Tour de France Stage 14 Preview

The race goes into the Alps with a roller coaster stage.

Moyen Colombier: a good stage, not a brilliant one, once again the Grand Colombier didn’t quite deliver the fireworks, so far it’s a better climb to ride up than race up. We got a fierce battle at the start for the breakaway and both EF and Intermarché sent numbers up front. The move never got much a lead, there was suspense whether they’d stay away for the win because UAE were chasing. Pierre Latour was up front but was dropped down the Col de la Lèbe, he’s tried everything from descent practice to hypnosis sessions and plenty else but the phobia keeps returning and even this straightforward descent was his undoing.

Quentin Pacher attacked the break on the first ramps of the Grand Colombier but he was soon caught by Harald Tejada, James Shaw and Maxim Van Gils, it looked like this trio could fight for the stage but Matej Mohorič and Michał Kwiatkowski where just a few seconds behind. Once on the lacets section of the climb Kwiatkowski made his move, catching the trio and attacking them and then the slope eased and this flatter part suited the Pole who extended his lead while behind UAE’s train was dropping plenty of riders but not eating much into Kwiatkowski’s lead. Kwiatkowski took his first win since… the Polish TT title three weeks ago but he’s had a lean spell, the Amstel in 2022, a Tour stage in 2020; in 2018 he won nine races but he’s looked in good shape and collects another prestige win.

The missing ingredient was a big GC battle. UAE had been riding all day but didn’t get much out of it; Jumbo-Visma seemed to be easing off and said this was the plan, although we’ll see if it was deliberate or not today. Anyway Adam Yates made a late move to thin the group out but Sep Kuss got him back. Then Tadej Pogačar made his move within the final 500m, to take four seconds on Vingegaard plus collect the remaining four second time bonus to now sit nine seconds behind. Ideally there’d have been more of a fight but going into the weekend with things so finely balance is mouthwatering. The big GC change was Pello Bilbao losing 25 seconds to slip down two places on GC to seventh, leapfrogged by the Yates brothers.

The Route: 151.8km and 4,200m of vertical gain. It’s uphill from the start but on gentle big ring roads to the village of Boëge where the Col de Saxel starts and this is a wide road with a regular slope and here the race lingers around the Chablais Alps, the foothills south of Lac Leman/Lake Geneva so expect helicopter shots of the scenery. If the names of the cols here aren’t familiar, they’ve been used in the past, for example Eddy Merckx stomped around here.

The descent is fast with some bends and it’s into the Col de Cou and this is the first of the hard climbs of the day with 7km at 7% with some bends, all on a regular road though and over the top it’s not straight but down but a passage across to the Col des Moises and then a fast descent with no rest until the Col du Feu, 5.8km at 7.8km. Then it’s onto some roads used last year via the Col de Jambaz and the descent to Onnion.

The Col de la Ramaz has featured in 2010 and 2016. It’s a hard climb with two steep kilometres and then a breather through a tidy village called Messy before the road winds up past Alpine meadows for five kilometres. Then comes a hairpin and the road tracks the cliff-edge before entering a tunnel. This is the steepest past of the climb and optically confusing as the tunnel gives few clues to the rising gradient. Once past the tunnel the road eases soon after and passes around a large plateau area with a more gentle gradient and it’s over to the Col de la Savolière before a fast descent with a series of regular hairpins.

The descent is mixed, some obvious sections but also a steep part with a series of hairpin bends linked by steep ramps and it’s here that they’ve been doing roadworks to try and keep the road open despite perpetual rockfalls. Once through the road opens up and joins the main road down from Les Gets to Taninges. Then comes 20km of gentle descent and the undulating valley road to Samoëns and the foot of the Joux Plane. This is a long stretch to condemn any lone moves over the Ramaz.

The Finish: if only it was as easy as the profile. The Joux Plane is unusual for the way it snakes up through the meadows, it’s steep yet without the usual visual clues of vertical gain such as a steep drop off on one side or a snowy peak on the other. Daniel Friebe recounts in Mountain High that Chris Horner said it was “like 20% all the way up” while Dutch climbing legend Peter Winnen wrote it was “the nastiest climb in the Alps”. It’s not 20% and there’s worse in the Alps but it’s the way the Joux Plane feels that confounds, a steep start, a nasty middle section and upper section that goes on for too long. It’s the opposite of an engineered grade, the road changes pitch more often than Miles Davis in his experimental phase.

