Something happened and someone won a bike race.
I’m writing these previews (this one and stage 16) in advance and probably won’t be doing a daily recap. Just a heads up!
Oh my, what a route! A brutally tough day all packed in to 159km of racing.
An awful lot of climbing metres, both categorised and uncategorised. 2 x Cat-3s, 1 x Cat-2, 2x Cat-1s, 1x Cat-HC.
The riders start on an uncategorised climb, followed by undulating roads before reaching the Cat-1, Col du Berthiand which is 6km at 8.1%. That is not how I like my eggs in the morning. If the pace is high here, which it might be if the break hasn’t formed, then we could be saying bye to the sprinters for the day.
A slight descent followed by an uncategorised 8km (roughly) drag. Looks to me to be about a 2.75% going off the scale. Again followed by a descent that leads us into our second categorised climb of the day the Col du Sappel. Being 8.8km in length with an average gradient of only 5.6% the riders will welcome it. I expect the breakaway will have formed by here so the peloton should be on a go slow to let any team-mates who were dropped back into the bunch. Looking at you Rowe and Stannard!
Once they make the crest there is a fast descent before they start climbing again. This time it’s the Cat-3 Col de Pisseloup. With a relatively shallow gradient (5.8% over 4.9km), it could be an aptly named climb for a nature break!
The stage then approaches the Intermediate Sprint point within the valley. We might see Sagan in the break and taking the points here, that would not surprise me! Almost straight after the sprint point the road starts climbing again and we have another relatively easy climb. The Col de la Rochette tops out at 1113m, with the climb itself being 5.1km in length and a 5.4% average gradient. Easiest climb of the day!
Again, the race descends and ascends in the valley before the HC climb of the Grand Colombier is tackled. This climb combines steepish gradients with a long distance to travel, coming in at 12.8km averaging 6.8%. After what has come before it, this will sting some legs. If we did have a regrouping of the peloton before, the race will really be on here. The sprinters will go out the back and that will be them for the day, a battle of survival to make the time cut. The climb is very irregular which suits some riders more than others, there are steep 14% sections, but false flats too. It will be hard for the riders to get into a proper rhythm.
They then have a long descent and a ride through the finish line before tackling the Grand Colombier again, but this time it’s the Laces edition. Pretty much there will be a load of hairpin bends and the climb will look very picturesque. Doubt it will have anything on the Lacets de Montvernier though! This passage is shorter (8.6km) but steeper (averaging 7.6%). I expect there to be GC time gaps here, some riders might go pop.
There is a chance for them to regroup on the descent and flat to the finish line and we might see 5 GC guys come home together.
How will the stage pan out?
I think this stage 100% is a breakaway day. Sky/Froome have a comfortable lead over all the other contenders so can ride a more conservative and defensive race. Like I said above, they’ll be happy to let a break go (if there’s no one dangerous) so that the likes of Rowe and Stannard can make it back and do the majority of the work in the opening 2/3rds of the stage. They won’t be too bothered about the stage/bonus seconds going to the break so I think once again we’ll see a battle on two fronts.
Like usual I’ll name 3 potential riders who could win from a break.
The Colombian took a great win at the Tour de Suisse and this stage looks ideal for him. He’s not any threat on GC so will be given the freedom. Furthermore, he’s put in a few probing attacks from the peloton on some of the mountain finishes, showing good intent. More importantly, he has a very good turn of speed from a reduced group so he can win from a sprint or solo.
One of Sky’s key men in the second half of a GT, he could be sent up the road to mark satellite riders from rival teams. If the break gets a big advantage like I think it well, he definitely has the credentials to win from it. I don’t think anyone will be able to climb better than him, the question will be can they match him?
The Belgian has had a solid year so far, picking up a win way back in his first race of the season. Since then he’s plodded along so to say, but placed a rather unassuming 17th on GC at the Dauphiné. A very good result for him. He’s not featured personally so far this Tour but has done a lot of work for Bardet. Also, he recently became a father on the day of stage 11. He hasn’t been in the break yet but a stage like this would suit him and possibly act as a satellite rider for Bardet, although as I’ve said numerous times I think the break makes it. I’m not sure how long he’ll stay in the race, he may even leave on the next rest day. It would be some way to go out with a stage win!
The break makes it, with Pantano coming home the winner. We get another race on two fronts with Froome being comfortable all day. He’ll come to the line with another two riders; Mollema and Yates. With the other GC riders splintered behind!
No idea of the odds as I’m writing this, I’ll be backing my three break selections. No wild stakes, but I’ll be favouring Pantano.
Hope you enjoyed the blog, there is a good chance I won’t see it until tomorrow but any feedback is great as usual. I’m also writing the stage 16 preview in advance just after this. I thought Monday was the rest day but it’s not. Annoying because there is no way I’ll manage to do anything on Sunday hungover and without a laptop. Also apologies if there are any mistakes in this, it’s currently half 12 on Friday night/Saturday morning and I still have Stage 16 to do. Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.