Tour de France Stage 11 Preview

The world championships of breakaway racing today, expect a lively day’s racing.

L’ennui: a boring stage. All over France chores that had been postponed were being tackled, piles of washing were being loaded into machines, dishwashers emptied, floors swept and surfaces dusted with the TV on in the background. Kobe Goossens managed to go up the road at one point and collected the day’s combativity prize, if he hadn’t who would have got it, the rider with most bandages?

The sprint finish was almost boring too but that’s no bad thing, no controversy, no accidents. Instead Alpecin-Deceunink put on a performance like last year including an acceleration from Mathieu van der Poel that even Jasper Philipsen struggled with, but he was ahead and got the win.

The Route: 211km and 4,350m of vertical gain. A start in Evaux-les-Bains, a small town in the sparsely-populated Creuse départment, apparently backed by the city of Montluçon in the neighbouring Allier department because they got many of the hotels last night.

The profile almost makes the first 150km look flat but we don’t get over 4,000m of climbing just at the end. Instead the route is rising and falling all the time, and on twisting roads. This has two effects: first terrain for the breakaway to go clear but expect waves of moves; second it’ll sap riders for later.

The Néronne is a steady climb up a wide road. Despite the name the Pas de Peyrol exists, the pas is not the negative but a “step”, and a big one, it starts steady through almost New Zealand like terrain then rears up and the final 2.5km are consistently between 11-13%, a big change of rhythm, look out for the Virage Bardet here. There’s a flat section across the top that the profile doesn’t show and then a long descent with one or two dangers – Alexandr Vinokourov broke his leg in 2011 here – but otherwise fast.

The Col du Perthus is listed as 4.4km at 7.9% which would be hard if it was like this. Instead it’s much steeper for most of the way. The profile says it starts with 7% but the 10-12% slopes arrive immediately and it stays this way for the next two kilometres with only a brief flat section in between before rising up all the way to the top. It’s harder than expected and the place where teams can ratchet up the pace to eliminate or test rivals who’ve survived the Pas de Peyrol. The descent is in two parts, the first part is easy and gentle, then there’s a bump uphill and then the second part is steeper and more dangerous part with some sharp turns, the kind where it’s easy to overcook things.

The Finish: the Col de Font de Cère begins on the big Route Nationale and then with 6km to go they turn onto a small road which climbs to the KoM point among the chalets and ski slopes above Le Lioran on a steady road. The descent is much smaller and has some bumps and tight bends on the way down before they drop back into the ski resort and pick up the main road which gradually bends to the finish. The last 600m rise at 6-7%.

The Contenders: today’s stage shares many of the roads from 2016 when Greg Van Avermaet won the stage to Le Lioran, this was “golden Greg” in Olympic form who took the stage and the yellow jersey. For an Olympian pick why not Tom Pidcock (Ineos) who will find the climbs and descents suit him although has he done any recon here to profit from the descents?

Ben Healy (EF) is looking for a breakaway win and this really suits. His team are racing to set up moves and he’s the obvious spear tip although he almost has to go solo for the win; Alberto Bettiol and Neilson Powless are contenders and Richard Carapaz sat up in the finish yesterday, reculer pour mieux sauter?

Giulio Ciccone (Lidl-Trek) is racing well and suited to the hilly finish, he’s got a good sprint out of a small group too. Likewise Maxim Van Gils (Lotto-Dstny).

David Gaudu and Romain Grégoire (Groupama-FDJ) probably have their best shot at a stage but so many others today share this too. Cofidis are without a win, Jesus Herrada has won in this region before but the odds are getting longer now. Staying with French teams Kévin Vauquelin (Arkéa-B&B Hotels) finds terrain to suit too.

The local pick is Romain Bardet (DSM), at least he is from the region but he’s got a stage already and says he’d be as happy to help others win, so Oscar Onley and Frank Van den Broek fit the bill too.

Oh and Tadej Pogačar (UAE) too because if the breakaway battle goes on for too long then the GC contenders can exploit the terrain later and he’s the obvious pick among them.

Healy, Ciccone
Vauquelin, Van Gils, Pidcock, Grégoire
Pogačar, Carapaz, Onley, Gaudu, Mohorič, Gee, Bardet

Weather: early rain clearing to leave sunshine and 23°C.

TV: KM0 is at 11.30am CEST and the finish is forecast for 5.15pm CEST. Tune in for the start to see the battle for the breakaway.

