016

      • Thought I had started the list alphabetically with Belgium, but apparently hadn’t. I’d hazard a guess that all three have more year with three different stage winners than the “small countries” combined!

        I’m sure that we can find years with three (or more) Dutch and German stage victories as well, but I’d still bet that they are as rare as British (although I do have a creeping feeling that the latter number more than the three above?).

    • +1 Wonder why that is. Nobody on “main street” wants their shops blocked off but the airport…who cares? IMHO it doesn’t do a lot scenery-wise for a race that spends a lot (sometimes too much) time on the scenery.
      I’m less-than-thrilled with this TV director, he seems similar to the guy EMG had for Il Giro..too often seemingly asleep-at-the-switch. Cuts away from the GC boys to show a pleasant scene or the break doing pretty much nothing, then comes back once a move has been made…so he reverts to a quick replay, which of course leaves the live-action once again. And I know I’m open to “Why don’t you do it?” and it’s gotta be tough with only two eyes, but in-the-past I think it’s been done much better…what happened to THOSE guys? Too old? Don’t work for the right outfit? Promoted to positions where they’re incompetent (Italy’s RAI seems a great example), wrong political party…?

      • I feel the same. There’s a lot of nuance in a bike race – and usually a lot of waiting for something to happen. It takes a while to learn to appreciate it.

        I’m guessing some of these directors know how to manage a multi-camera tv show, but aren’t actually cycling fans so haven’t developed the knowledge.

        What they need is you and me in the truck telling them what’s going on and when not to cut away. Actually, just you can do that Larry – I’d pay to watch you go at it!

        • The expert in the production car is Ronan Pensec, an ex-pro and yellow jersey from the 1990s. But what’s changed is the director. For years it was Jean-Maurice Ooghe, he’s recently retired and was replaced by Anthony Forestier and the direction hasn’t been as sharp, this year he’s been joined by a co-director whose name I can’t remember, perhaps to help out. There’s a lot of work, Ooghe would spend weeks on the road with maps to drive the course, note scenic points, obstacles like power lines that could interfere with a helicopter shot etc.

          • Ooghe (Eyes) is a good name for a director. But that explains why the Giro direction was as baffling as ever, despite me reading here that the Tour de France team production team was taking over.

          • The direction wasn’t the same person as the TDF, but it wasn’t any of the “old school guys from RAI”, either, which actually used to be way better than recent Tours (and some old ones, too, in terms of pure direction). There’s a generational shift crisis across the GTs, with the Vuelta as the only one slightly improving – from an awful baseline. A lot to say on the subject, but let’s leave it here.

          • One of my favorite cycling memories was buying my first copy of “Miroire Du Cyclisme” in an international magazine shop in Philadelphia I believe. It had a feature in it about Pensec when he was on Z-Peugeot, so of course I loved the kit too. I translated it using my lousy HS French. I think he’d fallen off his roof or a ladder and had been injured but was coming back. Always one of my favorites because of that.

        • At one time I think RAI had Silvio Martinello in the TV director’s truck. He knew how to read a race and they’d put him on TV now and then, usually post-race. Certainly the TV director’s job is tough and one I wouldn’t want but not impossible as experts have demonstrated in the past whether by their own experience or having a bike race expert helping them.

      • Classic example of “more is less”; In the golden years you can remember the look in the eye of a Riis or Armstrong at Ulle, but you watch that in archive now, and it’s obvious how few cameras there were to cover the whole race…”coming up through the mist..Is that Roche..?!” and how poor the quality of picture.
        But yeah, this director needs an ex-pro to divide attention correctly.
        Also, the camera motos are no longer allowed to connive in helping the big attacks and full-time broadcasting means full-on all day. The riders used to get the nod when a broadcast went live and would wait for it. It’s a business.

    • Why? Lots of space for team vehicles, press, the podium… and few constraints

      Today’s finish would have been ideal for an on-form and present Alaphilippe. The closest one can get without him is Pidcock, though Roglic has similar qualities, Pogi good for a sprint from a reduced and select peloton too.

