The second day in the Pyrenees and the first summit finish of the race, of sorts.
Pyrenean peripeteia: a GC contender winning the stage seemed improbable because the breakaway was likely to stay away. Only Jai Hindley won the stage because he went in the early breakaway, David Gaudu saw him and said it was as if Hindley had “caught a wave”, he surfed his way into the breakaway of 36 riders. Jumbo-Visma had numbers up front with three, UAE had two and Pogačar’s team let the move get four minutes before chasing hard to bring it back, recalling riders to contribute.
The breakaway was too big to work together and various riders tried moves but often as if to build up a buffer ahead of the Marie Blanque rather than striking out to win the stage. On this final climb of the day Felix Gall and Jai Hindley got to work and seemed to have a shared interest in working together but Hindley was too strong, and rather than being an ally for the road down to the finish Gall probably began to look like baggage to him.
Jumbo-Visma got to work on the climb, briefly collecting Wout van Aert on his way back from the front group. Soon Sep Kuss was pulling with only Vingegaard and Pogačar on his wheel and suddenly his Danish boss attacked. This was the predicted scenario turned upside down, Vingegaard isn’t waiting for the long climbs, he’s on the attack and hustling for any time he can get while Pogačar was stuck on just the kind of climb that ought to suit him.
As Hindley held on for the win, Vingegaard caught the chasers and told them he wouldn’t sprint for second if they worked with him but he was left to pull for himself and yet managed to pull out even more time on Pogačar on the way to the finish.
It’s premature to pick the stage as a highlight of the year but there was a lot going on. The obvious question is whether Vingegaard’s going to romp off into the sunset with the yellow jersey. On the basis of yesterday he’ll certainly be even more confident and UAE have their work cut out to find a fault to exploit, but it’ll be wet today in the Pyrenees. For now Hindley’s in yellow and that suits him, and also Jumbo-Visma who will be confident their leader can take on Hindley. Beyond the top step of the podium there’s now a lot going, the Dane might be atop the hierarchy but below him things look more like anarchy.
The Route: 144.9km and 3,800m of vertical gain, a short stage with plenty of climbing. It’s out of Tarbes, the industrial town of the Pyrenees and to Capvern with the first climb of the day behind the spa town, small compared to what’s to come but sustained enough to help the break form. Then it’s up the Neste valley for the Col d’Aspin, climbed from the east side this is the harder flank before a fast descent to the foot of the Col du Tourmalet.
The Tourmalet is used so often it’s familiar but still can’t be underestimated, it’s a giant climb that’s hard from start to finish, there’s almost no respite on this side via La Mongie.
The descent to Luz and then the valley road to Pierrefitte where the road to Cauteret starts. It looks like a summit finish but it’s in two parts, a main road up the valley with an old railway/tram track alongside, a clue to the gradient, in cycling terms it’s a big ring climb especially for the Tour peloton with plenty of 3-4% sections but some steeper parts midway.
The Finish: once in Cauterets there’s the turning on the right for the road up to the Cambasque ski station, it’s a change of chainring here and sharp summit finish, 5km at 7% but with 10-11% ramps.
The Contenders: the breakaway has a good chance today, plenty of riders can take the stage without threatening the GC riders including the yellow jersey.
Neilson Powless (EF) sat out the breakaway yesterday, now he can try to get the polka dot jersey back. Victor Lafay (Cofidis) had a go yesterday only to go backwards, he is erratic but is he now on the slide after a magic opening weekend or not, he’s suited to the final climb at least. Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) would be a popular pick but he’s only four minutes down on GC, he’s not a priority to shut down immediately but won’t get much room and as we’ve seen he’s not sizzling either, the same for several outside picks, GC bids have come unstuck but they’re not yet eliminated from this race, think Mikel Landa at three minutes, Egan Bernal at four.
Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) is still a safe pick, he can continue the job he started yesterday where even a short sharp climb can allow him to take more time but Jumbo-Visma might be perfectly happy to have Hindley in yellow right now. What if yesterday was just a jours sans for Tadej Pogačar (UAE)? Unlikely although he’s been better than the rest on Pike Bidea and the Jaizkibel, the answer awaits us today, he’s just hard to pick as a winner as in a straight contest at his best, well Vingegaard is looking more incisive.
|Powless, Pinot, Teuns, Ciccone, Zimmerman|
Weather: 21°C in the valleys at most but and a good chance of a downpour or thunderstorm and cooler in the clouds and rain.
TV: KM0 is at 1.25pm and the finish is forecast for 5.10pm CEST. The Aspin starts about 2.55pm, the Tourmalet about 3.30pm but there will be action right from the start.