A sprint stage on paper but as yesterday proved riders willing to barge clear can get their rewards and today’s course suits the breakaway even more.
Bourg-d’Express: the flag dropped and three riders took off up the road and anyone watching was left to appreciate the scenery or doze off. Still Kasper Asgreen, Victor Campenaerts and Jonas Abrahamsen made a strong trio but the bunch knew it too and they never got more than 90 seconds, although with hindsight the teams hoping for a sprint should have shut them down and let some riders with less power get away. It looked like a nailed-on sprint, so much so your blogger wasted five minutes mocking up an image of Jasper Philipsen reclining in a Sedan chair carried by Jayco and DSM to use for this review rather than typing anything.
Two incidents along the way, first Jasper Philipsen was trying to intimidate Lotto-Dsnty from making late moves; the team might have four stage wins but not hearts and minds. Second Pascal Eenkhoorn sprinted clear of this and Campenaerts dropped back from the break to help pace his team mate across. It looked futile in the moment but it worked and meant an extra rider up front and a stronger sprinter which in turn let Campenaerts dedicate himself to trying to keep the move clear.
Behind the sprint teams were running out of riders to chase and the 20 second gap wasn’t shrinking like it should. Several teams joined in the chase, we saw Astana and Bahrain among them but this proved more is less. Asgreen launched a long sprint and held off Eenkhoorn and Abrahamsen for the win.
A salvage stage win for Soudal-Quickstep reduced to long shot moves but it paid off. The winners get to write history but it’s worth noting how many small factors set up this win. If Fabio Jakobsen was still in the race then his team wouldn’t be up the road, likewise Caleb Ewan. Wout van Aert left the race and Jumbo-Visma might have chased more; Alpecin-Deceuninck ran out of riders and missed Ramon Sinkeladam… and so on. This isn’t coulda, woulda, shoudla, rather come the third week sprint stages aren’t as obvious as they look on paper…
The Route: 172.8km and 1,950m of vertical gain, plenty and between two small towns, Moirans has a population of 2,120 people and Poligny 4,013 although both swell in summer as campsites fill up. A lively start in the Gorges de l’Ain, a canyon with a marked climb that’s got the KoM point before the top and has a twisty descent soon after. Then comes plenty of lumpy rural routes départmentales until Champagnole just after the intermediate sprint when the countryside gets flatter and the roads wider.
It’s off to Salins-les-Bains, scene of Jonas Vingegaard’s Dauphiné stage win and then the strategic climb of the day near the village of Ivory, and more déja vù as this was used in the Dauphiné too, it’s scenic road but nothing severe but with almost three weeks’ in the legs now it can do some damage. Then it’s a flat run through the wine town of Arbois, home of France’s first ever AOC wine… although this has a lot to do with it being A for Arbois.
The Finish: totally flat to Poligny, a charming town known for its wine and Comté cheese and many heritage buildings, particularly religious… but today’s finish is outside a dull retail and light industrial zone.
The Contenders: Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) is a default pick in case of a sprint or he gets in the move, he can win both ways. Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek) is also polyvalent.
But today’s much more suited to a breakaway and this should be a self-fulfilling scenario where more riders will crowd the breakaway and so out power the peloton. With tomorrow’s stage in the Vosges reserved for a big name climber or the GC contenders and Sunday pledged to the sprinters, today is where anyone with any energy left has to go; and those without energy will be told to move as well in their team briefings this morning.
The archetypal rider will have to be able to handle the final climb and either go solo for the win or handle a sprint, all obvious but stating this helps to reduce the picks. Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) can do all three and his team mate Søren Kragh Andersen won a late stage of the Tour de France on the roads of the Jura in 2020.
Rémi Cavagna (Soudal-Quickstep) and Stefan Küng (Groupama-FDJ) can try the solo option but if both are strong they don’t win often. Magnus Cort (EF Education-Easypost) is a fast finisher but the form’s been discreet so far.
Alaphilippe body double Mathieu Burgaudeau (Total Energies) has been close several times, has he still got the same form and if so can he convert this into a win?
|Van der Poel, Pedersen, Mohorič|
|Philipsen, Cort, Cavagna, Burgaudeau, Wright, Trentin, Bettiol, Kwiatkowski|
Weather: early rain will clear, it’ll be sunny at the start but clouds will build and there’s a chance of a downpour and with this gusty winds.
TV: KM0 is at 1.30pm and the finish is forecast for 5.20pm CEST. Tune in at the start to watch the baroudeurs barge clear, it’s possible the middle of the stage slips into a lull.