Tour de France Stage 11 Preview

A likely sprint stage, we’ll see if anyone can challenge Jasper Philipsen.

Boiling Point: a hectic stage with action from start to finish, we don’t always need Tadej Pogačar or Jonas Vingegaard to stir the pot although once the first move went clear, the yellow jersey went in the next move with Pogačar covering him and it was panic stations in the peloton with Bora-Hansgrohe and Ineos chasing and soon closed things down. Then Wout van Aert rode across to the breakaway and his presence must have sent a shiver down some spines, even with the roasting temperature.

The heat got to some with the likes of Romain Bardet and David Gaudu going backwards mid-stage but they’d save things, Gaudu’s woes prevented his team mates from going in the breakaways as they had to tow him to safety. The breakaway seemed to be forming and reforming as moves and counter moves flew. The break never got much more than three minutes and Alpecin-Deceuninck started to chase, first Silvan Dillier, then Mathieu van der Poel. He was pulling so much he slipped off the front and Van Aert joined him. Could they bridge across? Not really, it looked as if they had too much energy, you can sense the urgency for Van Aert to get a stage win but it was too late.

Up ahead After Nick Schultz cranked up the pace Krists Neilands attacked on the final climb and nobody could follow, it was the move he had to make as his odds in a sprint were long. He took 30 seconds but struggled to get more and five chasers (Zimmerman, O’Connor, Pedrero, Bilbao and Chaves) got him back. The finish was fascinating with six riders all drained but nervous. Pello Bilbao was by far the best finisseur in the group but he had everything to gain from the breakaway taking time as he could move up on GC. He also proved the craftiest in the finish, latching onto Georg Zimmermann’s move and then sprinting past him for the win. A win in the Tour is a big event any time but all the more poignant as Bilbao dedicated it to Gino Mäder, is donating money to a reforestation project inspired by Mäder and it also ended the Spanish and Basque double drought of stage wins since Omar Fraile’s 2018 victory in Mende.

The Route: 179.8km and 1,800m of vertical gain, it’s a sprint stage but with plenty of lumpy roads in the first half as the route goes to Julian Alaphilippe country, better known as les Combrailles, with Commentry – his first cycling club was here, aged 8 – and Montluçon – where he moved and grew up – on the route. After this it’s on to the plains of the Bourbonnais, a flat land navigation canals and then a long straight road to Moulins with a tailwind.

The Finish: some rollers on the way to Moulins and roundabouts on the approach then over the Allier river, sometimes bridges can have a slope but this is flat and a with 2km to go it’s in Moulins and soon a gentle right bend and a run down the river bank with 1.5km to go and here there’s a small pinchpoint before a gentle left and passing under the flamme rouge for a long finishing straight.

The Contenders: Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) is the safe pick, today’s stage has some climbing to sap rivals and so far he’s proved simply the fastest across varied terrain with Mathieu van der Poel offering a potent leadout and to the point where his team can chase the breakaways but it’s really on the other sprint trains who must be getting worried about salvaging a win as the opportunities dry up for some time, today’s the only sprint stage of the week. Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) is trying on all sorts of terrain for a stage win, maybe Route 1 via a sprint is easier than attacks and all the tactical complications, the problem is he’d like an uphill finish today and instead he’s got a wide flat road.

Fabio Jakobsen (Soudal-Quickstep) was out the back all day yesterday and so will be tired and there’s more climbing, Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Dstny) was with him too. Dylan Groenewegen (Jayco-Al Ula) came close in Limoges which will give him more confidence. Biniam Girmay (Intermarché) has had a third place so far and could be in the mix but now we’re picking riders who could win if a door opens for them and slams in front of others, think Sam Welsford (DSM Firmenich), Alexander Kristoff (Uno-X) or Phil Bauhaus (Bahrain).

Groenewegen, Wout van Aert
Jakobsen, Ewan, Girmay, Bauhaus, Pedersen

Weather: cooler conditions, 24°C and a light tailwind for the final two hours if this picks up it could heighten the risk – that’s conditional – but the roads are often well sheltered.