As locals and pedants know the Col de Joux Plane is where the hard climbing finishes but there’s a passage past the lake and then a long false flat section to the Col de Ran Folly. It’s here the descent begins. It’s fast with tight bends and often few sight lines, the kind of descent where local knowledge or elephantine memory of each bend counts as it’s steep and irregular but it’s not crazy dangerous, more that if you can set up one bend right and get the line ok for the next then you’re taking time. They arrive in Morzine and there’s a final kilometre on the flat on a waving road before the finish line arrives.

The Contenders: breakaway or GC contenders? Let’s go with the breakaway because UAE and Jumbo-Visma are challenging each other but neither of their leaders is making big moves, nor do they have to yet either. Plus the breakaway stayed away yesterday when many thought it wouldn’t. Lidl-Trek tandem Mathias Skjelmose and Giulio Ciccone have the talent but they’ve had mishaps this month. Ben O’Connor (Ag2r Citroën) is down on GC but the form of last month’s Dauphiné feels distant, we’ll see if Felix Gall can rustle up his Tour de Suisse form. EF’s Neilson Powless and Esteban Chaves both have a good chance, Powless will like all the climbs with the cols de Cou and Feu generously given 1st category status.

Locals picks are Aurélien Paret-Peintre (Ag2r Citroën) and Victor Lafay (Cofidis) who a year ago would be niche selections but APP has a Giro stage win and Lafay’s got a win in the Tour already, both were arch rivals in local races a few years ago.

Still Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) and Tadej Pogačar (UAE) are safe picks. Vingegaard might be the better descender for the finish into Morzine, Pogačar might have more punch to get over the top of the climb and to win a sprint between the pair. If they don’t put daylight into their rivals Tom Pidcock (Ineos) could be one to watch.

Vingegaard, Pogačar, Pidcock
Woods, Chaves, Martin, TJH, Lafay, Guerreiro, Skjelmose, Ciccone

Weather: sunny and 34°C at the foot the Joux Plane, it just be the local cheese that liquefies, the tarmac can start to melt too

TV: KM0 is at 1.20pm and the finish is forecast for 5.30pm CEST. Tune in for the whole thing to see the breakaway try to get away.

44 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 14 Preview”

  1. I’ve been looking forward to this stage since the route was announced. If Ineos can get Pidcock to the top of Joux Plane in the lead group I just wonder how much time he can take, given he must know every millimetre of the descent.

  2. I generally don’t like what humans have done to the world, but that there is a town anywhere called Onnion and a “tidy village” called Messy, well, that’s enough to give one hope.

    • Near me in Perthshire there’s a town called Dull. Whenever I ride towards it my Garmin says “Dull road ahead” (which thankfully isn’t true:beautiful roads). Then when you reach the town sign it says “Twinned with Boring, Oregon”. Always puts a smile on my face 😊

  3. The traditional cycling nations (France, Belgium, Netherlands…) have all regularly placed four or more riders in a TdF stage top ten, but yesterday must be the first time GB, or maybe a non-traditional cycling nation, has done so. Will IR or a reader show me to be wrong?

  4. Pogacar’ accelerations on the finale of climbs are incredible, I’m surprised his tires stay on the rim. At the minute it’s like death by a thousand cuts for Vingegaard and I’m not sure there’s anything he can do to stem the bleeding. I expect Jumbo to be the instigators today and Ving and Pog to be on their own early on Joux Plane or possible even Ramaz. Ving going early has to be his best chance, can’t afford to to wait for the final few hundred meters every stage because he will just get ridden off the wheel.

    • To some, it appears that Pogacar is getting a nice lead-out by JV riders, and then just has to make one massive acceleration. Perhaps if there were multiple accelerations and decelerations, big efforts, far from the finish, the outcome would be different. I suspect the teams see this now and will adjust.

      The dual battle is quite interesting.

    • “Ving and Pog to be on their own early on Joux Plane or possible even Ramaz”

      Ramaz: I just can’t see it. The old cyclists dilemma applies and neither will want to pace the other only to be attacked late in the stage.

  5. Credit to Kwiatkowski.

    I’d be interested in the reasoning behind the award of two chainrings for Stage 12 and nothing for Stage 13.

    Was it the topography of the stages or possibly the likely team tactics?

  6. Looks like a real Bitches Brew of a stage, I can’t wait! Will Vingo end up Miles Ahead of Pog, or will he be Kind of Blue after the stage? In a Silent Way in his post race interview perhaps… We shall see!

