Tour de France 2018 Stage 16 Preview: Carcassonne › Bagnères-de-Luchon

Rest Day Recap

Stage 15 was a bit of an eventful day for the three blog breakaway candidates. Mühlberger got involved in one of the more promising early moves but given that he was in just a trio they were never going to be allowed away. Unfortunately that meant he didn’t have the energy to make the decisive break which happened to involve Valgren.

Majka attacked on the main climb of the day but was brought back on the run to the line by a chasing group of seven. Team tactics were played out and the three squads who had numbers in the group kept attacking and eventually they got away, unfortunately the Astana man who made the split wasn’t Valgren. Instead it was his team-mate Cort who would ultimately go on to win the sprint for the stage win!

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Some unusual tactics from Izagirre and Mollema (who finished 2nd and 3rd respectively) as they pretty much just towed the Astana man, a known sprinter, to the line. Izagirre tried once to attack but that was it. Maybe they were just happy with the podium? A bit of a frustrating day though with Valgren looking so strong, another “what if?” scenario.

Then of course the third break pick Gesbert was involved in some drama during the stage when Moscon swung at him. A new and odd #HaugheyCurse that one. The Sky rider has subsequently been sent home by the organisers. Not ideal for the squad as they enter a tough few stages where having him to control the early part of the day would be vital.

Speaking of which, let’s take a look at what is in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

Mainly flat then some tougher climbs later on in the day.

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With 140km of mainly flat, slightly rolling terrain before we get to any serious climbing it will be interesting to see what the composition of the breakaway will be like. Given the tougher climbs to come then ideally a team would like a natural climber to get into the move but it isn’t exactly easy given the terrain!

The peloton will hit the first “proper” climb of the Col de Portet-d’Aspet at almost 150km into the stage. With an average of 7.1% it is fairly steep and typical of the region but at only 5.4km long it shouldn’t see any exciting attacks. The riders will then dive down the other side before climbing straight away once they hit the valley floor. The Col de Menté is a steep climb averaging 8.1% for a shade under 7km and this could be the scene of some long-range hail mary attacks from guys further down the bunch. With 47km to go from the summit and a lot of dragging valley roads to contend with, I’ll be watching along like…

Bold strategy cotton

After those said valley roads the peloton will tackle the final climb of the day with roughly 18km of the route remaining.

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The Col du Portillon isn’t the toughest climb ever and the gradients are fairly consistent which should suit those looking for a steady pace. However, it is steep enough still that some damage can be done with a few stinging attacks. Arguably more important than the climb itself though, is the descent off of it.

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With 10kms to lost ~650m of altitude it is going to be a fast run in. There are several tight hairpin turns on which the better descenders can put pressure on their rivals. This is all going to be exacerbated though given the weather forecast…

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It’s meant to rain from mid-afternoon onwards with a few thunderstorms in the area causing heavy showers at points – not exactly sure how this 17.8mm of rain is going to fall in an hour, that is crazy!

How will the race pan out?

Pfffft, it could be a day for the break but it could also be a GC day. It all just depends on who wants to control the afternoon. If it is just Sky that set tempo then they will no doubt be happy to let the break gobble up the bonus seconds ahead and then let the GC battle happen behind. However, with the 140km of relatively flat roads then it is easier for teams to control the break, especially if it is not that big. Do Ag2R, Jumbo and Sunweb come to an agreement and keep tabs on the move? We might even see a rogue UAE rider help out in the hope of a Dan Martin stage win.

If none of those teams decide they want to work then it should be a day for a break. The issue with choosing some riders to make the move is the amount of flat roads before the climbs will make it difficult for a mountain goat to be at the head of the race. Their best hope is that the break goes on the first Cat-4 climb but even then it will be difficult to snap the elastic.

We could see a really weird composition of 14 riders or so with one or two lucky climbers who make it. Of course, none of the other guys in the move will want to tow them to the climbs, especially the last one, so an attack in the valley roads is likely.

I’m not overly convinced with either outcome for the day but I do lean towards the GC riders fighting out for the stage. However, it would be foolish not to consider a couple of potential break threats, both of whom I have backed before.

Gregor Mühlberger.

Gregor-Muhlberger (1)

I still think he has a big win coming at some point in the near future. Unfortunate not to make the second decisive move after being in the initial attack trio that had escaped. Majka will probably be Bora’s go to man tomorrow but I think he might find it difficult to join the break on the flat. If so, the Austrian is a much better all-rounder and better equipped to do so. If we do get one of those weird week 3 breaks where no real climber makes it, then he is certainly one to watch. A demon descender, the rain will be of no issue to him.

Gorka Izagirre.

Despite me saying never trust a man with two hooped earrings, here I am again. If only the Bahrain rider had stuck with Stuyven rather than complaining about Slagter’s work rate then he might have had a stage win. A strong climber who can descend well, he’s not too bad on the flat either. Bahrain will be keen to get several riders into the move as they aren’t too far off Movistar’s lead in the team classification. That could be an interesting battle over the coming days.

Prediction

I think that Jumbo, Ag2R and Sunweb will combine forces to keep tabs on the break and try to attack Sky on the wet descents later on in the race. We’ve already seen one rider escape from a Sky based peloton on the descent and I think we’ll se the same tomorrow. Tom Dumoulin to win!

