Tour de France Stage 13 Preview

A summit finish stage and after the Pyrenees, the first long ascent to the finish line. The Grand Colombier awaits and it’s 14 July, Bastille day, so expect big crowds on the roads.

C’est beau, le Beaujolais: this Tour seems to have thrown up more highlights of the year than the rest of the year so far and the stage didn’t disappoint, a day where it’d be hard to fit the highlights onto a DVD but if they did, you’d want to buy the DVD… and the accompanying DVD player.

The battle raged to get into the breakaway and it was part bike race, part forest fire. Mads Pedersen was on the attack from the start but his move was like many to follow, a huge expenditure of energy that didn’t deliver. It’s no criticism of him or the others, indeed we should celebrate the incendiary activities where many were making huge efforts just to open up a few seconds on the peloton in the hope they could then hitch a ride on the right wagon. It took the best part of two hours before the breakaway went clear.

Ag2r Citroën took up the chase, seemingly because Thibaut Pinot was up the road and if he took time then Ben O’Connor and Felix Gall might find it harder to crack the top-10, a move that looked like a punishment chase for missing the move. The other question was Tiesj Benoot up front, a lot of energy for someone crucial to the yellow jersey in the coming long weekend but the team seems happy to give riders a shot but it’s notable that UAE looked more cohesive.

Mathieu van der Poel attacked the break, he needed to build up a cushion for the final climbs but it wasn’t sufficient. After being dropped, Ion Izagirre got back on and seemed to take a long pull at the start of the Col de la Croix Rosier to help his team mate Guillaume Martin close in on Matteo Jorgenson and Thibaut Pinot who themselves had MvdP in their sights, only he kept piling on the pressure and then attacked in person and nobody could follow. He took 30 seconds at the pass and the chase behind struggled to get going.

Izagirre was away and all of a sudden Cofidis looked in control as Guillaume Martin marked the moves. Their kit looked sharp, the bike elegant and Izagirre was away solo for their second stage win.

The Route: 137.8km and 2,410m of vertical gain. It’s flat all the way to Tenay but the profile doesn’t tell the whole story, first it’s across plains and wetland and then after Ambérieu it’s into the Albarine valley, a river valley, a canyon where the cliffs loom above but the road is very even and flat as it passes many old mills and factories on the way to Tenay, a section of road that will be ridden in the opposite direction on Stage 18. In a Tour that’s already celebrated Luis Ocaña, André Darrigade and Raymond Poulidor, this is the place where Roger Pingeon used to work as an apprentice plumber before turning pro and winning the Tour de France.

There’s the climb to Hauteville out of the valley and up the Plateau d’Hauteville, it’s not steep with 10km at 4.5% but has all the visual cues of a climb as it hugs the cliff edge to rise up making for an unusual approach to the intermediate sprint.

There’s a small climb over the Col de la Lèbe and then a long descent on a big road with nothing too technical and it’s back down to the valley floor and 10km to eat and drink before the mighty Grand Colombier.

The Finish: the Grand Colombier’s a relatively new climb in the Tour de France, first used in 2012 and several times since, climbing different routes to the top. It was a summit finish in 2020 and again climbs this “classic” side, from Culoz via the lacets. On paper this is a beast of a climb comparable in raw stats to the Galibier from Valloire and although without altitude, it’s got attitude and views galore. But it’s yet to be very selective, riders get dropped but nobody strikes out alone for a solo stage win.

Ignore the 7% average, this is a climb in five parts, first the steep section straight out of town and to the lacets hairpins and beyond, there’s lots of 10% sections here to force an early selection and the rocks radiate back heat. Next there’s brief respite with a flatter part and a chance to put it in the big ring as the road heads into the woodland. Then the road rears up again, there’s one hairpin but otherwise it’s a long straight section with more 10-12%  slopes. Then another respite where there’s even a brief descent and then it’s over the cattle grid and out of the trees and here the road rises up again all the way to the line. Overall it’s a tough climb but with an irregular gradient, often over 10% and a 50 minute effort.

The Contenders: breakaway or GC day? With luck we can have two races for the price of one if a good group can get away and teams keen to win from the breakaway will have to send two riders up the road, one being their climber for the win and then another as a helper who sacrifice themselves to help tow the group clear. Breakaway picks include Michael Woods (Israel-PremierTech) and the rider second to him on the Puy de Dôme Pierre Latour (Total Energies) who has big problems descending but should be able to handle today’s ride down the Col de la Lèbe. Ag2r Citroën are almost on home roads here and both Felix Gall and Ben O’Connor are suited to the long climb. Lidl-Trek tandem Mathias Skjelmose and Giulio Ciccone are worth watching but both have injury, crash and form question marks.

