Saint-Just-Saint-Rambert > Saint-Sauveur-de-Montagut 188.7km
A big old day in the mountains. With 3381m of climbing, this is the hardest stage in the race, but will it be a day for the GC riders? We have three cat 1 climbs, a cat 2, a cat 3 and an uncategorised bump cresting with 8km to go. Normally having the last big climb cresting with 30km to go would mean it’s a day for the break, but that isn’t guaranteed in a weeklong stage race. Teams will also be a little worried about the weather forecast for Saturday, there is a chance Col de Turini is removed from the race due to snow. If that stage is made significantly easier, this must be the big GC day.
Not a bad day weather wise, but there is a headwind for much of the day.
Croix de Chambouret starts after 20km of the stage, perfect for climbers looking to get in the break. The climb is 13.9km at 5.7%, the easiest of the cat 1 climbs.
Côte de Saint-Romain-de-Lerps is the next cat 1 climb, it’s 6.1km at 7.4%, it’s a tough one.
Col de la Mure is the final cat 1 climb of the day, and the last of the categorised climbs. It crests 30km from home, that’s a long way to go. 7.6km at 8.2% is a tough climb, this is a proper mountain effort.
The final challenge of the day is this uncategorised lump. It is 6.4km at 4.7%, which will seem harder after the climbing that’s come before it.
It looks like a classic breakaway stage, but will it be? Jumbo-Visma have control of the race, there really isn’t any need for them to work. If the break is going to be caught it needs the work of a few teams, or a rider relatively high on GC to be in the move. Jumbo-Visma have been hugely dominant so far, but their rivals will still believe they can beat them. If Ineos get Van Baarle in the break, it will force Jumbo-Visma into chasing as he’s only 1:53 down on GC. They would have to use Van Hooydonck, Laporte, Teunissen and Dennis to chase in the early stages of the day, leaving Van Aert and Kruijswijk for the final climb.
They do have a lot of power in the team, but they seem to be lacking their usual climbing power. There is every chance Roglič is left isolated on Col de la Mure, that is exactly the position other teams will want. Ineos have Adam Yates and Martínez high on GC, they need to isolate Roglič before attacking. They might not drop him, but they have to try.
The presence of the early climb means the break should be a strong one, but Jumbo-Visma will need to be very careful about who gets up the road. The crosswinds have created an interesting GC position, we have several hugely talented climbers well out of the battle for yellow. They’ll be in the break; this is a great chance for them. As usual, the success of the break will depend on the attitude of the bunch and which teams miss it. I would be very surprised to see a relaxed day in the peloton, this stage deserves a GC battle.
If it is a GC day, Col de la Mure is the key point, despite it being 30km from home. This is where the front group will be slimmed down, Roglič will be concerned about rival teams having multiple riders in the front group. He’ll be delighted if the group is small, and it only features one rider per team. It’s unlikely he’ll have teammates after this mountain, the pressure will all be on him to chase, no one will want to help. The reason behind this is just how strong he looks just now, he’s already shown he’s on a great form, so he’ll be expected to shoulder most of the work.
Primož Roglič – he must start as the favourite; he looks very strong just now. We’ll have to see how the race develops, it’s unlikely we’ll see him going solo on Col de la Mure, there’s still a long way to go. He’s going to come under a lot of pressure in this stage, I’m looking forward to seeing how he responds.
Simon Yates – that was a brilliant TT from him today, it followed up a good performance in Andalucía. This is a good stage for him, he’s one of the best mountain climbers in the world. When Yates is at his best, he is a match for anyone, even the Slovenians!
Adam Yates – he was very strong in the UAE Tour, but his TT today was disappointing. Ineos will hope both he and Martínez survive, that would put them into a strong position. Looking at the gradients of the climbs, I think the stage suits Yates more, he’s likely to be their best option.
Nairo Quintana – going very well just now, but this doesn’t look like a classic Quintana stage.
Aleksandr Vlasov – current form is very good, but I get the feeling he’s just a little below the level of the top climbers.
Brandon McNulty – breakaway hopeful number 1.
Gino Mäder – breakaway hopeful number 2.
Michael Storer – breakaway hopeful number 3.
David Gaudi – breakaway hopeful number 4.
Matteo Jorgenson – breakaway hopeful number 5.
With 43 riders within 4 minutes of the race lead, I find it hard to believe the break won’t contain a GC threat. Okay, of those riders only 20 can cope with big mountains, but it’ll hard to stop these riders getting in the morning break. This stage is a big test for Jumbo-Visma, especially as they are missing some of their big mountain riders.
What’s good for them is the 70km between the opening cat 1 climbs, that is where they can press on and limit the break’s advantage. They’ll hope that some of the other GC teams will get involved, but that would be foolish on their part. They must force Jumbo-Visma into burning through their domestiques in the hope that Roglič is isolated on Col de la Mure.
I see an elite group of climbers going clear on the Col de la Mure, featuring Roglič, Quintana and both Yates brothers. The twins won’t chase each other, so I think we’ll see Simon Yates taking the win and Roglič moving into yellow.