The stage reaffirmed what we already know: Sagan is the man.
Despite the best efforts of the morning break things were controlled well by BMC and a few other teams and with no one wanting to take a risk with an early attack, things were left until the final climb and sprint to the line. Gilbert opened the taps up at the bottom and had a little bit of a gap was closed down first by Simon and then GVA. Maybe if the Cofidis rider hadn’t pulled then the former World Champion might just have stayed away. GVA came to the front to control things and started the sprint from too far out but he had no other choice really. Consequently, it was perfectly set up for Sagan who came around the yellow jersey with ease and managed to hold off a late charge from Colbrelli (again) fairly comfortably.
Gilbert refound his legs again in the closing metres and managed to sneak a third place. A case of what might have been for him if he had waited until the sprint? With the way Sagan rode the last kilometre then it would have been very hard for anyone to beat him today though. A special shout out must go to Sky as they effectively set things up perfectly for him by controlling the final 10kms.
Will we see a similar result tomorrow? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.
A day with less vertical gain than this afternoon but it features a tougher climb at the end: the famous Mûr de Bretagne.
This stage is all about the final 20kms or so. As per usual, I’ve made a profile that you can view here.
The road drags for around 3.2km (3% average) before the riders tackle the Mur for the first time. The crest of that first ascent comes with 15.5km to go – too far out for an attack? Once over the top the road heads downwards before kicking up again where the bonus second sprint just happens to be conveniently placed. That point comes atop a 1.3km climb which averages 6.3%.
Nothing too crazy but it could stretch things out if it is raced at a pace and if some riders want to go for those seconds.
A long but shallow 8km descent follows the rider as they take a turn off the main road and onto a slightly narrower stretch of asphalt. With only 4kms to go a small bump (1.3km at 4.3%) awaits the riders as they skirt round the outside of town before a small descent and the rise up to the finish.
As you can see, the steepest ramps come in the first half where there is a section of 700m at 11%. It then gradually starts to flatten out as they approach the finish. When the race was here in 2015 we saw some probing attacks on the steeper slopes from Vuillermoz, Yates and Geschke but they were never given much leeway as Froome dragged them back to heel and set tempo. Vuillermoz then sensed his moment as the gradient just started to ease with 700m to go and flew the coop as everyone looked around. We could well see something similar happen this year.
However the main difference is this year they face the ascent twice and there is more climbing in the closing stages, 540m over the 23km according to Strava.
How will the stage pan out?
Will we see the GC teams ride the first ascent hard in an effort to try to rid Sagan from the group? Will we see a slow pace with everything being saved for the finale?
I don’t really know what will happen, this is a difficult one to read.
Looking back at the past two finishes here in 2011 and 2015, the first group home on those days has been 9 riders and 27 riders respectively, although in 2011 there were almost 40 riders who were within 10 seconds of the winner but there were significant enough splits in the group to warrant time gaps.
Given the harder approach this year, I think we might see a group of 20 come to the line together, if not fewer and we might see some splits. All of the GC riders will need to be attentive.
Also, on current form there is a very good chance that Sagan will make it up the climb and go for the sprint. He was 4th here in 2015. Will the two ascents take it out of him? Not many will fancy dragging him to the line anyway.
Yellow Jersey Battle.
Realistically the top 8 on GC at the start of tomorrow’s stage could take yellow at the end of it. This means that they are more likely to attack but it also means that they will be marked more by their opposition. We saw that today when Gilbert was barely given any room by Van Avermaet as he didn’t want to relinquish the jersey. I think we’ll see the Quick Step duo attack again but they won’t be given the freedom to go for the win, maybe.
I think we once again could see a bit of an outsider take home the win, just like Vuillermoz did in 2015, so I’m going to suggest a couple of names. Remember, this list is not extensive, there are of course stage favourites like Sagan, Valverde, Martin, Alaphilippe and Gilbert but I don’t need to tell you anything about them!
One of the stand out riders of last year’s Tour, he has had a bit of a dud season so far in 2018 with no real results to shout home about. Local to the area though, he will desperately want to impress and tomorrow offers him a better opportunity than today. The steeper climb should suit his abilities well and if he gets the jump on the peloton then many won’t chase him because he is no danger for the overall. He’s got quite a handy sprint on him too so if a group sneaks away somewhere other than the final ascent of the Mûr then he will take his chances in a 4-up sprint etc. Either that or he just rolls home in 23rd.
Not here to go for any form of GC placement, the former Tour de l’Avenir winner has been given a free role to chase stages. Having already shipped a handy 6’49 on the opening few days, I would be very surprised to see any GC contenders chase him down if he gives it a dig. We’ve seen in Fleche Wallonne that Gaudu can go very well on the steep ramps so the opening kilometre of the Mûr will be music to his ears. He will probably have to arrive alone but you never know, he is an exceptional talent.
Neither of them to win though and I’ll go with an Ag2R to rider to make it “back-to-back” victories. That man is Pierre Latour.
We’ll see a few attacks that will be brought back before Latour launches the final killer blow. He’s been in sparkling form this year so far and his win in the French TT championships was nothing short of spectacular – that early season form is clearly back. Finishing attentively in 13th place today would suggest he is over the opening day crash that saw him lose 2 minutes. Ironically, that will help him win tomorrow as he is not an immediate threat on GC and with Bardet and Vuillermoz hindering any chase he will arrive solo to the line.
1pt WIN Latour @ 125/1
0.5pt WIN Barguil @ 80/1
0.5pt WIN Gaudu @ 100/1
All with Bet365
Thanks as always for reading. Who do you think will win tomorrow and how? Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.