    • They make a good place to put all the Tour’s finish line equipment. According to Orange, the telecoms company, there is 20km of fibre optic cable to lay at the finish, and 65km of power cables (numbers from 2017, could be up/down since). But the Tour has “lite” finishes, eg on the Col du Granon which is in a national park. It’s always good to see a finish in town, the Lausanne city finish was good, but often they’re on a some nondescript industrial park on the edge of town but the Tour’s decoration does plenty to add some cheer. What’s strange is to visit a place in, say, January on some Paris-Nice recon and spot the finish line still painted on the road and see just how ordinary the location is when for one day six months ago it was a theatre.

      • Or indeed, to ride Alpe d’Huez at any time the race isn’t there, to find the usual finish line marked by a small sign next to some bins!

          • As I already commented, it’s essentially a symbolic/image/marketing factor (but in that sense cycling works the other way around, too, that is being promotional for an active mode of transportation). Otherwise, the impact of TDF, albeit not small, is barely relevant when compared to a city daily life, even more so because it actually block a certain quantity of usual traffic. Besides, barring ozone, urban air quality issues in most European countries are winter-related, obviously. Let’s see if Putin will help Europe out of it or the fracking industry will have the last word.

      • This is a pet peeve for me regarding Belgian classics. Specifically the Flemish seem to love to put the finish line not in a mediaeval town square, like the Strade Bianche, or even a not too scenic, but instantly recognizable location like the Roubaix velodrome or the Mur de Huy, but on the most boring stretch of road possible. The long stretch of provincial road that makes up the finish of De Ronde van Vlaanderen really is a downer to me.

      • That reminds me of taking some clients from Briancon to climb the famous “Alpe”…all the way up there I’m telling ’em at the bottom it’s a sleepy village with just a “Pascal’s Bike & Mower” shop and little more 364 days a year while up top there’s a few summer holiday-makers having a picnic. But it’d been close to a decade since we’d been there…and anyone whose been there recently not on the day LeTour comes to town can tell you it’s now…well…an industry.

  3. You should give Mads more credit for what he did yesterday IMHO. I found his performance outstanding. He didn’t have / show any “weakness” yesterday. Must have got up in the morning, landed on his feet to find out that he had super legs and said:”Today is the day.” Which is amazing for a guy of his built after two very demanding high mountain stages.
    I found it overmodest hearing him say in ASO’s winner’s interview that he had doubted his decision to join the break for quite some day during the ride. I couldn’t identify the slightest doubt in the way he raced. He appeared to be very alert and confident all the time and like a man on a mission.

    • It was a very good performance and it shows that he has a bigger range than we thought, like mr ring wrote. First GT stage and on a very difficult day!

    • I tried to give him plenty of credit, was a big win for him. Should probably have mentioned the work done by Quinn Simmons.

      Remember the days in the Tour de France when the start flag would drop and four riders from wildcard teams would get four minutes but never a chance of winning? Not any more, there’s a real battle to get into the stages (the course plays a part here) to the point where riders need a team mate to help them make it into the break and then having someone else in the move is a big help.

      • Those ol’ days like… less than two weeks ago? 😉 It really looks like an eternity ago, indeed.
        Just joking. I know a GT needs some softer days and this TDF had few of them so no need to complain about the Danish ones which were otherwise great. That said, small fry apart there are other ways to have a “soft break”, e.g., when the peloton fast gives leeway to a big group, most teams represented, with no GC menace, and leaves them far enough not to have strategic issues of sort, either. That’s even softer, because when a small and weaker break goes, it at least establishes an effort baseline (you let ’em go ’cause you’ll get ’em back), whereas the second kind of break actually allows a totally lo effort day for 90% of the riders. They don’t ride so hard knowing nobody is chasing, and they will think about saving legs for the finale… so back in the peloton everybody will be racing even much slower than that!

      • I’m old enough remember the days when these 4 wildcard guys attacked when the flag for the tv live coverage dropped.
        The 100km time between start flag an that point was just gruppo compatto.

