A big day for the breakaway and a collection of climbs all with their steep sections. The big challenge could be the wind, it’s forecast to howl today. Update 11.00am – the route has been changed, skipping the first 115km.
Update 1.00pm – the stage is cancelled because of the high winds which among other things have caused road blocks with fallen trees etc.
Kooij uncaged: Jonas Gregaard (Uno-X), him again, took off to get more mountains points and then backed off, leaving Rhone local Sandy Dujardin out by himself all day. A headwind kept a lid on the action and we got the promised sprint finish. With Mads Pedersen launching early, Olav Kooij came past to get his first World Tour win. There wasn’t much else to report from the stage although David Gaudu grabbed the six second time bonus mid-stage after a textbook leadout from Arnaud Démare who then mopped up the four second bonus to keep Tadej Pogačar away. Kooij’s win was the last chance for the sprinters and it means Jumbo-Visma have two stage wins so far, justifying their selection of flatlanders.
It’s Kooij’s second World Tour win after a stage in the Tour de Pologne last year and the 21 year old sprinter is a rising talent, we’ll see if he becomes a pure sprinter or aims for the classics as well. He started out speed-skating at the age of six, then on a racing bike when he was 12 according to his local newspaper, copying both from his father who was a skater who rode his bike when the canals weren’t frozen.
The Route: update 11.00am – because of the high winds, the start is being moved, between the two climbs of Callian and Cabris on the profile above. The climb to Cabris is more steady, 5km at close to 6%.
It’s unclear if they will just ride to the finish or add an extra lap around the finish. Or if this will be possible as the high winds at the start (an often windy area) could also be blowing at around the finish too (which isn’t usually as windy).
With 40km to go it’s onto the finishing circuit and this crosses the finish line with 30.5km to go. There’s a left turn and road rears up on a backroad, it’s not just steep but narrow and twisting. Even once the slope levels out it’s still on this small road across to the intermediate sprint. From here it’s the main road, there’s 20km to go but it goes by quickly on the descent, it’ll be hard to chase.
The Finish: a twisting downhill on the main road into town and once in La Colle, the final kilometre is uphill, there are a couple of bends but they’re not sharp, it’s just they block sight of the finish line until the final 200 metres.
The Contenders: the breakaway stage. Saturday’s summit finish is likely to be reserved for the GC contenders and likewise for Sunday’s racing although there’s room then for those in and around the top-10 to ride off with the stage win. For everyone else it’s today or nothing but the prime contenders for today’s stage aren’t that far down on GC so they might not get much room; or they’re on team duty, a rider like Tim Wellens (UAE) is the archetype for today but is he allowed to race for himself? David de la Cruz (Astana) fits the bill, he’s infrequent winner but has two Paris-Nice stages. Simon Geschke (Cofidis) and Omar Fraile (Ineos) come to mind too but need a spin of the wheel of fortune to get away, let alone win. Magnus Cort (EF Education-Easypost) will like the finish if he can make it over the climbs, he’s in great shape though.
Tadej Pogačar (UAE) is the sweeper pick, if the breakaway can’t stick and it’s all back together then can win the reduced bunch sprint.
|Magnus Cort, Tadej Pogačar
|Wellens, Powless, De La Cruz, Geschke, Fraile
Weather: sunny but windy. 19°C but the stat today is the 40km/h NW wind which could gust to 90km/h. The wind will drop during the stage but the gusts could persist across the course.
If the forecast holds, it’s potential crosswind carnage. But assuming the racing goes ahead, these kind of gusts can be too much, you and your bike can be scooped off the road, it’s bizarre feeling as there’s little you can do. So there could be a meeting to discuss things and revise the stage. But the wind model is one thing, the conditions on the ground another and if the gusts aren’t too persistent things can go ahead as planned, look for news later this morning.
TV: the stage start is 11.40am CET, TV coverage is for 3.00pm and the finish is forecast for 4.40pm CET.