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Betting

Want to cover the two break shots but also Dumoulin EW too as I think his price is too big so foregoing the 2pt rule. Was never really going to last, was it?

1pt WIN Gorka @ 66/1 with various, although he’s 75s on the exchange

0.5pt WIN Muhlberger @ 125/1 with various

1pt EW Dumoulin @ 28/1 with Betfred/Boyles (Would take down to 22s lowest)

Thanks as always for reading! How do you think tomorrow’s stage is going to go? Will we see a break stick or will the GC riders contend for the win? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour de France 2018 Stage 15 Preview: Millau -> Carcassonne

Today’s Recap

We were treated to racing on two fronts today as a massive break of 32 riders was allowed to escape and fight for the stage win. Gorka Izagirre attacked on the climb of Berthel and was soon joined by Stuyven and Slagter once they were onto the descent. Their gap grew and they looked comfortable until Slagter wasn’t taking as many turns so Izagirre turned round to harangue the Dimension Data rider. In the meantime, Stuyven decided to just power on ahead and by the time Gorka realised the Belgian was gone.

Stuyven then led solo for over 20kms and onto the final climb of the day. He was cruelly caught though by a charging Omar Fraile who came round him with around 750m to the top of the ascent. Alaphilippe came from behind but could only catch up to the tiring Stuyven.

Fraile cruised around the final kilometre and onto the airstrip and took his first Tour win. He just needs a win in the Vuelta now to complete the set!

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Alaphilippe came home second with Stuyven being rewarded for his efforts by rounding out the podium.

Behind in the GC group, Roglic put in a very strong attack on the climb and managed to gain 8 seconds on Dumoulin/Thomas/Froome. Quintana was a further 10 behind them with a trio of Kruijswijk/Bernal/Bardet arriving 4 behind that. Nothing major but not exactly what a few riders will be wanting just now.

Will they ship some more time tomorrow? Let’s have a look at what is in store for the riders.

The Route

A sawtooth profile for the opening 20kms which sees the riders tackle the Côte de Luzençon (3.1km at 5.9%) after only 6kms into the day. By that time they will have faced a short climb from the gun and a fast descent. After the categorised climb something similar happens again with a bit of rolling road before things finally flatten out at the 26km mark.

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It’s then a bit of a wait until the Col de Sié (10.2km at 4.9%) which is a fairly easy climb although the opening few kilometres are steeper while it flattens out a bit later on. The road then once again rolls for about 20km before they slowly head down again.

The Pic de Nore is the final climb of the day and it averages 6.3% for 12.3km.

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As you can see, the opening half of the ascent is the toughest and this is where the climbers will need to put people into difficulty. Otherwise, it will be very hard to make any gaps on the easier ~5% gradient of the latter part of the climb.

It tops out with 41km to go but considering the only proper flat land comes with 6km to go, although the descent gets a lot more shallow with 25km left, the stage could well be decided on the climb and the risks riders take on said descent.

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As for the run in, it is fairly straight forward with only a handful of roundabouts in the closing 5kms. There is a quite tight turn at 600m to go but it shouldn’t cause too many issues as the groups arriving together shouldn’t be too big.

How will the stage pan out?

There is a fair amount of climbing tomorrow but with the long descent and flat approach to the line it is unlikely we’ll see any major GC action. If there was a chance of rain then that could have been the case as it would have made the descent more nervous but I can’t see any of the GC guys wanting to waste energy. I think they will all have changed focus to next week already.

The race dynamic will change though if someone kind of close on GC, i.e. Valverde etc, sneaks into the break. Then we could be in for a deceptively tough stage.

So once again…

TheBreakawayLottery

Almost the opposite of today, the fight to get into the break will be very tough as the opening 25kms are either up or down: there is very little, if not any, flat land. This means that it should suit the climbers better. Somewhat ironically though, the end of the stage will be more difficult for them to deliver than today. The 40kms from the top of the climb to the finish gives plenty of time for those dropped to return to the head of the race if there is a stall up ahead. We could and probably will see some more tactical games being played tomorrow afternoon.

I’m going to go with some familiar names…

Michael Valgren – Astana were on the attack today and I think they will try to have at least one rider up the road again tomorrow while everyone else helps Fuglsang. Valgren was strong on the climbs when in the break last week and the 40kms from the top of the last ascent to the finish gives him a good chance of getting back on. Not many will be able to bring him back if he attacks over the top of them.

Gregor Mühlberger – Solid all around rider (see yesterday’s preview) the former Austrian champion looked great on the descent with Alaphlippe the other day. Could he gap everyone and hold on? He’s due a big result soon.

Gregor-Muhlberger (1)

Elie Gesbert. – The only new name here but Gesbert really impressed me when working for Barguil the other day. A strong climber and attacking rider, Fortuneo were another squad who missed the move this afternoon and will no doubt rectify that tomorrow. As a bit more of an uknown rider, he might just be able to use that to his advantage.

Prediction

Astana to double up and Valgren to win!

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Betting

Time to throw some pennies around again..

1pt WIN Valgren @ 33/1

0.5pt WIN Muhlberger @ 125/1

0.5pt WIN Gesbert @ 150/1

Again, I would advise to wait for the exchanges to have some liquidty tomorrow morning as that is when you get best prices. I’ll be waiting until then, but the figures above are just being noted down for the blog.

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow and how? Will we see another tactical run in? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.