Postcard from Evaux-les-Bains
Today’s start is in the small town of Evaux-les-Bains where since Roman times the thermal spring has been enjoyed. Thermalisme is a big deal in France. While many countries celebrate hot spring waters, France institutionalises this with spas offering medical treatment paid for by the state. Last year 450,000 people went for medical treatment in France’s 88 regulated spas.

The original idea was that drinking or bathing in particular kinds of warm waters – 20°C or more – could be beneficial to the body, waters rich in certain minerals were paired to a pathology. Some of this might be quack medicine, or just the placebo effect after a warm soak or a course of drinks but there is some justification today. Think of osteoporosis benefitting from drinking calcium-rich waters, or skin lesions from eczema being washed in acidic, disinfecting sulphur-rich waters.

Le thermalisme gets prescribed for a range of treatments, including obesity and depression and the cost can be reimbursed from the French healthcare system. You can imagine it might be cheaper to stay at home and tweak the diet, or for a doctor to prescribe, say, calcium supplements. A French parliamentary report said out loud that the actual medical benefits are doubtful.

However it’s not a great expense to the French system, typically only the “medical” part relating to the spa waters are billed to the system, with travel, accommodation and food paid by the customer patient. Thermalisme is implicitly backed for the wider benefits. Stays last a regulation three weeks with 18 days of treatment, a grand tour for health. The person is away from their home and placed in a controlled environment where as well as waters, the days are regimented, the food rationed and regular exercise is encouraged. Plenty are bound to leave feeling better than they started.

So if you’re wondering why little Evaux-les-Bains is on the map today, remember that mid-week a large chunk of the race’s audience consists of seniors who may be eligible for some thermalisme if their joints aches and now have a new place to consider. Indeed with its lithium-rich waters (2.09 mg/l) Evaux is said to help promote relaxation and sleep…


64 thoughts on “Tour de France Stage 11 Preview”

  1. Thanks for the preview.
    I am loving the post cards as well! The thermalisme piece is fascinating and also demonstrates how educational Asterix comics can be as that was the first place I encountered this concept. Keep up the great work!

    • The Shield of Arverni? Even the location fits today.

      Coming from perhaps the country of spa culture (where even my dad, proscribed by the regime and unable to publish under his name, was entitled to “thermalist” treatments fully paid by the state during bolshevik-socialist period), I find it bemusing the French system comes as a surprise, never realised myself “thermalism” is actualy not that universaly accepted concept.

  2. This is going to be a great stage right from the start. I do wonder if Ciccone will get enough room now that he is ‘just’ 5 minutes away from the jersey. If they let Ciccone go, another great option would be Buitrago as well.. But maybe S. Yates has a better chance on making the break (if he can be bothered)?

  3. From km 120 the next 60 km are mostly uphill. UAE may try to use their numbers to put pressure on the other teams.
    Simon Yates is so far behind that he becomes a candidate for the break but perhaps he is just not up to it.

  4. “Indeed with its lithium-rich waters (2.09 mg/l) Evaux is said to help promote relaxation and sleep…”

    Yesterday’s stage also helped to promote sleep. Hoping for a bit more volcanic action today….

  5. Yesterday’s was quite the most dire stage in years. With hours of TV time there for the taking, why didn’t several no-hoper teams put riders up the road for the publicity and to make a show? Watching paint dry could have been more absorbing.

    Expecting much better today. For a few more French names: Barguil, Peters, Jegat, Champoussin and Martinez.

  6. No mention of moustaches? A lot of other nonsense willy waving talk,, not sure who, if anyone this benefits. Tadej Pogacer after complaining about boring stages now seems to think they are too long, personally think the short stage thing has been overdone. Not convinced the break will win as the GC folk will be trying hard too, however can see a very big break getting away and the GC teams not being able to police who goes leading to a frenzied chase.

    • It would appear strange for a rider who is so good at 260km+ races to moan that stages are too long. Maybe the Giro has caught up with him?!

  7. I’d like to think UAE/Pogacar will try and put the pressure on today. GO hard from the off and get Vingo isolated and turn it into a mano a mano one day race. Vingo wants to wait until the big mountains to do his racing, so don’t let him.

  8. “starts steady through almost New Zealand like terrain then rears up”
    Question for Mr Inrng, I take it from this that you have cycled in our fair country? What exactly makes it NZ like terrain?
    Thanks for the great stage previews, always a must do after dinner read for us down under folks.