Among the GC contenders both Tadej Pogačar (UAE) and Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) have been talking about this summit finish and both confident in their form and for all the battling so far the Dutch team has yet to win a stage. The way the slope tightens up just at the end is a slight advantage to Pogačar and his punch – he won here in 2020 – but Vingegaard will like this first real long climb of the Tour. We have to pick between them because we saw on the Puy de Dôme they could put almost a minute into the nearest rider in the space of 1,500 metres.

Pogačar, Vingegaard, Woods
Latour, Peters, Skjelmose, Gall, O’Connor, Pinot, Ciccone

Weather: warm and sunny, 29°C. This counts as the first part of the Grand Colombier is south-facing and can be a furnace.

TV: KM0 is at 1.55pm and the finish is forecast for 5.20pm CEST. The climb out of Tenay is at 3.30pm and the approach the final climb is for 4.20pm.

Pinailleur: or French for a pedant. It’s “Bastille Day” in English but while the liberation of this Parisian prison is a moment in history, in France today it’s the quatorze juillet, the 14 July, the term given to to the anniversary of the French revolution.

On the subject of the language police, note today’s stage goes to the Jura mountains. There are views of the nearby Alps but today’s summit finish is Jurassic.

70 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 13 Preview”

  1. Nice one. DVD-referance :D, does anyone under 30 get that? But then again how many younglings read this blog.

    Hope for Trææn to get in the breakaway today, if is not to beaten up after falling for a third time. #look where youre going

  2. I can sort of see why this climb might be hard to get a major selection on due to the placement of the steep parts and less steep parts. This is a hard to predict finish for the GC group.
    Often in a GC group you might have some that attack from a couple of K’s out but the profile does not support that perfectly and these riders will instead wait until the very last steep section to the line.
    For those that might attack from 5 km’s out it dips down a little giving some advantage to anybody on the wheel so if that type of attack is not immediately successful the rider needs to back off or risk getting dropped towards the line.
    So to get a big time gap you need to go very early on the steep section with 7 km to go. Difficult unless you are very superior.
    POG and V are that superior than the others but if one cannot drop the other i doubt they can keep going if the other is sitting on. Since POG generally sprints better i don’t think its in Vingegaard’s best interest to swap turns with POG if they are together.
    Very long winded way of saying i sort of expect a number of GC riders to come in together with a sprint off on the final climb.
    Given how much energy Jumbo have thrown away in the last week they may be more vunerable than normal.

    • If Vinny hasn’t attacked earlier, I wouldn’t be surprised if Pog leaves his attack until the final steep section (approx 1km from the finish?) and tries to steal a handful of seconds. He seems content at whittling away at the 17 second lead. And the previous steep section at 7km’s to go is probably a bit too far out. But, its Pog, so who knows.

      • I’d imagine JV needs to launch a long range attack or his JV team crank up the pressure to max from a long way out or the GC outcome is inevitable – TP will kick in the last aim or so and steal time, quite possibly more than enough to move into yellow.

  3. «this Tour seems to have thrown up more highlights of the year than the rest of the year so far»

    Indeed. I have a friend not even bothering to watch the Tour since early Froome era because it is, quote, «too boring and predictable». He’s a big cycling geek and former conti rider but for years only watched the Giro, the Vuelta and the classics. Guess what: he’s back!

    I never found the Tour boring but surely something has changed the last couple of years, turning the Tour into the most action-filled grand Tour. What has happened? Just a change in clientele or are there structural explanations like the points system?

    • There’s a lot to explore here, three immediate thoughts are the course design with relatively short stages with places where riders can launch moves and so far there has often been a rest day or sprint stage before meaning many riders are relatively fresh. The other is just a set of riders willing to attack, rather than defend. Plus just the uncertainty right now, Pogačar and Vingegaard are very closely matched, ideally the yellow jersey can keep changing shoulders.

      • @Mr Ring. Contrast that with the is year’s Giro – the slowest of burns. Is there a piece to be written there comparing Grand Tours over the years and their (perceived) excitement levels?

        • Great idea. And there are so many factors that come into play here that dictate how each GT will play out.

          Tadej and Jonas are too exciting riders who seem to be fearless. Quick comment, but the Giro riders were much more reserved with their efforts it seemed.

    • It seems to me that the “mountain train” tactic isn’t used as much since peak Sky/Ineos years, so the riders are fighting it out individually.
      Not sure why it’s changed though…?

      • Might be because the top two riders atm are so much better than their trains, so when one attacks, the train becomes obsolete. It wasn’t uncommon in the peak Sky era for the last member of his train to finish with the GC leader or just behind him.

