At last we are in the Alps,and the riders are faced with the legendary climb of Mont Ventoux.
It is predicted that the riders will climb the Ventoux in 31 degrees of heat and with a 5mph wind,this is important as a headwind usually reduces the chances of a break making it to the top.The stage is also the longest of the Tour as the riders travel 242.5km from Givors to Ventoux.Along the way they have to tackle 4 smaller climbs,the Cote d’Eyzin-Pinet(3.1km at 4.9%),the Cote de Primarette(2.6km at 4.1%),the Cote de Lens-Lestang(2.1km at 3.8%) and the Cote de Bourdeaux(4.2km at 5.7%).It will be a very difficult start for the sprinters and if they get dropped early they are in big danger of missing the time cut-off.
The sprint point comes after 208km and just before the start of the Ventoux climb.I would imagine that Peter Sagan will try and make the morning break,so he can collect the 20 points on offer.I can’t believe I’m writing this but if he makes it there with enough time to spare I think he might just try and win the stage.Imagine that,a so called sprinter winning Mont Ventoux.The cycling world as we know it would never be the same!
Most of you will be fully aware what awaits the riders,here it is.
20.8km at a brutal average of 7.5%.The length of the climb is what makes it so difficult.We only have 1 section of over 10%,but if you discount the first 5km it has an average of around 8.7% for 15 km.
This is a long,drag of a climb.The riders are exposed on a baron land for ages and the wind can seriously change the race,it doesn’t have hairpins like Alp d’Huez,just a very long,straight road.With the sun beating down on them in the last 7km we should see some massive time gaps between the top riders.
The chance of surviving in a break for around 200km and then climbing Ventoux is a daunting prospect and it will be very hard for the break to survive to the finish.Although,it’ll be very interesting to see how Team Sky approach the race.Dave Brailsford has said that they will change their tactics as they only have 7 riders left and Geraint Thomas has a slight fracture of the pelvis,but he is getting better.They have to ride on the front all day and this could use up quite a few of their riders.They will be delighted if a small break of 4 riders go away,as this is easily controlled.There are no time bonuses and Froome has already won a stage,so Sky won’t be too bothered if the break gets a massive lead.This might force a team looking for a stage win to ride on the front(Euskadel).
So Sky usually hit the slopes at a ferocious speed and stop any attacks,will they change this tactic?The climb is very long and it won’t be possible to maintain a pace like that with only Kennaugh,Porte and Froome.I’ll be very interested to see how they approach this.
Saxo have the option of “doing a Sky”.With so many good riders they might decide to set the pace to eliminate all of Froome’s teammates and then start attacking him half way up the climb.Movistar may also try this tactic and I would fully expect both these teams to be working together as Contador and Valverde are big pals.
This will be a massive test for the Belkin pair of Mollema and Ten Dam.Can they really mix it with the big boys or will they crack?Ten Dam has been the biggest surprise and I just can’t see him living with the rest.Mollema should have enough to stay close to the main riders in this stage but it’ll be hard.
Fuglsang has been climbing well and is in the form of his life,I think he should cope well and stay in the mix.
The white jersey holder,Michal Kwiatkowski,will find it very difficult to stay with the main group.He was distanced twice on stage 9 on 1st cat climbs,so will find it extremely hard tomorrow.I don’t expect him to be in the top 10 after the stage.
Exactly what Movistar do with Nairo Quintana will be very interesting.He would have been used as an early attack but with Valverde now down on GC he might stay with Froome until later in the climb,he should do very well tomorrow and the whole cycling world are waiting to see how good he really is.
I don’t see Rodriguez coping with the length of the climb and Moreno will stay with him.Other contenders have to be Andy Schleck,Alejandro Valverde,Daniel Navarro,Mikel Nieve and Pierre Rolland.
Just what Valverde does will be interesting.He is still furious about the tactics of Belkin and is in great form.He will be allowed to go away on the climb as will the other riders just mentioned.The KOTM points are doubled as the finish is a climb,so the winner of the stage will get 50 points.This will be of great interest to Rolland and Nieve but the stage is also up for grabs so it won’t be easy for them.
So many things can happen,it makes me excited just thinking about it!
And of course just what will Alberto Contador do?If he really is coming into form he will attack Froome.
Right,lets try and wrap this up!
If a small break goes away then the winner will come from the peloton.If a large break goes away,they will have a fair chance of success.
On Ventoux I expect Movistar will not send Quintana away early.Saxo will try and eliminate the Sky riders and leave Froome by himself.Then Contador,Valverde and Quintana will test the legs of Froome.Froome has looked very strong but if he is left by himself he could crack but I doubt it.The likes of Rolland and Nieve will try and attack from about 10km but I don’t think they’ll get away.The winner will come from Quintana,Contador,Froome and Valverde and I say Valverde.