TV: KM0 is at 1.25pm and the finish is forecast for 5.30pm CEST.

23 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 11 Preview”

  1. “Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) is the safe pick” – safe might not be the right word given the number of dangerous moves by him and MvdP in finales but a likely winner certainly.

    • Really impressed too. Yesterday’s stage was a real « butchery » and at the end bilbao just made the right moves to land the stage win. Very strong and well manoeuvred.

    • I particularly appreciated that this victory came as a by-product of trying to advance in GC via breakaway. I don’t like and can’t really respect when a GC-able rider deliberately loses half and hour in order to gain space and freedom to hunt stages from breakaways, and can’t respect those who call for this uncompetitive behaviour saying things like “a stage is better than a GC top-10 that no one remembers”. Well, for one, I remember better the GC top-tens than stage winners.

  2. Gaudu & Bardet seemed to have the post-rest day legs and must be very happy not to lose time yesterday. What Pogacar & Vingegaard were up to, Lord only knows!
    Arkea & Total Energies in the break today? Ewan’s been nearly there and Girmay too, so hopefully one of them gets a win.

  3. “They looked like they had too much energy” – drinks?

    I think it’s one of the great sights in contemporary cycling – the two vans on a tandem. I may end up feeling the same about Vingegaard and Pogačar by the end of this tour but most of the time.

    Unlike some I’m pretty tolerant of commentators but how could the English stream GCN boys miss 1 and 2 in GC going in a break?

    An emotional win for Bahrain Victorious reminded me of how emotional last years edition felt with Hugo Houle’s win dedicated to his brother and van de Poel’s Grandfather tribute. I’m glad the ancestors are being honoured.

  4. Was a great stage to watch yesterday – the first hour or two were absolutely brutal. Loads going on at the front, some GC tension, plus the slightly odd WVA/MVDP flex which almost looked like they rode off the front, just to show they were capable of rolling off the front. Really unusual last 10km as well – two separate groups working cohesively and I think if they had come together they’d have all looked at each other and Neilands might have stayed away.

    So absolutely TONS going on – and I doubt it’ll get a mention in next year’s Netflix doc.

  5. A question for a post-rest-day stage: has the pandemic killed English-language cycling journalism? Or was it dead before?

    Perhaps my memory is bad (not perhaps, it is…), but I recall enjoying fairly extensive rest-day coverage of the Tour and the other grand tours when I started watching cycling again about 10 years ago and now all you find are same rehashed stories pretty much everywhere, and at best summaries in English of French or Belgian news stories. Are there no journalists on site? Are teams preventing riders from talking for fear of infection? Is the money gone?

    Or did such journalism never exist?

      • I should have said “I’m not talking about this blog”, which is obviously wonderful. In no way complaining that you didn’t provide coverage. I hope you were on your bike or cooking a 6 course meal on the rest day.

        I was thinking more of conventional journalism outfits, papers, etc…maybe though it has all shifted to blogs, podcasts, youtube channels, etc…

    • “…has the pandemic killed English-language cycling journalism? Or was it dead before?”
      When was it last alive? I’m thinking Sam Abt was the last? I think Andrew Hood still tries but he works for an electronic fish-wrapper. Paul Kimmage is long gone, no? What’s-his-face, the guy who ragged on BigTex for so many years turned into a sniffer of Il Frullatore’s chamois.
      The good writers seem to care about other things – perhaps things that result in checks that can pay the rent? Most of what’s out there is the kind of crap we used to see in give-away cycling publications – worth every cent of the 0 that the writer got paid for it. Now it’s just pixels instead of ink on paper…but it’s still crap…or as someone famous once said, “This isn’t writing! It’s just typing!”

    • Maybe the best idea is to learn Dutch, so you can read (and watch) the analysis on,, and also,, etc. ? 🙂

      Sporza’s “Vive le Velo” evening analysis discussion show can be quite good.

