The last day in the Pyrenees and the last mountain stage. Can Jonas Vingegaard get a stage win in the yellow jersey, can Simon Geschke take points to keep the Dane at bay in the mountains competition?
Score draw: no breakaway could get clear on the plains, it wasn’t for the want of trying. Just as some teams have sprint trains, others were deploying several riders to help launch a rider into the breakaway with one rider acting as a leadout/battering ram before their climber made their move; another rider deployed to help the move go away. It was so intense but nobody could move. On the Col d’Aspin Thibaut Pinot and Alexey Lutsenko attacked to build a slender lead, it was hard to take time on a yellow jersey group that was racing hard. The stage felt it was being run around the side of a volcano and that suddenly the seismographs could start shaking, at any minute things could erupt.
Pinot and Lutsenko were reeled in by a chase group. Andreas Leknessund and Rigoberto Uràn had a brief spell on the front but they led by seconds as the Tadej Pogačar-Jonas Vingegaard group bore down. The inseparable pair were using up their remaining team mates fast, with Vingegaard by himself from the Col d’Azet onwards. Pogačar had McNulty left.
McNulty kept pulling, pulling and pulling. Vingegaard probably couldn’t go around but he didn’t need to. He just had to mark Pogačar all day. Pogačar accelerated over the top of the Col d’Azet but Vingegaard followed and the Slovenian eased up. McNulty only pulled over in the final kilometre to leave the pair to duel on the steep airstrip in Peyragudes, and it was La Planche des Belles Filles again as Vingegaard got the jump but was overhauled on the line by Pogačar. The day ended in a draw, Pogačar gaining four seconds in time bonuses but crucially he was going for the stage win, not the yellow jersey. The threatened eruption didn’t quite happen, this wasn’t a fire and brimstone stage, Pogačar took what he could and we’ll see what today brings.
Riders were scattered all over the mountain but it just entrenched the hierarchy as time gaps widened, Geraint Thomas started the day in third overall at 2m43s, he finished third overall at 4m56s. Romain Bardet was the GC gainer of the day, rising from ninth to sixth overall but as things stand Aleksandr Vlasov will beat him in the time trial so he’s seventh overall but we’ll see what he can do today. Finally Fabio Jakobsen came in last and with seconds to spare, his team mates standing on the line to roar him on as he sprinted to the line to make it for another day.
The Route: 143km and 4,000m of vertical gain and, like yesterday, most of it’s condensed into the second half of the stage where it’s either up or down, there are no valley sections to recover and regroup. 4,000m is plenty on a traditional mountain stage, it’s tough across 140km, harder still when it’s backloaded in a stage, harsh when it’s deep into the third week of a grand tour.
The stage starts in Lourdes and after KM0, a narrow road and a spiky little climb before dropping back down to the outskirts of Lourdes to pick up the main road, a wide road alongside a railway. It’s main roads all the way to Laruns at the foot of the Aubisque.
The Col d’Aubisque is a giant climb because of its length and 16km at 7% makes it hard work. Over the top and there’s only a short descent at first before climbing back up to cross the Col du Soulor. Then it’s down the Soulor, a twisting road but with nothing nasty. The road just begins to flatten out when suddenly in Etchartès there’s a right turn.
The Col de Spandelles makes its debut in the Tour de France, proof that in 2022 there are still “new” roads for the race to explore; the race can find more for future years as it takes this one-time forest trail that’s since been tarmacked and upgraded, although only just. Plenty in the peloton will not cheer the novelty, it’s steep from the start, and hard going, the road is wide enough for one car and little more. The descent is more gradual, there’s even a short uphill section, but it’s all on the same narrow backroad.
The Finish: a brief crossing of the valley floor and then the climb of Hautacam begins. Back for the sixth time in the Tour, this is a ski station road that’s wide but not an easy drive up. The second half has some steep parts, it is like a staircase in places when the slope tips up to 10-12%.
The Contenders: can a breakaway form on the plains this time? If so, Michael Woods (Israel-PremierTech), Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) and Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) have a chance with the latter disappointed with his form but when this happens sometimes he’s on fire the next day.
Otherwise, another duel with Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) and Tadej Pogačar (UAE) awaits. They’re inseparable, Pogačar perhaps the more explosive but Vingegaard might prefer the longer climb and maybe he’s out for a stage win in the maillot jaune?
Plus watch to see if Simon Geschke (Cofidis) can make the breakaway because his finish line today is the Aubisque, if he can take 20 points at the top then he could keep the polka-dot jersey. If not then Vingegaard could take it.
|Jonas Vingegaard, Tadej Pogačar|
|Woods, Pinot, Powless, Jungels, Ciccone|
Weather: warming back up, sunny and 28°C.
TV: the stage starts at 1.30pm CEST finish is forecast for 5.30pm Euro time.