It’s time for the 2nd intermediate time-trial.The riders travel the 32km from Embrun to Chorges,but it’s not a straight forward,flat stage.
The 1st climb does have 2 very hard kilometres in it,a 9.7% section followed by 8.2%,so it won’t be easy. The 2nd climb is longer and has a more consistent gradient.To win this TT you must be able to go up a mountain but also down it.It’ll be very interesting to see how Chris Froome copes with the descents without a teammate in front of him.He has shown that he is the best climber here but may lose time on the downhill sections.
We have had a few mountain time trials so far this season.In Paris-Nice(9.6km) Richie Porte won by 23seconds from Talansky and 27 seconds from Quintana.
At the Criterium International(7km) Porte won by 1 second to Boaro and Van Garderen,with Froome 4th only 2 seconds back.
At the Tour of the Basque country(24km) Tony Martin won by 17 seconds from Quintana,with Intxausti 3rd at 32 seconds and Porte 4th at 40 seconds.
At the Tour de Suisse(26.8km) Rui Costa won by 21 seconds from Kangert,with Mollema 3rd at 29 seconds and Peraud 4th at 42 seconds.
In the 2012 Vuelta(39.4km) Kessiakoff won by 17 seconds to Contador,with Froome 3rd at 39 seconds,Valverde 4th at 1m8s and Porte 6th at 1m15s.
It is hard to compare mountain time trials as they are all different in nature.Most have just one climb with a lot of flat,unlike stage 17 of the Tour.
Chris Froome still hasn’t won an individual time trial in his career but must have a great chance here.Tony Martin won the last TT and can’t be discounted here.He can get over less steep climbs and as there are only 2km over 8% then he will be a massive threat.Other contenders are:Mollema,Contador,Quintana,Peraud,Porte and Kwiatkowski.
Richie Porte has been incredibly consistent in mountain time trials this year and I think he will finish in the top 3 and may even beat Froome.
I have one outsider …. Peter Sagan.
This kid can time trial and finished a very credible 17th on stage 11 but I remember his performance in the prologue of the Tour de Suisse in 2012.On a course that had a climb,then a descent he won by 4 seconds from Fabian Cancellara and it was a tremendous performance.His descending skills are second to none and I think he may threaten the top 3.
The weather forecast has to be considered too.At 1200 there is only a 10% chance of rain but 40% by 1500.If it gets wet later on then a rider who goes out early will win.The wind isn’t strong,5/6 mph,but it’s a headwind for almost the whole course.
After writing this I have just heard some post-stage interviews.Richie Porte is going to take it “as easy as possible” and Peter Sagan said “I intend to live another relaxing day tomorrow in the race against the clock but the following three stage will be very hard and very long.”
So you have to discount what I have said about them(shame as they would have been good bets).
Another earlier starter I want to mention is Ion Izagirre.He has been solid this season and finished 11th in the Tour de Suisse mountain time trial.It wasn’t great but did include 18km of flat,where he lost a fair bit of time.
As the weather is going to turn I think Tony Martin will win the stage.I’m really unsure about the other places but I’ll have a shot!