  6. Just as at the Giro, a slight excess of sprint stages lacking of serious alternatives in the finales. The altitude gain, when we get a solid one, is concentrated in the first half. Strong starts, even impressive ones, sometimes, but relatively weak finales: break or bunch, no hope for lively late attacks, no tricky situation to take advantage of for GC men. And not many options for pure Classics men, either.
    I have some hope for tomorrow, but this is actually a general trend which won’t be changed by the next stage, however it ends up, and a trend I don’t like or understand much. Fossombrone was good, Torino was good, same for Longwy or Mende, just to stick to last season.
    Why this sprint bonanza, when we don’t even have much of a serious sprinting champion in his peak anymore? (Just think that the last “favourite” as top sprinters before the race were the likes of Caleb Ewan or Jakobsen, both decent, but…)
    What’s even more curious is that earlier this year people were complaining about “fewer and fewer occasions for the sprinters”. A-hem.

    • Never ever have sprinters had such a forthcoming racing environment as today. Rules made specifically to give them space and jerseys, quite a few entire teams racing exclusively for them, lenient refereeing about those teams blocking the road to prevent attacks, lenient refereeing about their temerarily dangerous “contacts” when positioning, undemanding time-cut limits that sometimes are not even enforced, stages designed with a sprint finish specifically in mind… All of it for wheelsucking riders whose victories mean the race has been very boring, dangerous, and GC-irrelevant. I really wonder who on earth has been driving all this, because it makes no sense.

      • Perhaps there is something about the opinion – voiced by our host (and afterwards I heard it repeated even in local TdF coverage) – that proper racing perhaps needs such “rest days” for recharging or saving energy.

        Other than that I agree – for my eyes, sprinting stages tend to be rather boring while finishes such as today’s are perhaps inherently dangerous. But I always thought such stages formed an important part of Grand Tours at least for decades?

        • Well, not exactly. It’s true that the Tour’s first week was always for the rouleurs, across the flatter northwestern half of France. But you would normally have 2 or 3 TTs there for GC action, some years you would also have such substantial time bonuses that GC guys would get involved in catching them (but back then you had “heavier” GC guys since the course was not so exaggeratedly tilted towards climbers as today), you could have one or two very long stages (over 300km) that became almost impossible to control, you often had your “Roubaix” cobbled stage… But more than anything, you didn’t have so many teams whose only plan for a flat stage was to work for a second-rate sprinter. You wouldn’t have DAF trying to control the race for a William Tackaert, Teka for an Alfonso Gutierrez, or Château d’Ax for a Giovanni Fidanza. These teams would send their other riders in breakaways and only keep their sprinter only in case the finish came after all to a mass sprint. So that riders fighting for breakaways would often outnumber and outclass riders working for a sprint, thus making the expectation of successful breakaways much more realistic, and completely changing the development of the stage, and also having considerable impact on GC. We understand that riders need to take things easy some days, but not all riders need to “rest” on the same days. Every day somebody should be interested in serious battling, especially when the others would prefer to take it wasy. What happens nowadays I find hard to believe. It reminds me a bit of some Giros of old when the flat stages were not contested except for two or three guys sprinting in the end, which everyone attributed to some not very sportive “control” by the main teams. But these days it seems that every guy who is a bit faster gets the status of protected rider, has a whole team burying all their chances for him, and you have maybe a whopping 40-50 big guys fighting for position at the head of the peloton (not counting GC-contestants and their teams), all of this at very high speeds, killing every breakaway, only to make 4th or th or 12th at the finish. And of course, then you have neutralise the last 3km because there are too many of them, causing danger, and give them extra points for the green jersey, and save them from the time limit if one mountain day they decide to sit up and lose 45 minutes. Appalling, really,

      • *Temerariously* dangerous.

        I had to look it up: “unreasonably bold or venturous”, “marked by temerity : rashly or presumptuously daring” 🙂

        • Thanks for the correction, I knew the word existed, but got the English desinence wrong. It’s crazy how many Romance words exist in English, that Romance-language speakers are more familiar with. There’s so much that English borrowed from French in the old days of having common monarchies, that it makes English so rich, a double-rooted language actually, both Germanic and Latin.

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