The legendary Puy de Dôme climb is back in the Tour de France and offers a unique summit finish, visually spectacular and a tough climb with steep slopes that never relent.
Stage 8 Review: a “4×4 breakaway” as Tour race director Thierry Gouvenou likes to call it, four riders away with a lead of four minutes and before pedants point out three riders were away in Anthony Delaplace, Anthony Turgis and Tim Declerq, well Declerq’s worth two. His presence was unusual and shows how Quick-Step are having to play cards from a hand they didn’t choose and alas for them, not even the combativity prize.
Two incidents mid-stage, first a small one when the sprinters pressed on after the intermediate sprint and the stage threatened to catch fire but Wout van Aert was among those missing up front and Jumbo-Visma chased and closed things down. The stage fell back into a slump but it was during this calm that the peloton slowed, some hit the brakes, others slammed on them and suddenly Mark Cavendish was on he ground and almost instantly you could see his shoulder was injured. He was put into an ambulance and out of the race, a cruel exit on terms nobody wanted just when he’d been so close the previous day. The stage record had become a defining goal of late but in time it’ll become anecdotal compared to the rest of his palmarès.
In the run into Limoges Steff Cras collided with a spectator standing in the road, crashing out of the race and also bringing down Simon Yates and Mikel Landa among others, with Yates losing 47 seconds.
The finish looked like it was made for Mathieu van der Poel but on the start line yesterday he said he was there to help Philipsen score more points for the green jersey and he wasn’t bluffing. He gave his colleague a good lead out but Mads Pedersen delivered another powerful sprint, he looks huge but his racing weight is 70kg or less which puts him in the punchy bracket. Wout van Aert got stuck in traffic in the finale including his own leadout Laporte and was closing fast but the line was too soon for him.
The Route: 182.4km and 3,400m of vertical gain. The start’s in Saint-Léonard, adopted home of the late Raymond Poulidor and in case you didn’t know this you will hear it a lot today and the first roads to Champnétry and Cheissoux are where Poulidor used to test his form, it’s all on a wide road to the Lac de Vassivière, France’s largest artificial lake. From here on the for the next 100km roads are smaller and lumpier, real rural backwater country and all the better riding for it with only the interlude for crossing of Felletin.
With 60km to go it’s back on to big roads all the way across to the Col de Nugère and the descent to Volvic, home of the eponymous mineral water – it’s been so warm and dry this year there are water restrictions here – and then down to the city of Clermont-Ferrand.
The Finish: the Puy de Dôme awaits but first there’s a long climb out of the city with some steep roads where the urban setting adds to the heat, the buildings radiating back heat. The first five kilometres are a tough climb alone and the flatter section after doesn’t allow for rest, it’s still uphill as it heads across to the car park and entry of the Puy de Dôme climb. Here riders will have to be in position as the final part of the climb is narrow.
Once on the famous climb the road spirals around the volcano at a steady 11-12%, the defining feature is how this is a tough climb but regular, it’s like this all the way to the top where just before the finish the road kicks up to 15%.
- Race vehicles are restricted with one car from each time allowed to follow the peloton but not the breakaway or leaders, any mechanicals will have to be covered by neutral service motos or by staff waiting in two designated pit zones on the climb
The Contenders: Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) said he saw three stages where the Tour would be won and today is one of them, along with the Grand Colombier and Col de la Loze. How to pick between him and Tadej Pogačar (UAE) given we couldn’t before the race and can’t after the Pyrenees? Let’s note the weather and that it’s going to be hot that this might tilt things towards the Dane.
Romain Bardet (DSM Firmenich) is the local who knows every metre of the road but it doesn’t give him extra watts and he’s eighth on GC and won’t get space to move, plus he’s better suited to long climbs rather than this sharp effort.
Jumbo-Visma, UAE and other teams are likely to drive the pace coming into the climb as they fight for position which makes life even harder for any breakaway survivors, plus Jumbo-Visma have yet to win and this is a mythical day on a Box Office Sunday. Still if enough riders can barge clear a move has a good chance today, Jumbo and UAE might chase but who else? Several riders seemed to ease up in the finish of yesterday’s stage with an eye on being fresher today. Egan Bernal (Ineos) comes to mind, Neilson Powless (EF) is after those HC points and a stage. Michael Woods (Israel-PremierTech) is suited to the steep finish and probably Giulio Ciccone (Lidl-Trek) too although the way he lost time in the Pyrenees wasn’t voluntary.
Some riders like Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) and Felix Gall (Ag2r Citroën) are 7-8 minutes down on GC but only three minutes of the podium race so they might not get much room, the likes of Ineos or Jayco could add a rider or two to the chase.
|Woods, Powless, Ciccone, Guerreiro, Bernal, Halland Johannessen
Weather: hot and sunny, 33°C and hardly a breath of wind either.
TV: KMO is at 1.45pm and the finish is forecast for later than usual at 6.20pm CEST. Tune in to see the start and the breakaway form. Be sure to be in place for the Col de la Nugère and the final hour.
Poulidor day: today will see the race celebrate Raymond Poulidor and the start town of Saint-Léonard is like an open air museum to him. While the race is keen to attract new audiences, it does also like to evoke the good old days and turn to the past which isn’t a big draw. But with Poulidor there’s no argument here, he was a great rider and a fascinating character. A few extra points you may not read elsewhere:
- yes he grew up on a farm and got the “bumpkin” label but he was sharp from the early days and got the second highest mark for his school exams in the region
- he’d later take people to the cleaners in card games and was a shrewd investor
- the “eternal second” won more times than he finished second
- the “eternal second” finished third more often in the Tour de France (five times) than second (three)
- If you’ve seen the film Le Vélo de Ghislain Lambert there’s the scene where a rider’s ability is gauged by the use of a pendulum, this is a nod to Poulidor’s superstitious team manager Antonin Magne who would do just this. Magne detected that Poulidor had “great powers” but that he would “be unlucky in July”, a technique probably not used today…
- …Magne had a special potion for his riders called l’eau blanc (“white water”) which he kept in small vials for riders to use when they were in peak form. It contained… water and baking powder, the same soda used today by some ahead of intense efforts