        • You don’t even need to be that old to remember Cipo “managing” that sort of shameful situations at the Giro (well, people were boasting about a lesser version of that in a recent Tour of Turkey, I think) – and the guy was reportedly using the same methods which *might* now have him serving a time in prison!
          I wasn’t aware that it had also been an issue at the Tour, barring maybe some very specific years.

    • Bagioli came close in the Dauphiné but hasn’t looked so sharp in the Tour, when you see the camera at the back of the bunch in the final 20km he’s often there. A high quality rider, but so far not his Tour.

  4. I like Pedersen. He seems to be a bit of an all round hard ass. Really cold, torrential rain, heavy roads – no problem. Roasting hot, hilly day, everyone’s exhausted- no problem.
    Today looks like another hard day. This Tour seems to have been very hard in general with pretty much no snoozy sprint days. Imagine if they had a 40km TT in the next day or so in this heat! I fancy Mollema today.

    • Pedersen definitely seems to be a rider who thrives when the race is hard and conditions are tough – Yorkshire world champs, Tour of Flanders, yesterday’s stage – he gets stronger as others weaken

        • He hasn’t won, but finished solo in second as a neo-pro (I think) – holding off the chase behind, but not quite catching Terpstra

          • His interview after finishing 2nd in Flanders was hilarious:

            Interviewer: “So, do you like racing in these cold, rainy conditions”
            Pedersen: “In Denmark I’m always training in this shitty, shitty weather. I don’t like it, but I don’t hate it”

  5. I am glad I am watching today! 190Ks in the Massif central in 33 degrees of heat after the previous efforts is going to be a hard, hard slog, unless the bunch allows a break of lowly placed riders to go up the road. The climb to the finish is tough enough to see riders come across the line in one’s and two’s.
    Nothing wrong with an airport runway finish Larry, as long as it not to often.

  6. Fatigue is going to play an increasing role in the race. It has been obvious in the past two days that the riders are tired, much less motivation to chase a break. Whilst the finish is an opportunity for some GC contenders to take some time I think it will be a two part race, break for the stage and GC jousting a few minutes back.

    If it is a nervous start with a big fight to get in the break then Tom Pidcock might just get himself away, I cant imagine JV will be too bothered. Other than that seems very random who might win, though a small chance that chaos ensues and we see one of the top 5 “up the road” with a chasing pack.

    • Can’t see that happen. The bunch would be so hard on the ass of the break that the top 5 would have to sit up. Nibali did the “honourable thing” in 2012. But The alternative was exhausting yourself in the break, still got caught and shelled right off the back.

  7. Nice writeup, as aways. I’m enjoying the culinary addenda. Minor point, I think you intended to write “today’s descending is not so hard” in the summary about Pierre Latour.

  8. What do we think Vlasov’s tactics are? Just to get top 10 or could he be up for a stage like this? I know he’s recovering from his crash but he’s been up towards the front so clearly isn’t a write off. Would have expected him ti have dropped some time to get more leeway in a break.

  9. Keep trying Fred!
    3rd break, getting closer…. He’s certainly ‘paying his dues’… just needs to end up in a group without someone with Pederson’s punch

      • Yep, few things hotter’n a steep climb in the sun with a hot tailwind, unless it’s one of those “hair-dryer” headwinds! That’s when I start looking for some shade and an ice-block/popsicle/ghiacciolo.

  10. So so so happy for Matthews – have long felt he deserved more for his talent, glad to see him getting another victory, especially after working so hard for it, fantastic! Also that climb always delivers. Looking forward to the GC now although expect the top2 to come in together. Confused why Soler wasn’t asked wait up.

    • +1 Are you sitting down oldDave? Yep, I was rooting for “Bling” to finally come good too…and this was against Bettiol, who would have finally given Italy a stage win.

  11. One of my favorite dishes both to eat and make is puy lentils with morteau sausage (generous with the dijon!). Puy lentils are thankfully now trivial to find in the grocery store. Sadly the sausage is still mostly impossible to find domestically.

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