  9. They finish in a particularly wet region of France. It’s hardly surprising that Aurillac is the home of French umbrella manufacture. Here’s hoping for decent weather to enjoy the excitement so lacking yesterday.

  10. I was happily surprised yesterday that nobody crashed, after an empty stage in a final where everybody was fresh. Normally it happens. Are the riders more cautious since the recent big crashes ? Or is the Tour peloton more experienced ? I have seen very few dangerous moves that are common since the beginning of the year, ex looking back when in front of the peloton, or just stopping pedaling after the work done without going to the side of the road, letting all the others trying to avoid you as they can. Maybe they don’t want to risk DQ in the Tour ? Very few abandons since the start, very uncommon too. The hard first stages seems to be a good solution to avoid mass crashes at the beginning.
    As for today, the last hill isn’t hard enough and it’s a pity. End of Pas de Peyrol and Pertus could have pushed Pogacar to attack. Let’s hope anyway the stage will be better than the Van Avermaet victory, it was very boring and nobody even tried something. Cycling has changed, hasn’t it ?
    Thermalisme in France also benefits from the demographics : with one third of the people over 60, and a majority of voters, it will remain reimbursed a while…

    • The guy who sits 1:14 behind on third and gained a tremendous second on the rider in second spot is now the overall favourite? Sure that. No more questions, your anonym honour.

      • The court had been shown clear and convincing evidence that today´s stage was going to be the culmination of the “Made for Pogačar” early phase of the Tour – but it turned out it wasn´t.
        The accepted wisdom now is that the last three stages – which are known to be “Made for Vingegaard” – will indeed turn out as we have speculated since way back.

        Fortunately Pogacar is still Pogacar and surprises are as likely as non-surprises.

        PS Only one thing – that Roglic will be on the podium in Nice – is certain (and even that is subject to a condition).

          • Maybe that’s why he was the only one smiling while cooling down while Pogi looked like they just saved him from a mining accident and Vingo rescued from a sunk nuclear submarine, both after a very long time very deep below the surface…
            Of course Vingegaard was the big winner and the other two lost much more than those seconds, just saying about their faces.

  11. All still very open and a beautiful race. What would now be very “surprising” is only Vingo pulling out any of those uberperformances well above his own standard like that 2023 ITT. That performance could be justified (and, to be frank, only partly so) by imagining that he had been deliberately holding back a lot in the rest of the race. Peculiar, but you can’t really prove it wasn’t like that. This year, on the contrary, he’s been giving his all manifestly enough, always on the very limit. Now, Pogi can of course blow up, as he’s spent so many energies, but I’m curious to see how Vingegaard’s performance will develop both in absolute terms and relatively to the rest. Things as they’ve been looking, the only athlete entitled to a legit 3rd week extra boost might be Rogla, or Remco in case he pulls something especially typical of him (long range or super ITT rather than pure climbing show).
    I wouldn’t be surprised if Vingo won a race by little gains of a few seconds on each final climb, but surely he’s not been saving much in the tank until now, not enough for a sudden rise in performance.
    Finally, some Lampre effect on today… the team clearly prepared this long range attack, and they didn’t have a good number of people waiting along the road with food, water, wheels, whatever…?!? Did they expect the team car was going to have an easy life getting to the front or didn’t they expect there might be any kind of issue requiring support for the rider on this sort of roads?!?

  12. Pogacar seemed to be in too high a gear going into the sprint finish and I immediately thought he had a shifting issue with his bike preventing lower gearing, hence the goofy finish.

    Cramps could also explain it, and while cooling down on the bike I saw him do a couple horse shudders.

    I haven’t seen any post-race comments from him.

    Great stage!

      • You can batter out the power on 165mm cranks as good as any other, if you get it into the (right) hard gear.

        Having gone from 172.5 to 165 (178cm tall), I have to say 165 is better all round, from spinning to grinding out the torque.

  13. Even though TP is about 1 minute ahead of JV, I think he lost the race today. TP showed he still fades up a final mountain in a stage in the second half of the TDF.
    TP wasted too much energy on the gravel stage and other meaningless stages. Needs to learn to ride defensively and save his and his teams energy.
    Will he ever learn?

