Tour de France Stage 8 Preview

A sprint stage but with some rolling roads and an uphill finish to change the cast of characters.

Borderline in Bordeaux: Simon Guglielmi spent a good while up the road in a forlorn breakaway, he’d launched a move with two others only they sat up to leave the Arkéa rider by himself. He was later joined by Nans Peters and Pierre Latour, two quality riders who looked out of place making their own forlorn move but it provided some sport as if they were going to be caught it, we didn’t known when and it at least made the chasers work harder.

We got the sprint and a triumph for Jasper Philipsen, this time surging past Mark Cavendish who for a brief moment looked all set for that win. Cavendish later said his chain was skipping gears, the “Mozart of the 11T” was suddenly in the 12 sprocket and that’s got to frustrate but if he’s this close, well he’ll be looking forward to the stage to Moulins already.

Philipsen’s wins have seen the podium ceremony delayed while the UCI commissaires review the footage, this time his move on Biniam Girmay kept everyone waiting. It was borderline, worth reviewing, and in the words of Girmay’s manager J-F Bourlart, Girmay had to brake but if he didn’t and crashed taking down others then maybe the commissaires would have given Philipsen a harsher verdict. That’s conditional because we know the rulebook and we can work on precedent but we don’t know the doctrine as it’s not said aloud. Either way Philipsen got the his third stage win ahead of Cavendish and Girmay and there’s every chance Alpecin-Deceuninck get a fourth today.

The Route: 200km and 2,000m of vertical gain but without any particular difficulties. The profile suggests more climbing later on and it’s true. After Châlus with 45km to go it looks hillier but the course takes a fast road that’s well surfaced. This isn’t one of those rasping rural backroads used by the Tour du Limousin, in fact at times the white-painted kerbs lends the feel of motor racing circuit and the bunch will find it flows fast.

The two categorised climbs are different though, just that bit steeper and longer and each can make things harder for the sprinters. A launchpad for an attack? Why not and after the second one the road twists and turns and drops down into town and chasing is harder but many of today’s picks will just prefer to wait for the sprint

There’s a fast descent into Limoges but nothing wild  – one part sees the route diverted off the descent to do three sides of a square as a bid to slow things down – and if it’s not technical, it’s still harder to move up position here. Once in town come some roundabouts and corners before the race reaches the banks of the river Vienne and the course calms down.

The Finish: a big boulevard run alongside the river, then a left turn and and it’s uphill to the finish. It’s 750m at 4.5% average but the slope up is one of those roads that levels out each time there’s a side road so think three 200m long >5% ramps with two flat crossroad segments on the way up, this breaks the rhythm a bit. The slope stops just before the finish line.

The Contenders: Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) might be keen on tomorrow’s stage because it starts in St Léonard, long time home to his grandfather and the location of many boyhood summer holidays or maybe the media are just keen to point this out. This is just down the road and much more suited so he can win here and bask tomorrow in front of the cameras. The combination of the lumpy approach and the uphill finish are perfect and while Jasper Philipsen could be a contender, today the team roles are surely reversed, especially as Philipsen is well ahead in the points classification.

If MvdP is a contender, arch rival Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) has good chance too, no need for breakaway antics, he can just bet on his sprint here.

Bryan Coquard (Cofidis) has a slim chance, how to outpower the others but he’s in great shape and might be tempted to take a flyer like he did in Willunga but this time the field is deeper, it’ll be hard to create a gap. Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Segafredo) is very handy in uphill finishes but if he’s got more power than Coquard, can he outsprint MvdP, especially as the form so far doesn’t look sparkling? Biniam Girmay (Intermarché) ticks the boxes, he can win World Tour level races, he’s in decent form and the uphill finish suits.

Of the pure sprinters Caleb Ewan (Lotto-Dstny) can be good on uphill finishes too. The wild pick is Tadej Pogačar (UAE), the uphill finish isn’t hard enough but if he wants to have a go he could easily be in the top-10 or higher and the finish matters for time gaps in the field.