        • I think we also saw in 2020 and 2021 that JV had the strongest team and tried the Skytrain approach, but Pog just sat on and got a free ride. It wasn’t until Granon in 2022 that JV had the riders to isolate Pog with alternating attacks. I can’t think of scenarios where Pog or Vingegaard have been dropped or put into much difficulty by sitting on another team’s train?

          • For the train tactics to work, your leader still needs to be the strongest. He needs to be able to drop everyone else once the train does its job. Otherwise you are just giving someone else a free ride.

            Train or not, Froome was the strongest rider during his peak years. Without the train, he would be more vulnerable to tactics and change of pace. But as the 2014 Vuelta had shown, he could just ride at his own pace and pull most back once the shenanigans were done.

            The 2014 Vuelta also shown that his style wasn’t conductive to beating a rider physically stronger than him. He ended up riding like AC’s domestique: dropping the rest for AC before AC made his decisive move.

    • Your friend sounds like a bit of a d**k.

      There were a few boring sky train years but there’s been some action the last few years. I think it’s been noticeable in the last three years how exciting the medium mountain transition stages have been where you get really strong breaks and hours of excitement just to get in the break.

      • I just about managed to hold my tongue about Larry’s outbursts yesterday, but David, please. Your post is perfectly good absent that first, wholly unnecessary sentence. I am sure I’m not alone I’m hoping this comments section is able to maintain both its insight, and its maturity.

      • d*ck is a bit unnecessary but i’m usually pretty irked too when people call entire era’s of tour de france cycling boring, its a lazy opinion. it’s like watching the last 10 minutes of a movie and forming an opinion on the whole. with a curious and keen eye and love for the sport there’s always something to enjoy in any tour.
        there’s much more to see than what team color is in front of the race, but to each their own ofcourse

      • I personally like ducks. What I don’t like is eufemistic asterisks. It’s a bit silly. If you’re going to swear, go all the way. We’re all 21st century grown-ups.

    • I think it is mostly the riders themselves that explain why the race is so lively. We have had very short stages in the past resulting in boring races.
      We can also observe the same trend in classics as the ronde for instance (with no big changes in the route).

    • While I agree with all the points already raised, I would suggest that the reduction in team size from 9 to 8 riders in 2018 has also had an impact. I know it doesn’t sound like much, but I think it is no coincidence that the idea of pure sprint trains has also seemingly died out. Is it possible that with fewer spots available on a team, we have reached something of an inverse critical mass, where it is simply more difficult for teams to control? I realise that I don’t have any evidence for my claims, I only wanted to raise this point as food for thought!

    • Great analyses – the riders and the parcours make the Tour and we’re in a belle époque now.
      Also, Netflix… I’m now no longer a MAMIL oddball at summer barbecues – everyone wants to talk cycling, get my opinion, ask about my worse crash, whether my partner massages me nightly (!), ‘Jonas vs that smiley guy’ etc. etc.

  4. +1 for the Cofidis ‘elegant bike’. The Look frame was so lovely I was busy googling UK suppliers. Not cheap though, especially in it’s ‘classic’ guise.

      • Since the bike / La Vie Claire jerseys are both based on Mondrian’s squares it might be more accurate to say it’s straight out of the 1920s… I think the Look bike and Cofidis kit are great. The best in the bunch, with the possible exception of EF’s.

  5. A fascinating battle for the 3 – 10 final GC places will be underway too. My guesses:
    S Yates, Rodriguez, Hindley, Gaudu, Pidcock, Bilbao, Bardet, A Yates

    • I think your 3-10 prediction could be quite close. I had Simon Yates to be 3rd from the start. Hindley won’t slip too much and Pidcock has not shown that he is up with all the others quite yet. It’s not what I hope though. I’d like to see Pidcock come away happy and the belief that he can one day take the spoils. For that he’d want to be in the top five.

        • I feel the TT could suit Pidcock – he was after all world champ in junior TT and the technical course suits. My doubts are his ability in the high moutains and his durability. We’ll soon see, and to fall out of the top ten he would have to lose a lot to – say – Kuss, whose priority is Vingegaard, or Bardet who is struggling. Similarly A Yates is there to support Pogi – his own GC is secondary.

          It’s the Fête Nationale. I’m off to enjoy my free (mini) cruise on the Moselle!

          • By his own admission, TT isn’t a discipline he put much effort to recently. He really needs to ditch the MTB and focus on Tour prep between May and July to come good in the Tour.

            I can see that happen once Paris Olympics is done and dusted.

        • He would ship time in the TT, but more as a result of lacking prep recently rather than not suited to the discipline. Bodes well for the future.

          Apparently he became stronger in week 3 of GTs according to last Vuelta experiences. We will see.

