Tour de France 2018 Stage 9 Preview: Arras Citadelle -> Roubaix

Today’s Recap

Nothing much happened all day until a crash with roughly 17km to go saw several riders go down. Dan Martin was the biggest GC name to go down and he looked battered and bruised when he got back on his bike. Despite a furious chase from his team who got a helping hand from Cofidis, he would ultimately lose 1’16 to his GC rivals.

In the sprint it was Groenewegen who doubled up, making his effort to the line look very easy – he time it perfectly!

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Greipel produced a solid effort to come second with Gaviria rounding out the podium in third. The less said about Kittel the better, he was awful, no cohesion with his team-mates in the finale.

Onto tomorrow!

The Route

The day every spectator has been waiting for since the route was announced and seemingly the peloton have had the same idea given the lack of action over the past couple of stages.

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It’s cobbles time and the riders will face the largest amount of pavé that has been included in the Tour for a long time: at 21.7km of the stuff.

 

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The majority of the cobbles come in the second half of the stage and they will no doubt lead to nervous racing within the bunch. Some of the sections will be familiar if you’re a regular watcher of Paris-Roubaix (who isn’t?!), such as Mons-en-Pévèle. I could try to decipher which sectors are going to be the most important but given previous history of cobbles in this race, it could be any of them!

Expect some gaps to form at just under the half-way mark as the riders face 4.4km of cobbles in roughly 6kms. From there it will be action throughout the day with the last sector finishing only 6.5km from the line.

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Given the technical run-in from the last section, I definitely don’t think the organisers intend on a large group coming to the line together. Disappointingly the riders don’t finish inside the Velodrome but instead the finish on the road that is parallel to it. I guess something has to be kept special for Paris Roubaix.

The cobbles and route aren’t crazy compared to the Hell of the North but given the large number of GC riders we have here, they don’t have to be. Some of the overall contenders will no longer be in contention after tomorrow, whether that be through crashes or unfortunately timed mechanicals.

Team Tactics

There are plenty of classics specialists in the peloton who could theoretically win the stage tomorrow but their main role throughout the day might be shepherding their GC man/men. We then have guys without GC men who will definitely be trying to go for the win, then riders who have GC riders but are given a free card. It is just about trying to figure who falls into each category. So below I’m going to try to split some of the contenders into the three categories…

Riders with no GC guy at all: Boasson Hagen, DémareGreipel, Politt.

Riders with a GC guy who might be given freedom: Sagan, GVA, Thomas*, Any QS rider, Kristoff, Stuyven, Degenkolb.**

*Included Thomas here even though he is a GC rider as given his history on the cobbles he should go well. Doubt he gets asked to work for Froome too.

**I think only one of Stuyven/Degenkolb will be given freedom with the other working for Mollema.

Riders with a GC guy who are apparently working for them: Vanmarcke, Phinney, Valgren, Naesen, Rowe, Theuns, Colbrelli, Dubridge, Hayman, +more that I’ve probably missed.

So I’m only going to consider riders from the first two categories for the win.

The Belgian Cobble-trotters

Quick Step arrive with a team that might not be as stacked as their spring campaign but it is not far off of it! They have Jungels for GC, who himself won the junior Paris Roubaix, so it will be interesting to see how many riders they dedicate to his cause. No doubt Declerq, Gaviria, Richeze and Alaphilippe will offer their help but he will probably need the guidance and support of one of the following…

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Niki Terpstra – Winner of this year’s Tour of Flanders, it is hard to deny that the Dutchman is a class act on cobbles. He’s a bit of a divisive character in the peloton but there aren’t many guys who you would rather on your team for this stage. With his success in the Spring, will he be asked to stay behind and work for his GC man? Or will it be the opposite and he’ll get given the go ahead?

Yves Lampaert – As you probably know, I’m a big fan of Yves and it was great to see him win the Belgian championships recently. It is good to see him stepping up and showing the quality that people saw when he was a junior – touted as a half Boonen/Museeuw combo. Often the workhorse, he might be rewarded with a free card to play tomorrow. The Belgian champion winning a cobbled stage at the Tour would be a sight to behold.

Philippe Gilbert – The rider with the most to gain, he could move into the Yellow jersey with a stage win. His quest to win five didn’t exactly go to plan in the Spring and he often ended up playing the good team-mate role, sandbagging the back of groups while his squad rode away up ahead. There’s no doubt in my mind that he will be allowed to do as best as he can tomorrow but will it be enough?

So Gilbert will definitely be given a free card and I think the fact Lampaert is now Belgian Champion helps him massively in the QS pecking order. Therefore, I think Terpstra will be the designated guardian for Jungels. Maybe. It could, and most likely will, just be decided out on the road.

The Two Cobbled Kings

Van Avermaet.

