The sprint stage of the race, it’s a crucial day for the likes of Sam Bennett and Dylan Groenewegen otherwise their week is reduced a mountain training camp.
Alaphilippe sits up first in La Chaise : the stage started with a crash, after eight kilometres Romain Combaud, Stef Cras and Steven Kruijswijk (pictured moments before) were on the ground and out of the race. Kruijswijk was going to be a precious help to Jonas Vingegaard this week and during the Tour de France but he’s got a broken collarbone and pelvis; Wilco Kelderman is his likely substitute. The early breakaway never got more than two minutes with Jumbo-Visma keeping a tight leash. In the move again was Donavan Grondin who’d taken the mountains jersey on the opening day and extended his lead. But he’s no climber, he’s a track specialist – world champ in the Madison with Benjamin Thomas of Cofidis – and started cramping up and had to spend minutes sat beside the road before getting going and would make the time cut with seconds to spare. He’s French, and with an interesting back story as he’s from Reunion island in the Indian ocean.
A sprint finish loomed in La Chaise Dieu, literally “the Seat of God” and the name comes from the presence of monastery in the 11th century. The fast pace all day and hills in the finale left some sprinters floundering and lead out riders left behind. Jumbo-Visma led all the way to the finishing straight with Jonas Vingegaard again giving Christophe Laporte an impressive leadout, turning the power to do most of the last kilometre but crucially not all of it. A lull saw a late attack by Richard Carapaz but this proved to be a leadout for Julian Alaphilippe who sprinted to the stage win. Laporte stays in yellow but is tied for time (bonuses) with Alaphilippe.
The Route: 191km and over 2,000m of vertical gain, if today is The Sprint Stage, it’s like a day out of the Vuelta with some climbing along the way and the theme of this is the way the course rises out from the Loire valley. It does this at the start. Then later the Côte de Neulise is another climb out of the Loire valley but neither are steep, the hard part for the latter climb is at the start.
The Finish: Le Coteau is on the banks of the Loire, opposite the larger city of Roanne. It’s a flat finish with some roundabouts through the town’s zone industrielle before a tight bend to the left before the flamme rouge and then a tight bend to the right soon after with a 650m finishing straight.
The Contenders: on paper it’s a match between Sam Bennett (Bora-hansgrohe) and Dylan Groenewegen (Jayco-Al Ula). Bennett seems to be climbing better but he’s erratic in the sprints but his team will hope Danny van Poppel can help here. Groenewegen has more speed but he’ll have to cope with the climbs.
Milan Menten (Lotto-Dstny) is making a name for himself as a sprinter. Lionel Taminiaux (Alpecin-Deceuninck) is probably his team’s quickest option and this also means two more teams to chase. As will others
|Taminiaux, Dversnes, Laporte, Trentin, Mihkels
Weather: sunny, 27°C but a headwind for much of the stage including the run to the finish.
TV: the stage starts at midday and finish is forecast for 4.40pm CEST. There’s live coverage from 3.00pm onwards.