TDF Stage 7 Preview: l’Isle-Jourdain -> Lac de Payolle

Today’s Recap

Not been a great start to the Tour prediction wise as Cav excellently sprints out of Kittel’s slipstream to take the win. His third of the race so far! He really has turned a leaf this Tour.

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Etixx never really got a train organised at all which was very disappointing. They made a hurried effort at around 2km to go, but it meant Kittel had to expend unnecessary energy to get to the front. Then he hit the front too early which was to the delight of all the other sprinters, especially Cavendish who came out from behind him in the final 100m. A nod must go to Dan McLay who sprinted superbly to 3rd place. If the finish was another 50m down the road he could have climbed further up the podium! Anyway, onto tomorrow’s stage.

The Route

Flat(ish) then a big ol’ hill.

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A flat opening 50km of the stage will undoubtedly result in a very fast pace within the peloton as riders try to get into the break of the day. The road then goes through several rises and falls in terrain before we reach the first categorised climb of the day, the Cat 4 Côte de Capvern. A long but fairly shallow climb at 7.7km in length but with inly a 3.1% average gradient. Well, that’s according to the official statistics. As you can see on the profile above the road actually rises before and after the classification. This actually makes the average gradient even shallower (2.3%) but the road rises up for around 16km. We could see those struggling with injury here. It’ll be a hard day for them thereafter!

We actually get the Intermediate Sprint before the road starts climbing up towards the final climb of the day. Sagan will be hoping to take as many points here as possible. He’ll want to keep Cavendish in close quarters.

Soon after we are onto the first Cat-1 climb of the race, the Col d’Aspin.

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A long climb that starts off fairly easy, its toughest section comes in the middle with a kilometre at 9.5%. Not the toughest of climbs but this will be the first shake up of the GC. Anyone on an off day could lose a fair chunk of time tomorrow.

The descent itself isn’t too technical, however there are some switch backs right at the end.

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The road then kicks up again to the finish line, under 3% average for the final couple of kms.

How will the stage pan out?

Normally I’d be all over the idea that a break makes it this stage and it seems that a few of you agree.

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Massive sample size. Reliable.

However, I think there are several circumstances that will ensure it doesn’t.

  1. It’s the first mountain stage and although it doesn’t finish atop the mountain, I expect Sky to keep to tradition and test out their GC rivals.
  2. Along with Sky testing out their rivals, Movistar will be keen to impose themselves too. Froome got a bit caught off guard at the end of stage Stage 5. They’ll see if they can do the same here.
  3. Time bonuses. Maybe not crucial at the end of the Tour but they certainly do help
  4. The most important reason for me. Contador. The Spaniard has looked shaky since his fall and the other GC teams have to go in for the kill here. If they don’t take advantage of him now, he’ll make their race a nightmare later on.
  5. The descent off the climb is short, it will be hard for any riders dropped to make up time (unlike stage 8) so any gaps made will probably stick.

Therefore, I think we get some kind of GC shake up. Maybe not substantial, but there will be some time gaps.

So the two main options for me are a GC bunch sprint, or a well-timed late attack. I’ll go through both of these possibilities.

This stage looks tailor-made for Valverde.

Vuelta Spagna 2015

He should be able to cope with the climb and will be the fastest of the GC men left at the end. Will he get given some freedom by Quintana? I think so.

Will Julian Alaphilippe make it over the climb? He was struggling over the smaller climbs on stage 5. I don’t think he’ll make it here. If he does, then he will definitely be a danger-man in the sprint. Likewise, so will his team-mate Dan Martin. I think the Irishman is more likely to make it to the finish. He has a finishing sprint that will worry Valverde and we’ve seen in other races that he’s not scared to attack.

Who else could contest a GC sprint? Well Rodriguez came from nowhere on stage 5. He’s someone who could definitely get involved. Bardet, Barguil, Kelderman & Yates all have a decent turn of speed.

For a late attacker the rider will need to be able to make it over the climb with the GC group and then attack on either the descent or on the uphill drag towards the finish. So they’ll need to be either a) a good descender b) or someone who’s not deemed an overall GC threat.

Someone along the likes of Rolland fits that briefing perfectly. An attacking rider, he won’t be afraid of failing. The main GC guys won’t be too concerned about him for the overall and he could well steal a march on them. Meintjes could also be the type of rider that gets away. He won’t be respected as much in regards to the overall jersey so a perfectly timed move could see him get away.

Team mates will be important in the finale to mark and close down the attacks. Team mates will also be useful to attack themselves. Quintana, Froome and Pinot were the only contenders to have riders left with them at the end of stage 5. I would love if Pinot’s team-mate, Sebastien Reichenbach, was given the freedom to get away and take a historic win.

The weather may also play its part on tomorrow’s stage with thunderstorms and rain forecast throughout the day. This could nullify the stage in the sense that the GC riders don’t want to risk it, or could easily do the opposite where they try to put pressure on the other riders. Who knows?!

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Weather forecast for Arreau (just before the start of Col d’Aspin)

Prediction

As stated above, I don’t think a break makes it tomorrow. They have more of a chance the following stage. So it’s really a decision on if we get a late attack stick, or some kind of GC sprint. Either way, it will be a strong climber who wins the stage. I like Rolland’s attacking style and he has the right set of attributes/credentials to get away from the main bunch. The stage is set for him to take his third Tour stage!

Cannondale

Betting

Rolland 0.6pt EW @66/1 with PaddyPower (if you can bet there) they’re paying 5 places. Would take down to 50/1.

Kelderman 0.3pt EW @66/1 with Coral or Skybet (both 4 places). Again, would take 50/1.

Reichenbach 0.1pt EW @250/1 with Bet365. Would take 200/1 available with Sky too.

 

Hope you enjoyed my thoughts on tomorrow’s stage. How do you think it will pan out? It’s a very interesting one to try to call! I’m just optimistic and want an exciting stage. Any feedback is more than welcome. Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

 

 

 

 

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