Well that was something else, wasn’t it?
For a while it looked as if the break was going to have its day but Valverde’s attack on the second climb saw a shift in the balance. Nibali oddly ordered Pelizotti to the front of the peloton near the top of the third climb of the day but it was actually Dumoulin who attacked on the descent. He then bridged to Valverde on La Rosière before swiftly dropping the Movistar man.
Things kept getting cranked up in the peloton behind and after a massive Kwiatkowski pull there was no Sky domestique left. Thomas chose those moment to attack and set out in pursuit after Dumoulin who had bridged to breakee Caruso. A lot of looking around by the rest of the GC favourites saw Bardet attack several times but he was brought back by different riders before a flying attack from Dan Martin (who had been dropped a few hundred metres earlier) caught everyone off guard and only Froome could follow. That duo then set off in pursuit of the Thomas group while in the mean time it looked as if Nieve would hold on for the stage win ahead, surviving from the early break.
Yeah nah, Thomas had other ideas as he accelerated to 40km/h on a 4% gradient and crushed the dreams his former team-mate had of being a stage winner in all three Grand Tours, closing down a 16 second gap in only a few hundred metres, passing Nieve at 400m to go.
It was enough to secure him the stage win and move into Yellow. It’s going to be tough for anyone to dislodge him in his current form, that’s for sure!
Behind, Froome had already dropped Martin and tried to do the same to Dumoulin but he was pipped to second place by the Dutchman. With breakaway rider Caruso pipping fellow breakee Nieve for 4th.
Today’s result leaves Sky 1-2 in the standings with Froome 1’25 behind Thomas and Dumoulin a further 19 seconds back. Will we see any of the contenders try something tomorrow? Let’s have a look at what is in store for them.
Another day in the mountains and the final day in the Alps and the organisers have saved the iconic Alpe d’Huez.
Three big climbs (and one small one) await the riders, totalling over 5200m of ascent. This is a monster day in the saddle!
A shallow descent leads into the first climb of the day, the Col de la Madeleine. A tough climb that averages 6.2% for 25.3kms but too far out for anything to happen. The same can even be said for the next climb of Col de la Croix de Fer with its 5.2% average for 29kms.
I was going to post the profiles for both of the climbs but what is the point? We’ll just see Sky tempo up them after today and with some of the GC implosions we had no-one is going to want to attack from that far out, especially with the 14km of flat before we reach Huez.
On of the most famous climbs in world cycling, the 21 hairpin bends might allow some riders to be out of sight and out mind. The final couple of kilometres of the climb are easier so anyone hoping to damage to their rivals has to go a little bit earlier than what they would possibly like. Teams somehow need to get Sky down to their barebones by 6kms to go and attack but I can’t see how they manage that without burning their own matches first.
How will the stage pan out?
After today’s dominant Sky-train display despite Movistar’s best efforts then I think many will be happy to sit in the wheels and let the race leader’s control proceedings all the way until Alpe d’Huez. We might even see Rowe make it but that just depends on if Froome or Thomas want to win the sage.
Given the strength of their squad then it is possible that they are able to control the breakaway and then set a blistering tempo on the climb and set their two leaders up to one-two attack before one of them eventually gets away.
Sky do like to try to win on the iconic climbs of cycling and they might be confident after today’s performance of almost burying the Tour tomorrow. But it is a tough day for them to control for the stage win and I don’t think any other GC team will help them, therefore I think the breakaway has a good chance of surviving.
That time again…
Antwan Tolhoek – Promising young climber that was the last rider to stay with his two team-leaders. 13th on GC in California was followed up with a solid 11th in the Dauphiné. He seems to be in good form at the moment and with his dimunitive figure he should be able to light up the final climb. Could well be used as a foil for an attack behind but if the break is too far ahead he might be given the light to chase his own success.
Jesper Hansen. – With Fuglsang struggling a bit today, I think we’ll see Astana try to get into the breaks. They were active today and I expect that to continue tomorrow. Hansen is one of their better climbing domestiques and he saved his legs today. Possibly could be the one to go for it tomorrow. It will be a tough ask but it all depends on his breakaway companions.
David Gaudu – The next French climbing sensation, the former Tour de l’Avenir is here to chase some stage wins from the break this year and tomorrow looks perfect for him. A proper talent, will the opening 11 days of racing taken something out of him?
Ian Boswell – After Zakarin struggling again today, then Boswell might be given the freedom to go for the stage win. He’s performed consistently well so far in this Tour but it would take a little bit of luck for him to win. You just never know though.
Sky to let the break stay out and Gaudu to take the win!
1pt WIN Gaudu @ 40/1
0.5pt WIN Tolhoek @ 80/1
0.3pt WIN Hansen @ 200/1
0.2pt WIN Boswell @ 500/1
Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow and why? Anyway,
Those were My Two Spokes Worth.