    • If he rode difensively mot of the TDF and arrived without having attempted much to any later stage where JV makes a monstre performance and leave TP behind with no further option to gain time, people would say, oh, look he had those Classic-like stages and didn’t take advantage…
      Your take looks especially weak as Vingegaard has looked very close to cracking both in the sterrati stage and today. Of course it’s a risky bet for Pogačar, too, but it makes sense to try. Or, to say the least, nobody really knows without… hindsight.

      • More like Pog may just be paying for all those extra minutes he nedlessly took at the Giro because nobody will remember the margin of victory (just that he won easily). I know people will say ‘oh but he just loves racing’ but I think he loves winning more so if Vinny does beat him again, Pog and his team may have to think long and hard about that.

        • When you train, you also need to push hard.

          Of course, Jumbo as so many before them are here to show the world that human physiology works… differently, so probably we’re soon going to be told that the best thing to produce 7.0 w/kg is to rest a lot (possibly in a hospital bed) and to train as little as possible, but normally if you race a GT as a training block you have to go hard… from time to time, of course, not all the time. I can provide a decent quantity of success story working like that from the 80s, the 90s, the ’00s, the ’10s (just to stick with “modern” cycling), about the likes of Lemond, Indurain, Pantani, Ullrich, Contador, Nibali etc.

          Did Pogi go hard “all the time”, in order to take “as much advantage as he could”? I really don’t think so, and nobody could say anything like that if they watched the Giro. Did he take a proper amount of “rest days”? Yes. Could he race fully each and every stage as an adequate training? I don’t think so, there are clearly a couple of stages or three where plans went adrift. A matter of minutes of effort, not much more, yet probably not what the table would have ordered. Is this third point the reason why he might fall short this TDF? Might be, I really don’t know, but I’d go with “it’s not because of that”.
          Sure, no doubt that if you only only only want to maximise your winning chances at the TDF, the best option is to only ride a bicycle with that in mind and no other single target or task.
          But luckily such an approach which was brought into cycling by a well-known figure is a thing of the past (for a series of reasons); Vingegaard included, hadn’t he had suffered the accident (which was, well, “an accident”, and I wouldn’t call it anyway a way to “optimise” TDF performance, unless we’ve been told a good set of lies).

          Finally, I’d tend to think, for what we’ve seen until now (but I may change my opinion depending on the 3rd week), that we’re still in the scenario which Pogi and the UAE team had foreseen: winning the TDF or not does *not* depend on how strong Pogacar is because Vingegaard and his team can have access, from time to time, to superior performances which simply can’t be matched. Was it so, the illusion of a balanced contest is just that, an illusion, due to the fact that those superior performances can’t be produced all the time. But one or two of them are more than enough to provide an unassailable winning margin.

    • That always works out for roglic mr maintain and sprint for bonuses…

      It’s only a few days into the tour, you are being premature i think. this wasn’t even a serious climbing stage compared to what is coming.

      I do of course hope JV and others will continue to upend the race, as much as I like pogacar.

      • Intriguing how we all watch the same race and yet see it quite differently. I don’t see Vingegaard as upending the race at all. Quite the reverse, maintaining, defending and covering Pogacar and no one else. Of course he may yet try to upend the race in the high mountains later. In fact he’ll have to if he wants to win. Upending requires proactivity and not just waiting for others to crack and then seeking to capitalise…

        • I do think JV upended media/pol expectations of his performance coming in and the narrative for the rest of the race will be different. I think he changed TPs expectations of him. But the race hasn’t been upended yet, I maybe phrased that badly: I want to see the race contested and not be a TP procession to the end. I would like to see someone grab yellow from him next week.

  14. How did Vingegaard catch Pogacar? It was a 35 second gap–I took my dog out for a quick morning walk thinking I’ll be back to watch Pogacar cross the line alone–and I sit back down and they are back together. I literally thought Pogacar had had a mechanical.

    How much distance did Vingo need to catch Pogacar?

    I do sometimes wish JV had some snark–the lines he could have tossed out about Remco were so many opportunities missed. In the video they showed of Remco greeting him at the warm down seemed to suggest JV doesn’t have too much time for Remco.

      • Preumably you’re a fully trained medical professional then with substantial experience in trauma care and have in-depth knowledge of an elite athlete’s recovery from such injuries compared to average members of the public plus you got access to his ride data (as I wouldn’t want to think you’re chucking out baseless comments).

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