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 2017 Stage 16 Preview; Le Puy-en-Velay -> Romans-sur-Isère

Rest-day Recap

An exciting breakaway day that was a great mix of tactics and strength! One of our picks Tony Martin did exactly what I thought he would, but unfortunately there were enough team-mates and motivated riders behind to keep him on some kind of leash before the final climb. Starting it with only 1’30 was never going to be enough for the German, and he was caught ~3km from the top. The group that was ahead then reformed on the descent, and a perfectly timed attack saw Mollema slip clear, quickly building up a big advantage. The stage was over from that point, despite the efforts of Ulissi and Gallopin who finished on the podium, but also Roglic and Barguil too.

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The Dutchman held off to take his first ever Tour win. A great result that I’m sure a lot of people would be happy with, he seems like a top bloke!

As for the GC battle, we nearly had a very exciting stage with Froome dropped on a descent due to a mechanical. However, some good pacing from his team and work from the Brit himself, he made it back to the favourites group. Some people lamented the lack of attacking from Bardet etc once Froome was isolated, but the finish wasn’t too great for that as it was more of a power descent rather than a technical one, on which the Frenchman would shine. Furthermore, Landa would have been able to follow and mark them out of it anyway. Unless of course they wanted to drag him to the line!

Anyway, with another rest day in the legs the riders will be prepared for the final week of racing. Let’s have a look at what’s in store for them tomorrow.

The Route

A day for the sprinters?

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The day starts with a long drag and the Cat-3 climb of the Côte de Boussoulet. Officially 4.5km at 6.3%, it’s not too tough a climb but the riders will be climbing from the gun. Taking that into consideration, you could argue that the climb is 20.5km at 2.87%. A real leg sapper!

Once over the top the riders will face something that resembles a plateau for the next 50km but isn’t really at all considering the uncategorised climbs and descents. As they reach the 70km mark though they’ll descent almost for the following 40km, aside from a few kick ups and false flats that have been thrown into the mix.

Reaching “flat-ground” at 55km to go, it will be interesting to see how big of an advantage the break has and who is chasing behind. Will they catch them before the finish?

Speaking of the finish, it’s not exactly a simple run-in either, with the final kilometre being very technical!

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Three roundabouts in the last kilometre could make for an “interesting” end to the day. Now a tradition on tough run-ins, here is my Preview by Pictures™ of the finish.

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Roundabout #1 sees the riders head pretty much straight on, taking a soft right-hand turn. However, the road does narrow through the kink of the roundabout and on exit so positioning near the front will be important.

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The road widens again about 10m after the exit of the roundabout but those at the head of the peloton will want to drift from right to left before Roundabout #2. As you can see, once again some road furniture will force the riders looking for the quickest line into one side of the road, before they take the left at the roundabout. A small traffic island will keep the riders in the left hand lane as they exit, which is where you want to be for the next part of the course.

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As the road bends round to the left, taking and holding the inside line will be the fastest route. Doing so will also force any opposition riders to come around the outside, wasting energy.

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Just before the final roundabout (at roughly 450m to go) the riders will have to be wary as the road narrows once again.

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Being first into the final roundabout will be key. According to the graphic above they will take the right-hand lane, before funneling through another narrow passage on the exit.

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From there it is roughly 300m to the finish line!

How will the stage pan out?

Looking at the weather forecast there is a chance of crosswinds tomorrow which might entice some GC teams into action, but a lot of the route looks protected by trees etc so I can’t see it having a big impact. The only area that might be dangerous is the 9km section between Châteauneuf-sur-Isère and Alixan as the road looks like this.

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With a tailwind run-in then it is possible for any gaps that are created to be held.

However, I think it will be another case of the stage hunters/breakaway experts against the sprinters.

With the start of the stage being on a long drag, we could see Sunweb try to take control of the peloton, setting a fierce tempo in an effort to drop Kittel. The issue with that tactic is that once the opening 20km are over with, they then have to continue that for the rest of the stage and I’m not sure they have the firepower capable of doing so. Furthermore, if Kittel gets dropped then I think we’ll see the majority of the Quick-Step team (bar Brambilla and Martin) fall back to help pace the German back to the peloton.

The opening 2/3rds of the day are quite hard to keep the race under control as well, considering it is up or down a lot of the time. It looks ideal territory for a break to form! Matthews may fancy his chances of sneaking into the move but if that happens he’ll be marked out of it by Quick-Step’s powerhouses and I can’t see it getting away.

So will the pace be so high that it stops the breakaway from forming for a long time, almost guaranteeing a sprint finish? Or will the Sunweb/QS battle end up cancelling itself out and we’ll see a large group go up the road and stay away?

In my opinion, if we get a sprint, Kittel will be there. Does Kittel win? Probably. But on a run-in like this, there is the possibility he could be beaten by a good lead-out from another team. With QS and Sunweb working all day it will leave their squads depleted for the finale, and opens the door for another team to take control.

This leads me onto my two picks* for the stage, both can win from different situations, but they’re both from the same team…

*Only going to mention two riders as I’ve rambled on enough anyway!

A Different Dimension?

Steve Cummings.

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The British champion found himself in the breakaway on Stage 12 but was swallowed up by the GC favourites as they battled out for stage victory. A rider that picks a few stages per race to target, tomorrow’s rolling stage looks suited to him. Normally an expert at timing his attack, he will no doubt attempt to slip off the front of the break going into the final 20km. Will he be strong enough to hold the rest of them off? Given how easily he rode away from De Gendt on Stage 12, I think he has the power to do it! It’s two years since he won his first Tour stage and having taken a stage last year as well, he’ll be hoping to make it three Tour’s in a row.

Reinardt Janse van Rensburg.

I have been very impressed with the South African champion so far this race, and he seems to have really taken a step up in the lead-outs. Some of the turns he has done for EBH have been incredible. A rider that could go in the break, he has a chance of winning the sprint from that situation. However, I can also envisage him doing a “Pöstlberger” if we get a sprint finish. With the depleted resources of Sunweb and QS after their stressful day, Dimension Data are the team that I think will take control of the sprint. Due to the technical run in, the riders will more than likely be in single file heading into the final roundabout. Now, it is a bit sly, but if RJVR is leading out EBH (so many acronyms!) then the Norwegian could let the wheel go and give the South African a gap, essentially blocking the road behind. In the panic that ensues, van Rensburg will ride away from everyone, winning the day á la Pöstlberger. Alternatively, EBH may even re-pay van Rensburg’s hard work over the past few stages and lead him out. He’s no slouch either, having just lost to Degenkolb in a similar, uphill drag sprint back at the start of the year.

Oh, did I mention it was Mandela Day as well?

Prediction

I’ll go for the poetic win for the South African champion on Mandela Day.

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Betting

Already tweeted out the selections before;

1pt WIN Cummings @ 33/1 with most bookmakers

0.5pt EW van Rensburg @ 250/1 with Coral/Ladbrokes (would take 150s)

 

Thanks as always for reading and any feedback is greatly appreciated! Who do you think will win and how? Anyway,

Those were My Two Spokes Worth.