Another day, another fest on my words for dinner. Kittel produced an incredibly strong sprint to win the day. Etixx definitely got his lead out right this time! My two favourites for the stage finished 2nd and 3rd. However, the blog “outsiders” were nowhere to be seen. I have to admit and hold my hands up when wrong, I just thought the stage/finish was going to be tougher. Fair play to those who backed Kittel! Onto tomorrow’s stage.
The most difficult stage of the Tour so far, there are six categorised climbs out on the course.
Looking at the left of the profile map, you can see that the riders actually reach a reasonalbe altitude. There is a lot of ups and downs on the stage, with the highest point being the 2nd Category Pas de Peyrol at 1589m.
With the climbs back-loaded towards the end of the stage, this promises to be tough day out in the saddle. The Ardennes riders will be licking their lips at the profile!
However, the two cat 2 climbs are brutes. The Pas de Peyrol averages just over 11.5% for its final 3kms, with the Col du Perthus also having segments over 11%. The saving grace for the Ardennes riders and Peter Sagan is that the Col du Font de Cère isn’t an overly difficult climb. If they make it there, they will fancy themselves on the sprint up to the line, which has a very similar profile to today’s finishing ramp.
How will the stage be won?
Tomorrow is the first stage that I can feasibly see being won by a breakaway. There are plenty of riders far enough down on GC not to worry Sagan’s lead as long as they aren’t given too much headway. Furthermore, one of the Tinkoff DS reiterated the fact that they were still here to win the GC with Contador, so they don’t want to waste any extra energy in preserving Sagan’s lead.
Etixx could feasibly chase in the hope to set up Alaphilippe in a finish that looks to suit him well. However, if he’s there I’m sure that Sagan and Valverde will be there too and they can definitely challenge/beat him for the stage.
Consequently, I think if the right break gets away then it could make it. (50/50 chance)
Realistically you need to look to riders who are 3mins+ down on the GC for the break to succeed because I’m not too sure on how keen Sagan will be on losing the jersey. Although saying that, he is a very laid back guy!
Furthermore, they have to be able to climb well to make it over the Cat 2s with the rest of the break.
Some riders who fit this category are Herrada, Albasini, Cummings, Navarro and De Gendt to name a few. Like normal, I’m going to highlight three riders who I think can go well.
First up is my main KOM hope and mountain break specialist Ruben Plaza. It may be too early in the race for him to go on the attack, but after losing over on 12mins on the GC then he could quite well have been targeting this early stage. A great climber from the break, he should be able to cope with the two Cat-2 climbs and then he’d hope to solo away to the finish.
Second is Alexey Lutsenko.
A strong baroudeur, the Kazakh won a stage at Paris Nice earlier in the year by making a solo attack after the final climb on the day. He may not be the best climber ever, but he’s certainly strong enough to make the break on the flat. If he gets in it, I wouldn’t back against him! Furthermore, he has a decent turn of speed as well.
The final rider is one that has been in the break already this Tour, Jan Barta.
Bora have been very active so far this Tour and I expect that to continue tomorrow. A strong TTer, Barta can make the break on the flat. Furthermore, he’s a fairly solid climber so could be capable of finishing it off, depending on his breakaway companions!
If it’s not a breakaway?
As I’ve mentioned above, this is a tough stage to call straight up and I think there’s a 50/50 chance of the break making it. If not, look towards those who featured on stage 2. The trio I said earlier: Sagan, Alaphilippe and Valverde all have very good chances of taking the result. However, there is one rider that I like outside those three favourites. That man is Tony Gallopin. He was very disappointed after Stage 2 to only finish 8th. His form is clearly very good after coming 3rd in the French National TT plus finishing 2nd in the road race. I think the TT result is more evident of that because he’s not known for going great in that particular discipline.
The likes of Matthews could make the finish as well and it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that we see a late attack sticking if people sit up and look at each other.
I’m going to have to cheat here and give two predictions: one for the break and the other for a favourites showdown.
I have fond memories of Plaza winning Stage 20 at the Vuelta last year. I had him at 80/1 that day, he’s the same price for tomorrow. The omens are good. He looked strong in the Giro and he’s the type of rider who can maintain a solid level of form for a while. If he makes it into the break, everyone else will be worried! He’s my breakaway man.
But at the end of the day, the breakaway is a lottery so my guess is as good as yours! Speaking of which…
For the favourites I think it’s fairly obvious who I’m going to pick. Yes, Sagan/Alaphilippe/Valverde all rightly start as the trio to beat, but I have a feeling that big Tony will go well here. He’s my man if it comes back together for some kind of bunch finish!
0.75pts EW Gallopin @20/1 with Various bookmakers
0.25pts EW Plaza @80/1 with PP (paying 5 places)
0.125pts EW Lutsenko @200/1 with SkyBet
0.125pts EW Barta @300/1 with PP (5 places again)
Hope you all enjoyed the preview, we should be in for the most exciting stage so far tomorrow in my opinion! Watch this become a borefest now haha. Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.