The race goes wild in the Alps with the first of two tough stages. Don’t miss the early start and finish.
By Georg: another battle to get into the breakaway, another tight leash from the peloton. But just when it looked like the bunch bringing the escapees back, the chase ran out. Trek-Segafredo and Uno-X had toiled hard but once they were done there wasn’t much more help to bring it back.
Up ahead three riders, Jonathan Castroviejo, Mathieu Burgaudeau and Georg Zimmerman, got away from their rivals over the top of the Col des Aravis to contest the stage win. It was a tight contest, Castroviejo has won many time trials but never a road race but he’s handy on the climbs and the big teams like Ineos tend to win a lot. Zimmerman’s a decent climber but he was struggling on the wet descent, perhaps his very narrow bars weren’t helping, and he’s not got a big win. Burgaudeau has a big road race win in Paris-Nice but that’s it. Zimmerman attacked first but could only get a small gap and in the finish Burgaudeau got across to him but made the mistake of trying to counter right away rather than get the measure of his rival and Zimmerman kicked again for the stage win.
Behind a late attack from Jonas Vingegaard… yielded nothing, everyone got on his wheel. Giulio Ciccone won the sprint from the GC contenders. One interesting observation for the day was how Jumbo-Visma were out of riders for the finish, only Tiesj Benoot was left to pull with Attila Valter just holding on at the back. Can they bounce back today?
The Route: just 147km but over 4,000m of vertical gain and that’s condensed into the final 100km. It’s almost 50km up the valley roads to the start of the Col de Madeleine, 24km at 6% but this is the northern side which has several flatter sections along the way meaning when the road does rise the slope is often 7-10%, including the start and the finish. Then its straight downhill to the Maurienne valley, one of those valleys not named after its river and a ride brief valley road section.
The Finish: it’s the Col de la Croix de Fer as summit finish but with a twist, or rather 45 of them. The road climbs via Albiez-le-Jeune to the Col du Mollard and this route from Villargondran is a “new” way up for the sport – used in the 2015 Tour de l’Avenir – the road has about 45 hairpin bends – double Alpe d’Huez’s 21 in less distance – before picking up the main road to the Croix de Fer.
There are flatter sections but they don’t offer much respite, it’s uphill almost all the time but a rider can save energy by getting on the right wheel. The route becomes smaller and wilder as it climbs above the tree line and this the final steep section, it’s hard going and as often proved selective when it’s been in the Tour de France, even as a prelude to the likes of Alpe d’Huez.
The Contenders: it’s hard to look past Jonas Vingegaard as he’s not just riding better than the rest, he’s aggressive as well. It’ll be interesting to see how Jumbo-Visma fare as they ran out of helpers for their leader yesterday but one thing to Vinegaard’s advantage is that his rivals are all close to each other on GC. If one of them moves, another might respond for fear that even a few seconds lead could shape the other podium places, for example if fifth place Jai Hindley moves, Adam Yates’s fourth position is immediately at risk and so Vinegaard doesn’t have to chase in person.
Among the other GC contenders it’s hard to pick a winner, Jai Hindley (Bora-hansgrohe) is looking quietly impressive so far and even a bit beefier these days but Adam Yates (UAE) is consistent while Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) is looking incisive.
For the breakaway there aren’t many riders who fit the category of being able to win atop a giant mountain but are far down on GC because of some misfortune rather than their own relative lack of form right now, plus they’re not reserved for team duties. Still Gregor Mühlberger (Movistar), Oscar Onley (DSM) and Lawson Craddock (Jayco-Al Ula) sort of fit the bill.
One of the characteristics of today’s short stage is that riders only a few minutes down might fancy their chances. David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) is having a rough time, the form from Paris-Nice a distant memory now, ditto Mikel Landa (Bahrain) although Gaudu is getting the pressure from the local media way more than Landa. David de la Cruz (Astana) is a longer shot.
|Ciccone, Yates, Hindley
|Carapaz, Onley, De La Cruz
Weather: warm and sunny in the valleys but cooler at altitude, less than 20°C for the final two climbs and with the rising chance of a downpour.
TV: the stage starts at 10.20am and the finish is forecast for 2.50pm CEST with live coverage from 1.00pm onwards meaning from the top of the Madeleine onwards.