  7. Inrng – thanks for all the updates!

    Do you ever watch the Tour de France in person? it would seem that today’s stage would be a great one.
    Perhaps one should look for Inrng bike jerseys 😉

    • Yes, I’ve been many times… the secret I think is to treat it first as a picnic so find a scenic spot and bring supplies, including a battery radio as the phone network can be oversaturated so you don’t get any updates online. If you want to cycle out, pick a quieter place on the route so you don’t have to keep an eye on your bike all the time.

  8. Who is TJH? it’s so cool that Tobias Halland Johannessen is riding so well, but he isn’t TJH and he isn’t mentioned above, so it’s a bit too optimistic hoping for him?

  9. I fully agree with Chris Horner. I have gone up plenty of climbs in the Alps and to me, the Joux Plane, is harder than the Telegraphe-Galibier. It feels like it never lets you rest and in a sunny day it’s brutal because there’s no canopy to shelter from the sun.

    To me this is more of a Pogacar climb than Vingegaard, since it’s no so high up and requires all that raw power the Slovenian can muster. I am not sure they would let Pidcock escape. In 2016 it was Ion Izagirre who won. One thing for sure, it will be a great day!

    • “I’m not sure they would let Pidcock escape”

      If he’s with the leaders at the summit of the final climb they might not have much choice. Pudcock has surely had it marked for some time.

      • Pogi has become less effective downhill compared to, say, early 2022, a common effect of crashing though not terribly so (or, generally, the passing of time…), now what worries me a bit is that he still looks very risk-prone, being so competitive.

        • Both crashing himself, and his fiancee crashing out of the Giro this month. I find him quite worrying to watch now, given his competitiveness

  10. Great to see that my rooting for even a solitary chainring for Kwiato through all these years has finally bore fruit.

    His TT title in the Nationals suggested the form of 2017 season when after taking the title by beating Bodnar on a flat course he absolutely tore it apart while working for Froome.

  11. Latour not only talks about his descending phobia and the therapies he’s tried, he also complains of other riders descending like it’s a videogame, he talks about his relation with Gino Mäder, and says that disc-brakes make descents more dangerous, because riders wait longer for braking and brake harder. I wonder if the UCI could review the disc brake issue in this light. And, by the way, I still haven’t seen any report of how exactly Mäder crashed, fell off his bike, went out of the road, or what really happened. I thought the Grison Staatsanwaltschaft was looking into it, but surely the UCI should also be scrutinizing the technical details of such an ominous event, and so should Hansen the union man.

    • I presume that there would be a coroner’s review or the local equivalent. I doubt anybody would release any official report or substantial report until the courts (and lawyers) are done with it.
      Even though the downhill finish possibly had nothing to do with the crash the UCI should probably get more involved in setting regulations to be adhered to for finishes regarding safety and how to plan such finishes as safe as possible in the future. If for no other reason than to give the race organisers something to fall back on for planning and liability. Many sports have had to change the rules for safety (like rugby union and rugby league have had major changes around head contact).

      The isle of man TT which has had about 280 deaths with a record of 11 in one year. Plus at least one death every year since i think since 1982 (the last year without a death). Imagine how stressed you would be watching an event where you expect several people to die each year. I can’t watch a downhill mountain finish now. I would give up the sport if it had that many deaths.

      • Well, the technical evolution of F1 in its first years was basically about reduce car speed to improve pilot safety. The cars were using aviation engines and fuels. There began the F1 tradition of regulating to the minimum detail what technologies can be used or not. Later on they added to the principle of pilot safety (or survival) the principle that technologies could be also banned if it was felt they didn’t contribute to making the races more attractive.

        • I think we are long overdue for attention to rider safety by way of clothing. F1 has fireproof overalls, horse jumping has back protectors, even mountain biking has body armor. Safety kit such as lightweight body armor, air bags, etc could reduce injuries and have more trickle down value to the public than the current obsession with skin tight textured aero clothing.

          • Do you recommend pro riders to use a body armor with airbags suite in 30-40 degrees Celsius going up the hill also, or should they stop on every summit to put the thing on? Perhaps you could add a kite to make falls 30m down into a ravine hitting a rock safer?

            Fatal incidents are few and far between. Sure, riding a bike on a road as fast as possible for several hours is inherently dangerous. We should care more about needless deaths caused by collateral damage caused by production of stuff we use and consume; and less about racing incidents.