All this presupposes a sprint finish but it’s the most likely scenario as several teams will start today’s stage backing their leaders and many of the roads today suit a chase.

Van der Poel
Van Aert, Girmay
Philipsen, Ewan, Coquard

Weather: another hot day, 30°C and a light tailwind which can just make things hotter. An outside chance of rain if the clouds build to a thunderstorm.

TV: KM0 is at 12.45pm and the finish is forecast for 5.20pm CEST. Tune for the final hour to see the hills and whether they can claim any sprinters.

Last time in Limoges: the Tour’s visited Limoges many a time, it even started in the city in 1970 when the prologue was won by Eddy Merckx, of course. In 1995 Lance Armstrong won, attacking the breakaway on the run into the finish to win solo days after his team mate Fabio Casartelli had died on the descent of the Portet d’Aspet and the Texan won pointing a finger up at the sky. In 2000 Limoges welcomed Christophe Agnolutto (pictured) and his win was the last time a solo breakaway won a stage in the Tour de France, as defined as a rider attacking by themselves early in the stage and staying away for the win.

In 2016 they needed the photofinish to separate Marcel Kittel and Bryan Coquard, two contrasting styles with brute force for the German and flyweight agility for “Le Coq”, the uphill finish allowing both a chance. Lastly the city was also home to André Dufraisse, five time world cyclo-cross champion… maybe another CX champ wins today?

42 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 8 Preview”

    • “…Deceininck a smart sponsor?”
      Deceuninck also wanted to get involved in a women’s team and Lefevere said something unflattering about charity, so Deceuninck shut their PVC door on Quickstep 😛
      When Fabio Jakobsen moves on to a new team next year Merlier will be their main sprinter, so concerning the Tour and sprinting, Philipsen is good at getting over hills while Merlier is not.
      Of course Quickstep have Remco, I’m sure he can sell a lot of windows and doors.

    • Alpecin are doing very well but they’re sprints and flat land only and not just at the Tour, there’s nobody on the team who could win a mountain stage. Quick-Step at their best have been able to operate on multiple terrain. But it does show QS’s troubles again, the thing to watch for them is how much Lefevere can spend on support riders for Evenepoel, he’ll need some strong riders for this time next year.

  1. Philipsen with the combo of his team has certainly been the strongest but i feel like he had at least a 50 / 50 chance of being relegated last night. He certainly with mvdp went from the middle to the left and then back to the right. This does cause chaos with people all through the bunch being squeezed as the bunch follows the snake around. Only my opinion but i feel at least for this last one he should have been relegated for the girmay part at least. If you force someone to break or crash into the barrier that is surely a dangerous maneuver to the spirit of the rules. Being in front does not mean you have put nobody in danger and the barriers mean the other party has no where to go sideways.

    I would consider reviewing the rules regarding the leadout rider impeding other competitors with dangerous maneuvers. If your leadout rider gets relegated for dangerous acts which impede your competition it can’t be fair. Especially when the penalty is something the team does not even care for the penalty.

    • Good point.
      “Philipsen’s wins have seen the podium ceremony delayed while the UCI commissaires review the footage,”
      Is this guy becoming a new Manx Missile? Not the Manx part, the (semi-guided) missile part. I thought he should have been relegated the other day but when WVA declined to make much of a stink I figured OK, but couldn’t help remember Sagan being not only relegated, but kicked out of the race(?) when that Manx Missile went awry, even when slow-mo video showed the Slovakian never touched the Manxman. Yet Philipsen’s (and his lead-out man’s) inability to ride a straight line continues with not much done about it…all the way to Paris in the (sort of) green jersey?

      • Straight lines? Cavendish is strongly drifting to the left when he notices Philipsen is coming around. Not dangerously, but forcing Philipsen to make a lot of extra meters. No one is mentioning this even though it is not ‘straight’ either.
        Which just goes to show it is very difficult to apply these rules. Most important point made by commenters yesterday is that it seems impossible for the TdF to create a straight finish – with a slight curve in the fencing creating a great opportunity to show off sponsors.