          Question still is whether he is just pulling an Alaphilippe or genuine GC material.

  6. Thank you for a great blog. I still follow, but rarely comment now for obvious reasons.
    But these days i think some positivity is needed here.
    I hold your insights in the races in the highest regard, and the cultural aspects you dig out for us are fascinating.
    We are all here because of that so let’s not take it for granted.

    • I second that. I think this site has the most insightful coverage. Long may it continue. I wish I could write as well as the others contributors. I press publish and then discover another stupid typo.

      • Dear Inner Ring,
        Perennial kudos for the bestest blog in the known universe. Thank you.
        Any thoughts on curating your archives and producing a book/s? Complimented by salient and sometimes sumptuous photos. A sort of ‘Best of’.
        Secondly, any plans of some new merchandise? Particularly a race-jersey and socks, of course.

  7. Can’t see that Vingegaard will be without Kuss on this stagelette so there will be no point in attacking him before the final. It is a question of whether anyone, far enough behind on time, has a long range attack in them.

  8. Pointless and Barely Interesting Trivia: Ion Izagirre´s two and Pello Bilbao´s one make it three TdF stage wins for ex-Euskaltel-Euskadi riders – which equals the three won by Roberto Laiseka, Iban Mayo and Samuel Sánchez.

  9. My money (if I had any spare in this cost of living crisis) would be on Ben O’Connor for the stage. He and the team need a boost.

  10. Oh my gosh! I love paleontology and love the cycling but had never made the Jura-Jurassic connection, you’ve done it again inrng! 🙏
    Yesterdays stage was incredible, very much like a microcosm of a typical grand tour in itself, with the chaos and multiple plot twists in the beginning ultimately yielding one rider who won because of a combination of luck, wisdom and strength, fantastic stuff!

    This new style of “total cycling” which is apparently a thing now is superbly entertaining to watch but please can we not have it every day? When am I going to find time to nod off for a bit without missing too much?

    • Seconded! Says the Online Etymology Dictionary: “of or pertaining to the geological period between the Triassic and the Cretaceous,” 1823, from French Jurassique, literally “of the Jura Mountains,” between France and Switzerland, whose limestones were laid down during this geological period.
      The name was chosen by von Humboldt.”

  11. “A summit finish stage and the first long ascent of this year’s Tour de France the Grand Colombier”

    What about the Tourmalet?

  12. Could someone enlighten me to what Jumbo Visma’s tactics were about yesterday? Pretty experienced at the ol’ pro cycling watching and I’m stumped. Not buying the bonus seconds thing.

    • The only thing I can put it down to is trying to tire out Pogacar/UAE in general. As was pointed out on Eurosport by Anders Mielke, Jumbo were all hi-fiving and fist-bumping after the stage, so they seemed to be happy regardless of the result.

    • I was going back and forth with a friend re: TJV’s tactics this year. My friend noted that Vings is not even the boss of his own team…Vings is being hunted down by Pogs, Vings is in yellow and TJV is up the road riding for WvA?!? There has been talk of Roglic leaving TJV so that he can get a clear run at the TDF in the few years he has left of being competitive. After seeing TJV ride for WvA over the last several days (and WvA riding for his own account), I would say Vings needs to leave TJV, particularly if the bevy of TJV riders going up the road over the last several days crumble sometime over the remainder of the TDF.

  13. If your kit has long vertical stripes down the back of your socks it’s important that you wear them strait! Extra marks for Ion Izagirre for this attention to detail 😀

  14. Away from today’s stage and GC fight, both Jakobsen and Caleb Ewan have now abandoned. I’m not sure what Cavendish would make of this, but seeing the departure of other sprint rivals makes it even more frustrating that Cavendish crashed out: Philipsen looks very strong, but otherwise it’s now a particularly thin sprint field, so would’ve been ideal for Cav to get that 35th win.

  15. Every time this climb does nothing?

    They keep trying to make it into a thing but if it never sees any action it’s not gonna get a rep…

    • The helicopter shots on the mini-switchback bit look cool, which I suspect is why it gets so many visits, but it’s not my favourite climb. It feels a bit claustrophobic.

  16. Hilarious how a set of twins are separated by only 1 second on GC…. bring them both to the tour, as leaders of two separate teams… and they ride side by side all day??

  17. It still feels Pogacar is cutting out seconds from V’s advantage until V will claim another minute(s) the moment Pogacar is not at his peak. Vingegaard looked strong today. The only stage he bled time was ovet Tourmalet and after huge TT workout the day before.

    But it’s dramatic, to say the least.

  18. UAE waisted too much energy today for a very small gain. I m afraid for the week-end ahead. They didn’t have do work all day at the front.

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