          • (Just a funny little obseravation / fact – on today’s stage the peloton rode the Col de Ramaz descent with speeds up to – or exceeding – those set by Ayuso on the Albula descent; above 105kmph.

            After Mader’s death the media was full of claims Albula is one of the fastest descents. Well; Albula is fast, but the media claim was a manifest nonsense and frankly, “no one” was brave anough to offer a dissent view to question this manifest media nonsense repeated ad absurdum.

            Mader’s death was a tragedy, but also just a racing incident. Not a reason to question the sport itself.)

    • I’d agree with latour about disc brakes encouraging more risk taking and therefore not actually being a safety improvement.

  12. Col de La Ramaz was one of the hardest I’ve ever seen the peloton ride a climb – massive respect to every rider who stayed in the group… that’s high level climbing and really shows you how good Hindley, Yates, Rodriguez are to stick in there, let alone WVA.

    It’s incredible we’re likely to be treated to the golden two go even harder in a couple of minutes, utterly incredible riding from all the protagonists today.

    I was screaming for Pidcock to hold on.

    • The other Ineos did, apparently as good at descending.

      On the other hand is Jonas better at it than Pog? LR was of the view that Jonas could have latched onto Rodriguez had he entered the decent first.

  13. What a stage…

    Confused by commentators reaction to Pogacar…

    As far as I can see he let Vin back on as 5secs with a descent he decided wasn’t worth the effort, then motorbikes then held him up at a crucial stage when he would likely have taken the mountain top bonus seconds and continued that to a stage win perhaps with a descending gap… but the false start stopped him both getting bonus seconds and allowed Rodriguez back on…

    Yes a mistake to lose concentration after the bikes got in the way for the next sprint but the blame should be far more with the bikes than Pogacar? As above, I think he’d likely have taken climb, then maybe extended into descent but at least have also won stage and be in yellow, bikes gifted Vin the climb and Rodriguez the win in my opinion. If Pog loses the TDF by 10/15secs now it’ll be hard not to look back to today even if the early 1min lost to Vin will be true culprit.

    Anyway – clear Pog is climbing better now. It’s fascinating stuff.

    • It seems like Pogacar isn’t confident in where his limit currently lies. If he knows the climb and what he’s capable of then he can continue to tick away at that tempo… at the very least force Vingegaard to go deep to bridge the gap, don’t just gift him the catch. Compare with Froome on the Zoncolan, who also never fully pulled away, but also never slowed or looked back.

    • That was kind of appalling, the moto stop, but I wondered if it had to do with the crowds. But it did seem to help Rodriguez and Vingegaard quite a bit either way.

      I didn’t understand why Yates didn’t pull all the way to the line. Was he kaputt?

      • I just rewatched that part: yes, the motorcycles stopped pogacar but vingegaard was on his wheel instantly. I wonder what it would have yielded, especially since Pogacar never tried again to attack until after the bonus sprint…

        • At 3,7km’s attack Vingegaard was also instantly on Pogacar’s wheel; it’s actualy the “norm” this TdF – Pogacar attacks, Vingegaard reacts, Pogacar press on and Vingegaard goes with his own tempo.

          Pogacar probably overestimated himself with the first attack, half way up the hill. Perhaps even the heat played it’s part, according to a highlights reel Pogacar lost a bottle not so long before? TJV rode the stage pretty hard, everyone was surely just about cooked. And the level of Pogacar and Vingegaard is probably – on pure numbers – the highest ever raced, so it’s plausible they can’t estimate their abilities that well even themselves?

          Vingegaard slightly reversed the trend, anyway. TJV destroyed themselves just to find Pogacar with Yates againts JV, but Vingegaard – for the first time since Marie Blanque – withstood the attack. It still feels Pogacar is fighting for seconds, while Vingegaard is ready to deliver the fatal blow the first time Pogacar loses his legs. Also, it’s clear Pogacar tries to get to yellow before the TT so he’s be able to pace himself according to the rider before. After today he probably won’t, so if tomorrow brings a stalemate, there is a TT and the excruciating Vingegaardish ascent to the merry Col de la Loze – advantage Vingegaard.

  14. Vingegaard and Pogacar are something else. Its just good as a spectacle that they are very close. Both have strong teams. I think Vingegaard’s confidence has grown over the last year and he know his capabilities better.
    I still believe Pogacar will win. Sad to see the riders go out by crashes. Also sad to see Pidcock struggle. I still think he is capable of winning a tour , but only if that’s all he tries. You can’t be World Class at CX , MTB and road without paying a price.

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