      • Contact is not a prerequisite for disqualification.

        As far as last night’s result was concerned, it’s in the record books now and the way I saw it is that Girmay simply lost the race with Philipsen for Cavendish’s wheel, and by extension the final leadout that provided the stage win to whoever got there first when Cavendish’s bicycle faltered.

        In any case I’m sure Cavendish wouldn’t want the outright record by way of the disqualification of another rider who crossed the line first, and especially when he wasn’t the rider wronged.

        It’d be great to see Girmay get a clear run at the line tonight and secure another big win, although WVA and MVDP will be hard to beat if they’re there.

          • Thanks Larry, but I’m not about to reopen the global online 2016 Sagan v. Cavendish investigation, other than to say opinions vary and the judges decision is final.

          • Cheers gabriele, I’m aware the case was dragged pointlessly and slowly through the courts afterwards. In saying the judges decision is final you are quite correct that there is usually a right of appeal, but in the Philipsen case yesterday once the judges considered any protests and reviewed finish footage the result was confirmed and in the record books that night. As for Sagan, the finality of the decision was that he was unable to start the following day, irrespective of any subsequent campaigning for acquittal.

          • @osbk67
            The point reached was precisely putting an end to “opinions” and admitting that the judges were wrong.
            Sagan lost his options to the record he was chasing at the moment (consecutive green jerseys) because of, essentially, Cav’s “political” or “personal” weight in the sport. All in all, anyway, nothing more than an unfortunate accident, including the consequences. I completely agree on you about that (and what you say re: Philipsen). Sagan went on to chase a different record and what may feel lacking in his career isn’t precisely what he lost because of that mistake.
            IMHO, same for Cav. It was very unfortunate and emotional seeing him out like that, but his career doesn’t change at all because of this trivia. It’s more about he himself being motivated by that, which is great, as it made him able to come out his decline and raise his global status proving that he became competitive once more, against one further generation.

        • Mostly agreed, but if a rider gains a place through a dangerous move, isn’t every other rider who loses a place as a result ‘wronged’?

  2. Less new missile rather loose cannon(ball). Pederson and Girmay must have been comparing notes as to how they were both stuffed by Alpecin.

    • “the way I saw it is that Girmay simply lost the race with Philipsen for Cavendish’s wheel”

      I think the point is that Philipsen shouldn’t have been racing for Cav’s wheel as that meant tracking across the front of the sprint field left to right when final sprints for the line are being launched or well under way.

      The inconsistency in applying the rules is a big issue. Sporting wins shouldn’t be decided by who the personality is. The team barging Girmay yet again isn’t a good look.

  3. Could Pidcock be an outsider for today’s finish? He has a sprint and could – esaily – cope with the >5% ramps and even got mixed up in yesterday’s pure sprint with 15th. Maybe that was an accident and he’ll be saving for tomorrow.

  4. The exciting thing for me about the stage being tailor made for Van der Poel, is if he gets impatient or bored I can see him attacking from anywhere from 70km to 17km out from the the finish.
    If he gets caught or blows up Jasper Philipsen is a pretty good plan B.
    Of course Van Aert will stick to Van der Poel like glue, if he’s not already in the break, and I didn’t even consider this a stage for Pogacar….
    So many possibilities.

  5. As someone who has stuck, on all my bikes with manual control Campagnolo gears, without ever having any trouble shifting, I am amazed at the number of ‘incidents’ with the electronic systems seen in all races. There are constantly riders at the side of the road with front or rear mech problems. Maybe, just maybe the advantage of electronic shifting is not really the technological advance it is cracked up to be!

      • Sagan certainly did. For me it works very well until it doesn’t, you either have flawless shifting under load at the light touch of a button… or nothing if the battery is flat or a cable or wireless connection is lost. Mechanical gears work very well too yet have some intermediate small problems like rattling gears, fraying cables etc but less chance of catastrophe can be fixed with an allen key. But it’s also a problem of 11 and 12 speed gears and also frame flex, if the chainstays are flexing the gear can jump.

