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Tour de France Stage 20 Preview

A last hurrah in the mountains with a short and lively stage in the Vosges. There’s a prestigious stage win, places in the top-10 in play, the polka dot jersey is still up for grabs with Felix Gall able to challenge Giulio Ciccone, unless Jonas Vingegaard runs away with everything.

A bout de souffle: end to end action, this was a classic stage and the only thing missing was action on the GC but in the moment that didn’t seem to matter, there was never a lull. At one point Adam Yates was caught out on the wrong end of a split, later Jonas Vingegaard tried to play le patron and calm things down but got ignored.

A break of eight riders eventually got away, the proverbial elastic had snapped. Then Israel, EF and Uno-X started chasing and if they’d missed the move this looked like a dreaded punishment chase but up ahead the riders were flagging, their heads bobbing, the legs chopping at the pedals, so much so that Nils Politt broke his chain and was out of the front group and this seemed to tip the balance, the gap fell to thirty seconds. After the intermediate sprint a group that had contested the points continued and bridged across and we had 33 riders in the lead.

Victor Campenaerts and Simon Clarke slipped up the road and the pair got a minute’s lead but then Clarke got cramp and Campenaerts was left by himself and slowing. On the day’s final climb Kasper Asgreen launched and Ben O’Connor and Matej Mohorič went with him, they caught and passed Campenaerts and had a good lead. Behind the group was chasing hard but also with some hesitancy, the presence of Van der Poel and Jasper Philipsen weighing on them as to work hard could be to gift them the win, while there was Mads Pedersen and Christophe Laporte too. Laporte tried to get across and Van der Poel came with him but it was to close him down and with hindsight this probably denied Alpecin-Deceuninck an option on a fifth stage win as if the Dutchman got across he had a shot at the win, and could sight tight for the sake of Philipsen.

O’Connor tried a long sprint but he doesn’t have the jump, third place seemed inevitable. Asgreen chased with Mohorič on his wheel and the Slovenian drew level and the pair threw their bikes at the line. In a stage full of action and suspense this continued once the riders had crossed the line with tension to identify the winner and it was Mohorič. If you haven’t heard his post stage interview, you probably should.

This was a stage of exceptional quality and while it still feels too soon to judge already it’d be something to look forward to if Eurosport-GCN could announce that one wet, wintry evening in November they’ll replay the whole stage from start to finish again.

The Route: 133.5km and 3,450m of vertical gain. A flat start out of Belfort to Giromagny and then the Ballon d’Alsace, 11.5km at 5.2% and steady for the most part with just a steeper middle section and similar descent.

The Croix-des-Monats is a very narrow road but they pick up a big road for the descent, again for the Col de Grosse Pierre, another small road that winds up before a joining bigger road but this time no real descent, just the passage across to the Col de la Schlucht. The descent off the Schlucht is long and fast, and like much of the Tour route, has been freshly resurfaced. The slope eases on the approach to Munster and there’s a small flat section out of town, a chance to move up, to eat and drink.

The Col du Petit Ballon is the odd-one-out of the big climbs in the Vosges, a forest backroad compared to the big wide boulevards. It’s 8% for 9km but because there’s a flat section that the profile doesn’t show most of the time the slope is 9% or more and opens with some 10-14% ramps which will eject some tired riders at the start. It gets easier towards the top and then comes the descent, there are warning signs for cyclists but the danger’s more in the bumpy road surface, keep both hands on the bars and it’s ok.

The Finish: the Col de Platzerwasel is as it looks on the profile, it starts straight out from the descent and climbs with alternating sections of 9% and 6%. It’s all on a wide road with gentle bends and it rolls by fast. Over the top and the climbing isn’t finished, there’s a kicker to come. The final three kilometres are flat and lead to Le Markstein, the tiny ski station.

The Contenders: Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) and Tadej Pogačar (UAE) are obvious picks, if the Slovenian has recovered from the Alps then his sprint is suited to the flat road in Le Markstein but of course Vingegaard can pre-empt this and launch before and while his team have dominated the race, they’ve only had one stage win so far.

Can the breakaway make it? It’s a short stage so there’s not much room to build up a lead and the two final climbs suit a chase too. Still plenty of riders are going to try and some in the top-10 overall have room to move. The likes of Simon Yates (Jayco-Al Ula) and David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) have skills for sprint in a small group.

Giulio Ciccone (Lidl-Trek) can win the stage but for him the Petit Ballon could be his finish line. The second category climbs offer 5-3-2-1 points, the first category climbs 10-8-6-4-2-1 points and Ciccone is six points ahead of Gall and seven ahead of Vingegaard. Still he’s quick for a sprint in a small group. Ineos have it hard to get Carlos Rodriguez on the podium but we’ll see if they can spare Michał Kwiatkowski for the breakaway, if he can manage the Grand Colombier he could be ok today.

Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) is the local rider and of course he’s a contender but his form’s good, not scintillating. It’s a chance to say adieu to the roadside fans, at least until he joins them and their BBQs next year so expect banners and signs galore.

Yates², Gaudu, Gall, Bilbao, Kuss, THJ, Kwiatkowski

Weather: sunny but not hot, 22°C and lower altitudes and cooler high up.

TV: KM0 is at 1.45pm and the finish is forecast for 5.00pm CEST. Don’t miss a pedal stroke as it’s the last day of non-stop action in this Tour.

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • rob md Saturday, 22 July 2023, 6:27 am

    Can not see anyway Jumbo or UAE will risk anything, so the breakaway should have this. A better stage for Ben O’Connor (who seems to have finally found some form) then yesterday, or anyone who has some energy left.

  • Somers Saturday, 22 July 2023, 6:41 am

    I came to mention that post stage interview; gracious, heart felt, beautiful.

    • Xander R Saturday, 22 July 2023, 9:27 am

      I agree! Humble, intelligent, honest. I’ll be looking out for Mohorič’s rides in the future. Rest in peace Gino

    • Andrew Saturday, 22 July 2023, 10:25 am

      Just watched it, it was wonderful. What a cracking stage!

    • Mountaingoat Saturday, 22 July 2023, 2:59 pm

      His mention that you feel you betray your fellow riders when going for the win after riding so hard together was fantastic. A heartfelt interview from a guy who is very humble for his talent.

    • EekaMouse Sunday, 23 July 2023, 9:01 am

      I agree. That interview left me with tears in my eyes. Will admit rhat I cannot support the team he rides for but what a honest, heartfelt interview.

  • Frood Saturday, 22 July 2023, 7:22 am

    Mohoric looked to win it with his superior throw based on the photo and the head on replay, which appeared to show Asgreen’s throw coming after the line. They probably owe O’Connor a pint, though maybe they would have held off the chasers as a duo.

  • DJW Saturday, 22 July 2023, 7:25 am

    What a great Tour with the 4, 5 & 6 GC positions still undecided before the last real day of racing. Like FDJ and Marc Madiot (and unlike JV), I’ll have a cold beer ready.

    • DJW Saturday, 22 July 2023, 9:08 am

      The above refers to a L’Equipe story where JV and FDJ had shared a rest day hotel, following which JV’s Plugge commented on FDJ having beer on their table, and seemingly implying a lackof rigour in the FDJ team. Marc Madiot replied as only he knows how defending his team and a little rest day conviviality.


      • cheers Saturday, 22 July 2023, 9:43 am

        Thanks for this nice story. Classy from Mr. Madiot.

      • gabriele Saturday, 22 July 2023, 10:23 am

        I’d ask Ghislain Lambert what’s more worrying between beer and beetroot…

      • THT Saturday, 22 July 2023, 10:57 am

        Bloody hell, what an rant! I don’t know what Plugge said, but without that context it seems like quite the overreaction, even if it’s none of Plugge’s business. Is the lack of results getting to Madiot, especially against the background of the controversial team selection and success of other French teams?

        • DJW Saturday, 22 July 2023, 12:45 pm

          The difference between two cultures though the oddest part was Plugge raising the subject. Unnecessary provocation and bad manners.

  • Sean Saturday, 22 July 2023, 7:48 am

    What chance that Jayco Alula, Ineos, Bahrain Victorius push the pace hoping Pogacar cracks again leaving a podium place up for grabs?

    • The Inner Ring Saturday, 22 July 2023, 9:45 am

      Can’t see it as if Pogačar got a pasting in the Alps, he’s had a few days to recover by now and even in the TT he was ahead of the rest. But if they did it would be exciting.

      • Sean Saturday, 22 July 2023, 10:13 am

        We’ll know in a few hours. I imagine Simon Yates is the rider most willing but would his team be up for the risk? And would the other teams co-operate for a bit.

  • OldRider Saturday, 22 July 2023, 9:05 am

    Mohorič ‘s tears after the race and his description of just how brutal professional cycling can be for the also-rans was pretty moving. A lot of suffering goes into our entertainment.

    Given how close the finish was, and how he threw his bike over the line with a well-timed lunge, I’m curious as to whether a stage has ever ended in a dead heat?

    • The Inner Ring Saturday, 22 July 2023, 9:44 am

      From memory can’t think of one but it’s happened in other races. Now with the photo finish camera they can tell tiny differences, yesterday’s 6cm / 4 milliseconds was relatively wide for the technology they have.