Currently in yellow, the Belgian has made it very clear that he is going for the stage tomorrow and will be allowed to do what he sees fit. Porte even confirmed that after today’s proceedings with the rest of the BMC squad to help him. Van Avermaet didn’t have a great spring campaign and often found himself marked out of races when he wasn’t able to drop everyone. He looks stronger here and I would be surprised not to see him at the head of affairs. Will he be able to beat his nemesis?

Peter Sagan.

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Already a winner in Roubaix this year, Sagan could have the Green Jersey all but sewn up if he takes the stage tomorrow. Not many will be able to match his brute power over the cobbles so it will need to be a tactical race for him to not be in a winning position. Unfortunately for him, I can see that happening.

The Outisde Picks

Yves Lampaert.

Following on from above, I think tomorrow will get very tactical near the end of the day and having numbers at the head of the race will be of a massive benefit for a team. No doubt Quick Step will be in that position. Lampaert will be the least marked of their trident and he might just be able to slip away and take the stage. We’ve seen in the past that if he gets a 20 second gap then it will be very difficult for anyone to bring him back.

Edvald Boasson Hagen.

Slowly building himself into the race, the Dimension Data did a monster turn on the front of the bunch for Cavendish this afternoon. Tomorrow should be all about him and the team will be behind him 100%. After struggling a bit at the start of the year his form has picked up, nabbing a few top 10s here and there. He still hasn’t shown similar form to what he had at this race last year but that could change tomorrow, the route looks perfect for his attributes. If he arrives in a small group of 3 or 4 then he would be a big favourite in the sprint.

Prediction

I’m going for a Jasper Stuyven win though!

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I’ve had this day circled down for him after surprisingly seeing him finish in the front group on stage 5, a day that wasn’t ideal for him so the form must be there. Other than that he has been keeping quiet and I think with one eye on tomorrow. During the spring campaign he was the most consistent rider, managing to finish in the top 10 of E3, Gent Wevelgem, Dwars, Flanders and Roubaix. Not bad! Stuyven is one of those special riders who can power away from people and hold his own in a solo tt, see his win in Kuurne as an example of that. However, he also possesses a fast sprint from a reduced group and he would fancy his chances of a result in a 4-5 rider gallop.

As for the GC riders, who knows how it will go. I wish them all the best of luck!

Betting

1pt EW Stuyven @ 28/1 

0.25pt EW EBH @ 33/1

0.5pt WIN Lampaert @ 18/1

All with Bet365

Using that saved Kittel 1pt on a more sensible bet.

Buy Me A Beer

Back with the shameless self promotion but if you have enjoyed the opening 9 days worth of previews then you can kindly donate the price of a beer/coffee to me through this link. Helps keep me topped up through stages like the past two days. Thanks in advance if you do decide to do so.

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow and how? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.

 

Tour de France 2017 Stage 9 Preview; Nantua -> Chambéry

Today’s Recap

A crazy stage and I only saw the last 40km!

We had a big group (of 50 riders) finally escape after a lot of racing but it was eventually whittled down to 8 after the penultimate climb.

On the last climb of the day Calmejane launched a very strong attack that managed to see him hold on for the rest of the stage, despite getting cramp in the final few kilometres.

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Doing his YMCA impression

Gesink tried to follow the Frenchman on the climb but didn’t manage it. However, he was able to hold on ahead of the GC group, finishing 2nd on the day. A very impressive sprint from Guillaume Martin saw him pick up 3rd, with all of the GC riders coming home safely.

Let’s have a look at what’s in store for the riders tomorrow.

The Route

Arguably the toughest stage of the whole Tour.

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The day starts on a climb which is not good news for those struggling today! Split into two separate climbs, it really is just one long slog at 11km in length and averaging 5%. The steeper sections could see some more sprightly climbers get a gap on the bunch and I expect several riders to be dropped from the gun.

Once over the summit, the road continues to rise ever so slightly for 6kms before plunging down the other side. A short Cat-3 climb breaks up the descent, but again, the road continues to climb after that.

At 50km gone the road slowly rises again but it’s at 56.5km that the start of the first HC climb of the Tour begins. The Col de la Biche is a taster for what’s to come with its average gradient of 9% for 10.5km. A brute of a climb, I imagine the riders might give it too much respect and we could see a slow pace given what they have to face afterwards…

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The Grand Colombier is shorter than Biche, but averages almost 1% more, coming in at 9.9% for 8.5km. That even includes a kilometre at 3.4%! We could see a few of the GC riders in difficulty here if they are on an off day. With there being 50km from the summit to the start of the next climb, it will be interesting to see if we get any attacks from the overall favourites.

What a climb it is as well; the Mont du Chat is arguably one of the hardest in France.

