They’ve saved the best for last with a course that’s as fun to ride on a summer’s day as it should be to race, or watch. There’s the Chartreuse trilogy and then the return of the Bastille above Grenoble.
Stage 7 Review: Victor Campenaerts has reinvented himself a couple of times, a former trial specialist and Hour Record holder, then a punchy racer… now a climber? Well he lasted longest from the breakaway and collected enough points to take the climbers’ jersey before being reeled in after the Col du Mollard. Jumbo-Visma had been setting the pace and one by one the team used up its riders until Attila Valter did his last turn just as the road begin to rise out of the ski town of Saint Sorlin and Jonas Vingegaard made his move. The others briefly tried to follow but couldn’t and in little more than 4km he took 40 seconds with Adam Yates the best of the rest ahead of the Western Australia hill climb championship where Jai Hindley beat Ben O’Connor and fifth place went to Max Poole, the 20 year old neo-pro finishing among many star names of the World Tour atop a giant mountain pass where you can’t fluke a result. Vingegaard now leads by two minutes and if it was a crushing display, it was clinical, he didn’t launch a risky raid with 50km to go, instead he moved just as the final climb reached the steep finale yet at the same time he barely seemed to worry about the others in the race, as if his only rival right now isn’t in the Savoie Alps but the Sierra Nevada, where Tadej Pogaçar has just finished his team’s altitude camp.
The Route: 153km and just shy of 4,000m of vertical gain. It starts uphill, gradually at first then proper climbing to and through St. Martin d’Uriage when the race takes a balcony route on the eastern side of the Grésivaudan valley and the course rises and falls and twists and turns, ideal for a breakaway to go clear before dropping back down the valley floor and eventually picking up the mighty Col du Granier, this time climbed from the steepest side with 9km at 9% and the first of the once legendary Chartreuse trilogy, the succession of three mountain passes that have helped decide the Tour de France in the past but whose status has slipped off the radar. The Col du Cucheron isn’t hard but the opening bends don’t feel easy, they’re the hardest part and the Col de Porte is a more regular, stable climb. There’s a fast descent down to Grenoble.
The Finish: the Bastille is back. It’s a fortress above the city of Grenoble built in the mid 18th century and in more peaceful times today offers a view of the city, the valley floor below, the mountains beyond and there’s a restaurant there which has been starred in the Michelin Guide and whose chef… cooks for the Ag2r Citroën during the Tour de France.
It’s not a new road but almost as nobody in today’s peloton has done it. Used seven times before, the last occasion was a prologue in 2000 but it’s probably infamous for the finish in 1977 when Bernard Hinault – who’d taken a few wins but was still just a promising rider – was leading solo in the yellow jersey but descending the Col de Porte, crashed at speed on a bend and had to be pulled out of the woodland below the road and was put back on his bike. He completed the rest of the descent and rode to the Bastille where he got off his bike, shouting “I want to quit” but his manager Cyrille Guimard put him straight back on the bike and he won the stage and race. If Bernard Hinault wanted to give up it suggests it’s hard and it is. It’s not just steep, it’s very narrow and the corners are said to be 30% but only if you try to take the inside line.
The Contenders: Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) isn’t calculating his efforts and saving his energy right now, on the contrary he’s not just winning stages he’s taking time. The Bastille finish though is interesting, how can he do on such a short effort? Probably fine given he’s duelled with Pogačar atop the Super Planche des Belles Filles ahead of the rest.
Today’s route probably allows for more chaos though, it’s harder for one team to control and with Jumbo-Visma having taken four out of seven stages so far who gets the last win? The sharp finish could suit Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal-Quickstep), has he still got it for a climb like this, he was adrift on the longer climb yesterday. As was Giulio Ciccone (Trek-Segafredo) but he might be better here. Mikel Landa (Bahrain) has looked adrift this week but he can still surprise. Ineos used to thrive in this race but not this year although Carlos Rodriguez perked up yesterday. There’s a battle for the podium with Yates, O’Connor and Hindley all with 25 seconds of each other with Adam Yates (UAE) probably the best on a short steep climb.
|Rodriguez, Carapaz, Yates, Elissonde, Charmig
Weather: warm and sunny in the valleys, 25°C.
TV: the stage starts at 10.10am and the finish is forecast for 2.50pm CEST with live coverage starting at 1.10pm.