Well, I got that wrong. Very wrong.
In fairness though, for a lot of the race it looked like it was to be a GC show-down. However, just over the Cat 4 climb the break started attacking each other, which they needed to do, and a stronger group of 4 formed up ahead. Before Nibali and Co caught the four up the road, Cummings attacked and was not seen again until the finish line. Another perfectly timed attacked from him. A big middle finger to the Olympic selectors.
Behind, we saw some of the GC riders struggle in the heat. The most notable of those was Pinot who lost over 2 and a half minutes on the rest of the GC contenders. Then there was Flamme Rouge Gate, these dangerous finishes eh…Amateur from the ASO it has to be said. Hopefully Yates’ injuries are only superficial.
Onto tomorrow’s stage.
A tough day in the saddle (184km) awaits the riders with 4 categorised climbs and a sawtooth profile.
We could get another fast start to the day as riders try to get into the breakaway. The opposite is easily foreseeable and the peloton might want a slow start to the day after today’s fast and frenetic stage. The first break might well stick.
With the sprint point being before the climb we could well see some of the sprinters try to get away again. There is a chance for another mass break.
The opening ascent of the day is a tough one, with the first HC categorised climb of the Tour: the Col du Tourmalet.
A long tough climb (19km at 7.4%) this could possibly split the break up. The sprinters and those struggling from injuries will be hoping there is no one of danger up the road and that the peloton takes this at a relatively leisurely pace.
Over the Tourmalet comes a descent before the road kicks up again for the Cat 2 Hourquette d’Ancizan. In this stage it’s apparently so insignificant that there isn’t even a profile of it in the road-book! Supposedly 8.2km at 4.9% going off the stage profile, this is the closest actual climb profile I could find that climbs from Lac de Payolle.
Again once over the climb the riders get a bit of respite on the descent. This time round they actually have a bit of flat to contend with before the penultimate climb up the Col de Val Louron-Azet.
Another tough climb follows. There is a pattern here! 10.7km at 6.8%, it starts off relatively easy but gets grippier during the middle. The break will hope to still have a good advantage here. Depending on the feeling within the GC teams, we might get a push on from them here.
The final ascent of the day is a Tour classic, the Col de Peyresourde.
7.1km at 7.8%, this climb is relentless. Hopefully we get some GC attacks here, but with a long descent to the finish I’m not sure we’ll see many splits, but what do i know?!
The finish in Bagnères itself is relatively technical within the final kilometre. Perfect for a lone rider.
How will the stage pan out?
I’ve had this stage circled as a break day since before the Tour started. As far as I can remember (I have no stats to back this up, just going off the top of my head), the stage that involves Bagnerès-de-Luchon more often than not ends up in a break victory. With today’s stage victory coming from a break, it has cast a little doubt in my mind. However, I’m sticking to my guns and saying that a break makes it. Partly because I’m rather stubborn, but also because the following stage has a summit finish in which the GC guys can make more of a difference.
So that begs the question…
Who are the break candidates?
At least for this stage it’s easier to narrow down because the rider will have to be a good climber to stand a chance. They also have to be strong on the flat to make the break. There are a lot of guys far down on GC so there isn’t much of a concern in that case. Like other previews that I’ve done, I’m going to list some riders who could make it. I’m being greedy and going for 4 this time.
First up is a man I’ve previously mentioned, Ruben Plaza. I admire this guys aggressive tactics in the mountains. He’s not afraid to attack from far out. After seeing Cummings go well today, he’ll want to remind everyone what he can do! The only concern is that he might be on protection duties for Yates. However, I think he could get given the nod and freedom tomorrow.
Second is Stef Clement.
The IAM rider has been trying and failing to get into the break in the past few stages. He has the climbing ability to win out of a break and by the sounds of it is going very well at the moment.
Steve Morabito is another who could be given some freedom. With Pinot faltering today I think FDJ will try and put someone in the break tomorrow. On paper (aside from Reichenbach), Morabito is their strongest climber. He had a very good opening to the year, can he return to those ways here?
I feel like I have to mention a Dimension Data rider considering the way they’re going at the moment. That man is Daniel Teklehaimanot a.k.a The Tickler.
Former Tour KOM wearer and this years Dauphiné KOM winner, the Tickler has been keeping himself towards the bottom of the GC. Saving energy for a breakaway possibly. Can he continue DD’s incredible start to this race?
For other break candidates look to the likes of De Gendt, Majka and Voeckler and those who want to feature in the King of the Mountains competition.
So narrowing down those 4 breakaway contenders above, I’m coming to the same answer as an earlier preview. Orica will go one better tomorrow and Plaza will win the stage. He is a class act in a mountain break. Hopefully if he gets away, then he can manage to build up some KOM points as a bonus too.
There aren’t many bookmakers who have odds up for tomorrow so hunt around later on.
0.6pt EW Plaza @66/1 with PP (He’s available at 100s with Coral)
0.25pt EW Clement @200/1 with Bet365
0.25pt EW Morabito @200/1 with Bet365
0.15pt EW Teklehaimanot @300/1 with Bet365
I’m hoping the prediction luck will turn soon. Either way, we should be in for a gruelling stage tomorrow. Enjoy it wherever you’re watching it from. Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.