Did you spend the rest day staring at tea leaves to see if you could spot a likeness of Tadej Pogačar or Jonas Vingegaard or staring at clouds to see their shape might give us a clue? Today the pair are forcibly separated by regulation with this short, sharp time trial.
The Route: just 22.4km but 640m of vertical gain. After a flat start there’s a left turn onto the first climb which is 1.6km at an average of 8% but with a soft start and finish it’s much steeper in the middle and with some very tight hairpins which if taken aggressively – crowds permitting – can save time, although at the cost of effort of course, it’s a tougher climb than the profile suggests.
Then comes the descent back down to Sallanches, it’s very fast and riders can save time knowing the course or having radio tips, which corner might need a dab of the brakes, which line to take as there are some sunken inspection covers and off camber bends. Small details but you can take seconds this way too.
There’s a flat section around Sallanches to the foot of the Domancy climb, it’s chance for heavier riders to take time but they’ll know what’s coming.
Next is the Domancy climb, 2.9km long – aka the “Route Bernard Hinault” as the road has been renamed in tribute to “The Badger” and his 1980 World Championships road race. If this section is 8.9% on average it’s often 10-12% with irregular ramps and hairpins with steep apexes, a light rider can attack them.
Atop the Domancy climb is the left turn onto the main road to Combloux. It’s a steady drag, the slope varies but gradually and is typically 5% for most of the way. This is a chance for the powerful riders to up the pace, get into a tuck and use aerodynamics.
Will anyone do a bike change? The Domancy section is steep enough to make a rider long for their lightest bike but the section after can still suit a TT bike. It feels like its a TT course but Pogačar was spotted doing a bike change during yesterday’s rest day ride.
The Contenders: Pogačar or Vingegaard? Pogačar’s taken a flat time trial before, Vingegaard was on course to win the TT last year but sat up to gift it to his team mate Wout van Aert so both can beat the TT specialists at their own game, and here’s a hard to course that suits them with two sharp climbs. In 1989 it was hard to pick between Greg LeMond and Laurent Fignon but in the words of LeMond “anything is possible, if he has bad day and I have good day…” so it could come down to who gets out of bed on the right side, metaphorically at least. One detail though was the way Vingegaard closed down Pogačar on the climb to Le Bettex on Sunday, he was onto him right away and comfortably so.
As for the others, Van Aert is likely to find this course too hilly, he’d need more roads in the valley rather than the climbs to build up a lead. Carlos Rodriguez (Ineos) is going well but how to beat the top two? Mathias Skjelmose (Lidl-Trek) had a great Tour de Suisse but his form’s been more inconsistent of late with back issues and he’s not been saving himself for today either.
|Rodriguez, Van Aert, A Yates
Weather: warm and sunny, 33°C.
TV: the first rider is off soon after 1.00pm and the last rider is due in at 5.30pm CEST.