      • Sjames87 Saturday, 22 July 2023, 10:20 am

        I don’t understand how WVA & Pidcick wasn’t a draw

  • Climber Saturday, 22 July 2023, 9:26 am

    “but the danger’s more in the bumpy road surface, keep both hands on the bars and it’s ok.”
    Contador crashed on these roads back in 2014 while drinking on the descent.

    • The Inner Ring Saturday, 22 July 2023, 9:30 am

      True, it was the Petit Ballon as well.

  • DJW Saturday, 22 July 2023, 9:26 am

    And not even a sentimental ring for Thibaut?

    • The Inner Ring Saturday, 22 July 2023, 9:42 am

      It’d be the fairy tale ending but hard to see, and as ever chainrings are for winning.

    • cheers Saturday, 22 July 2023, 9:46 am

      Gall had no rimg as well so there’s hope

    • THT Saturday, 22 July 2023, 9:58 am

      No sentimentality in this blog, as it seems. He will be my sentimentality pick in today’s PCS game though.

  • Sinai Saturday, 22 July 2023, 9:49 am

    It’s not “Yates²”, rather “Yates x2”. The former would mean Yates times Yates which doesn’t make sense because there isn’t a Yates amount of Yateses, rather just 2 Yateses.

    • The Inner Ring Saturday, 22 July 2023, 9:51 am

      Ha, was waiting for this. It takes up less space so the pick of one chainring contenders doesn’t spill over into a second line… and everyone understands it.

    • Frank Saturday, 22 July 2023, 12:29 pm

      Ah, so it isn’t a footnote?

      • cp Saturday, 22 July 2023, 3:17 pm


  • Gelato4bahamontes Saturday, 22 July 2023, 9:56 am

    Ciccone v gall v vingo got the kom jersey.

  • Gelato4bahamontes Saturday, 22 July 2023, 9:57 am

    For not got, bloody predictive text!

    • Gelato4bahamontes Saturday, 22 July 2023, 3:24 pm

      Cmon Giulio one more climb.

  • David Saturday, 22 July 2023, 10:06 am

    I love these mega breaks – I’ve been watching since the mid 90s and I’m sure in the past the big breaks were generally made up the domestiques and less teams. Seems now they are stacked with quality with mulitiple grand tour stage winners. What has changed the last few years?

  • Wayne Saturday, 22 July 2023, 10:17 am

    Here’s hoping for a do or die long one from Pogi.

    • 150 Watts Saturday, 22 July 2023, 10:19 am


    • KevinR Saturday, 22 July 2023, 10:59 am

      Except even Chris Froome’s 2018 solo Giro mountains rampage over 80+km ‘only’ brought a 4-minute time swing. So TG probably needs to start his attack in the neutral zone (assuming JV doesn’t crash during the stage or hasn’t got ill)

      • KevinR Saturday, 22 July 2023, 11:00 am

        * 4 mins to Dumoulin. Yates was the leader going into the stage.

  • Irungo txuletak Saturday, 22 July 2023, 10:27 am

    Why is the tour never going for some stages in the nearby black forest? Passes are plenty and similar to the vosges (a little more difficult). Authorities would not pay for it I guess.

    • Ferdi Saturday, 22 July 2023, 11:39 am

      It would be nice. I hope the Badén authorities are willing to spend a few euros on this one day.

  • dft Saturday, 22 July 2023, 12:04 pm

    On my computer screen, that photo has Mohoric’s bike at 6.3cm but Asgreen’s is only 5.8cm… was Asgreen going so fast that he lost because of relativistic length contraction?

    • Frank Saturday, 22 July 2023, 12:33 pm

      Mohorič reached the line first but went through it slower.

    • GrannyRing Saturday, 22 July 2023, 12:36 pm

      ha. just looked again and saw that when you mentioned it. Mohoric claims the seat dropper post helped him win MSR…is this new frame extender tech for sprint finishes to be unveiled? :0)

    • betabug Saturday, 22 July 2023, 12:38 pm

      The finish line foto is not a “normal” foto. See: http://inrng.com/2012/04/photo-finish-camera/

      • dft Saturday, 22 July 2023, 1:59 pm

        Ah thanks, I should have known Inrng had it covered.

  • Ferdi Saturday, 22 July 2023, 12:55 pm

    Excellent racing yesterday. What a Tour de France flat stage can be, when the best rouleurs and classics guys do what they do best.

  • Niall F Saturday, 22 July 2023, 2:49 pm

    Alaphillippe’s in the break again today–last day of his mountain training camp.

  • Vince Saturday, 22 July 2023, 4:52 pm

    “Nils Politt broke his chain….”
    Hmm…Understand that if it happened to me given the amount of time spent maintaining my bike. But on a TDF bike? Points towards the delicate nature of current components. Think I’ll stick with the old stuff.