A real stop-start stage today. Echelon action followed by periods of the bunch sitting up, followed by more echelon action. It looked destined for a bunch sprint in the last 15km. That was until Tinkoff attacked into one of the corners and put it in the gutter. Sagan and Bodnar found themselves on the front and went for it. They were swiftly followed by a very proactive Froome, and a little less swiftly by Thomas who forged across the gap. Kristoff tried to get across but didn’t make it. The time difference shot out to around 25 seconds and was slowly reeled in after the other teams got organised. However, it was too little too late and Sagan held on for a great stage win. He really is the best World Champion we’ve had in a long time. Froome gained a valuable 12 seconds (6 on the stage plus the 6 bonus seconds) over his GC rivals.
As for Kristoff, he won the bunch sprint behind for 4th place. I’m back to my Giro form now 😉 Moving onto tomorrow’s stage!
Flat, little bump then a mountain. Simple.
Well, due to high winds, the riders won’t actually be going all the way up Mont Ventoux. Instead, they’ll be finishing at Chalet Reynard, which is roughly 6km before the end and conveniently marked out on the stage profile.
Amazingly enough, changing the climb hasn’t altered the average gradient that drastically. It’s now 9.1% instead of the 8.8%. Either way, it’s still a brute. In fact, the shorter climb will have made it even more of an explosive effort. They don’t get that respite km of 5.5%. A few riders who would have struggled all the way up may fancy their chances more here. In theory, Sky’s mountain train shouldn’t be as effective here because of the steepness of the climb, but I’ll get back to that later.
How will the stage pan out?
Before the shortening of the Ventoux climb I would have said this was definitely a GC-winner kind of day. However, not reaching the summit has an impact on that I think. This is purely because they won’t have really won on “Mont Ventoux”. The prestige and all that goes with it won’t be there for the winner. Yes, they’ll have won a brutally tough end to a stage, but they didn’t make it all the way to the top alone. They won’t join the names such as Merckx, Poulidor, Virenque, Pantani etc. (although Froome already has that honour). Do modern cyclists think like that? I don’t know any of them personally to tell but I’m sure Wiggins would!
So do we get a breakaway take the win? Possibly.
What’s stopping it? The wind.
The average wind speed and gusts are predicted to be even higher tomorrow than they were today. Looks ideal for more crosswind action. With Sky exposing the weakness in Quintana’s armour, they may go full gas before they even reach Ventoux, hoping to shred the peloton and distance the Colombian. I’m sure the likes of BMC and possibly Trek might offer assistance, but it will be down to Sky if any splits are made. If they go at this fast pace, then the break has no chance.
If we do get a break, then look to the French riders, after all, it is Bastille Day. Pinot, Voeckler, Vuillermoz and Alaphilippe are all names that spring to mind. Out of those, I like the prospects of Alaphilippe the most. The young Frenchman has had a tough time as of late but the steep gradients of Ventoux suit him down to the ground. He shouldn’t be on Martin duty as the rest of the Etixx team should be able to protect the Irishman on the flat, the toughest part for him will be to join the break. If he gets in it, he could be tough to beat!
If the pace is wild from the peloton then the key question will be: who makes it to the foot-slopes together?
Froome will be there. Dan Martin should be there. Porte & Van Garderen should be there. Mollema should be there. Kreuziger should be there.
These are the riders whose teams have shown their competencies in the wind, especially on today’s stage. As for the other riders, it will be luck of the draw if they make it. I would expect Movistar to not make the same mistakes tomorrow. They were very switched on at the start of the stage but got too relaxed in the final 20km. They’ll be tuned in from the start.
On form Froome has to start as favourite. He’s looked unbeatable all things considered. With it being a headwind finish, the likes of Yates and Martin will hope to follow him and out-sprint him near the top. Can they? If Froome really goes for it I don’t think they can.
Due to the head wind, this is where Sky’s mountain train can actually work for Froome on the steep gradients. If they just ride a reasonable tempo then no one can attack/ will want to attack because they’ll have to come out into the wind, wasting energy.
The only man who can follow (like he has on the other hill/mountain finishes) is Quintana. If they both make it to the bottom I fancy the Colombian to beat Froome. He needs to remind everyone what he is capable of. On the flat he just needs to glue himself on the back of the Sky rider’s wheel. Easier said than done!
With there being a TT the following day, I don’t think Sky/Froome will want to go too deep with their efforts on the flat in the cross winds, so all the contenders are more likely to make it to the bottom of the climb together. I’d say a 60/40 chance, but it could easily swing the other way!
Very tough stage to call because of the conditions, I’m unsure if a break will make it or not. They certainly have more of a chance due to the climb length being reduced, but possibly will struggle to build up an advantage because of the wind. So I’m going to cop-out and say if we get a GC showdown, then Quintana wins.
If we get a break make it all the way, pick a Frenchman out of the hat. I say Julian Alaphilippe makes it. I’m sure Carlton Kirby will be happy with that!
Should be a no bet day, but Alaphilippe’s price is too good to refuse.
Available at 200/1 with Paddy Power. (check other places when more prices get released)
As Ray Winston says, “It’s all about the in-play”.
Hope you liked the blog. Tomorrow’s stage is definitely one for the cycling fan connoisseur with all of the varying outcomes and tactics. I hope we get a gripping days racing! How do you think it will go? GC/Reduced GC/Break? As always, any feedback is greatly appreciated. Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.