        • “But it’s also a problem of 11 and 12 speed gears and also frame flex, if the chainstays are flexing the gear can jump.”
          Cracked me up! Sure, when the bike was a Vitus…screwed and glued, small diameter aluminum tubes but a modern, carbon fiber bike with a thru-axle in back? If the thing flexed enough under the Manx Missile’s power to auto-shift it would also auto-brake (that disc brake in the back, you know) and he’d have flung it into the weeds long before now! Your comment reads like the usual justification for whatever you bought when it seems to fail…can’t be the fault of what you bought…must be the flimsy frame…or…something….anything.

          • Most people buy frames as well as gears Larry, just pointing out that the close tolerances for gears these days can be influenced by other things than the derailleur. And yes brake rub is a problem, it might be the thing the pros like least about discs?

    • BC – don’t get me started on the so-called advantages of battery-operated shifting! I noticed Campagnolo’s new wireless stuff has s__t-the-bed a time or two for AG2R as has Shimano’s for others. Amazingly it’s “F__king SRAM!” (to quote a certain Dutchman) who has looked the best so far…at least based on TV and online reporting. For me it’s all an answer to a question nobody asked – but as I recall it can be blamed on Vicenza who raced some prototype battery-operated stuff long before we saw Di2…so…?

      • I have Di2 and I wonder if some of the mis-shifts are just hitting the buttons by mistake because it happens to me all the time during races. And with those sprinter buttons, it might be even worse.

    • “maybe the advantage of electronic shifting is not really the technological advance it is cracked up to be”
      Accurate, correct mechanical setup is still required with electronic shifting.
      Exmpl, the derailleur and the hanger must be adjusted coplanar with the hub & cassette, to within a few millimeters, using a Park Tool gauge or equivalent. If not, it will never shift correctly.
      Also, pro bikes lead a hard life: crashes , frequent rough handling, rain, road dirt, etc. The mechanics are surely under a lot of stress and pressure, every hour and every day. Seems hard to achieve perfection in those conditions.

      • Pro road bikes surely lead much less of a hard life than my gravel. Well; perhaps except cobbled classics. Still, I ride MTB terrain a lot. Sometimes with loaded bike; and I ride cobbles every day while commuting.

        Right now, SRAM tries to force wireless shifting even into it’s basic road / gravel sets. My new bike would have it, alas. Right now, I am quite terrified. 😀

  6. Channeling some Inrng spirit here… I notice we’ve gone from vultures to voitures: Cadillac yesterday and now moving into the Limousin(e) region today.

  7. An odd snippet.

    Limoges was once considered to be the back of beyond where no self-respecting Parisian would want to live, so that ‘limoger’ (to send to Limoges) meant to give someone the sack.

  8. I’m not sure I understand the bias in everyone’s predictions towards sprinters who can climb and the emphasis on an uphill finish. Not just INRNG but all the pundits and the betting markets.

    The same finish in 2016 was..
    1. Kittel
    2 Coquard
    3 Sagan
    4 Groenewegen
    5 Kristoff

    Unless the later climbs are ridden really hard pure sprinters should still be in the mix. While not worthy of a chainring the odds I’ve secured on riders who have already placed top 10 twice this year look pretty good to me (just for fun – my daily budget is strictly £1 total stakes)

    Fabio Jakobsen 33p @ 273.64 = £90
    Dylan Groenewegen 20p @ 272 = £53
    Alexander Kristoff 10p @ 380 = £38
    Bryan Coquard 37p @ 27 = £10

    • It’s not the same finish.

      2016 had a long downhill run towards the Vienne river, over a flat bridge and then uphill to the line so they started the climb with a lot of speed and momentum. Today’s finish has a flat approach, into a narrower road, then left onto the climb.

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