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It ripped the peloton to shreds at the Dauphiné and that was after an easier stage than what we have tomorrow. With some accumulated fatigue from today’s racing there is a good chance we’ll get some reasonably large time gaps between the GC favourites.

The riders will face a very treacherous descent and 13km of flat until the finish line in Chambéry. Will this put off some of the GC riders from attacking?

Weather Watch

After having some glorious weather conditions over the past few days there is a chance things might turn sour tomorrow.

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Source: Wunderground

The above forecast is for Culoz which comes in the long stretch of flat road between the Colombier and Chat. A nagging head-wind will make the stage feel even longer tomorrow and could certainly hinder a breakaway or any GC rider that tries to attack from far out. Furthermore, with a good chance of rain/thunderstorms at some point, the technical descent off of Mont du Chat will be made even more treacherous.

How will the stage pan out?

The tactics of tomorrow’s stage are what I would call “fluid” as whatever I write here could be completely out of the window after 10km and the race situation will constantly change throughout the day.

One thing is for certain and that is that we will see a big fight to get into the breakaway. We’ll have a mix of stage hunters who will hope that they can hold on all the way to the finish and team-mates of GC riders sent up the road to help later on.

Will we get someone deemed too dangerous for the overall make the morning move and throw a spanner in the works and ruin the party for the break?

I’m really torn as to how the stage will play out. The first part of the stage is great to rip things up, but the 50km from Colombier to Chat is a real killer for any GC rider looking to go early. Furthermore, the longer flat section after the Chat isn’t great for any solo GC rider looking to put time into a group behind. Unless of course they happen to be a great TT rider!

The headwind also isn’t great for that as any team-mate coming back to do some work will drain their resources quicker. Although the headwind isn’t ideal for a break, if the GC riders are all together behind then it becomes almost irrelevant.

It will either be on full gas for the overall contenders from the start, or it will stall until later on in the day. With the possibility of rain in the stage and knowing just how tough the Mont du Chat is, I think it will be the latter.

Therefore, I think we will see a race on two fronts with the break fighting out for stage glory and GC guys going crazy a few minutes behind them. Time to play that game again…

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Break Candidates

A mixture of luck and good legs will see the riders make the break tomorrow. It will also depend on where it goes that as to who will be up there but they will certainly have to be a good climber to do so. I’ll throw a few names into the hat as to who could be there;

Robert Kiserlovski.

A rider who probably still wishes it was 2014, he has never really matched that season since. However, there were signs at the Giro that he was in some good form. In particular on stage 18 he did a shed load of work for Zakarin. A proper outsider, if he finds his legs then he can climb with the best. Or he could just hope that somehow a group of rouleurs makes it away!

Primoz Roglic. 

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The rider I cursed as my outside shot at a top 10 and first stage victory has had some terrible luck so far. Crashing on the opening day and taking a further two tumbles yesterday, he took today’s stage relatively “easy”. His meteoric rise this year certainly hasn’t gone un-noticed within the peloton and he’ll certainly be feared if he makes the move. Possibly still not the strongest climber on the really steep stuff compared to the current GC guys, he only has to beat his breakaway companions. One thing is for certain, he will make 30 seconds on every descent!

Steve Cummings.

 

Having won a stage at the past two Tour’s you wouldn’t bet against him winning another this year. Often the guardian at the back of the peloton, just rolling along, he normally picks one or two stages and targets them. Having shown some very impressive form recently after returning from injury, winning the UK National Championships double, he should have the horsepower to compete tomorrow. The steep gradients might not be ideal for him but he is strong enough to surprise. I didn’t expect to see him gain time on Nibali etc last year on the Aspin!

Tiesj Benoot.

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The young Belgian has come on leaps and bounds this season in regards to his proficiency on the long climbs. Finishing 12th on GC at the recent Dauphiné was a stand-out performance and he’s continued that progression here, beating the likes of Chaves and Kreuziger on 5. He lost a lot of time today but I think that was a deliberate ploy so that he can get more leeway to hunt stages now. It wouldn’t be a bad stage to take your first pro win!

 

Prediction

Anything could happen and nothing that does happen will surprise me!

I think we could see the break stay away after things calm down between the Colombier and the Chat. With an easier day today, I think he’s been eyeing up a big performance tomorrow. Benoot to take his first pro win!

This also means I can share my favourite cycling related instagram video…

View this post on Instagram

Forza Tiesj Benoot! 🎉 @tiesj #ohn

A post shared by Sporza (@sporza.be) on

Betting

Already tweeted out my selections earlier.

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Still available at;

Roglic 125/1 (Unibet)

Cummings 80/1 (Bet365)

Benoot 125/1 (PP)

Kiserlovski 300/1 (Unibet)

 

Thanks as always for reading! Who do you think will win tomorrow’s crazy stage? Will the break hold on or will it be a day for the GC guys?! It should be an open day of racing! Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.