Aigle > Zinal 180.1km
The big GC day, especially if a mountain TT isn’t your thing. We have four cat 1 climbs and 2 cat 2s, overall, it’s 4060m of climbing. The finish might not look that hard, but after a demanding day in the saddle, we’re likely to see big gaps on GC. Three of the cat 1 climbs come quite early in the stage, they’re not going to see serious action but will generate fatigue in the legs for later.
The forecast all week has been for lots of rain in this stage, but now there’s some hope for the riders and they might avoid the worst of the weather. However, the forecasters don’t agree, so it could still be a very wet day.
It’s a bit of a weird one. With 30km to go there is a cat 1 climb, 7.5km at 6.2%, which is quickly followed by a cat 2 climb, 5.75km at 7.1%. This climb crests with 8km to go, some of which is downhill, before a kick up to the line. Considering it’s the Queen stage, it’s a disappointing looking finish.
The breakaway will find it hard; the flat start isn’t ideal for climbers wanting to get up the road, and to win this stage you need to be a good climber. With lots of riders still close on GC, it doesn’t look like a day for the break.
Who will be the team to control the finale of the race? Bahrain, Bora, Jumbo-Visma and UAE look the most likely. Ineos have been great so far this race, but they don’t have a lot of climbing domestiques. It’s likely we’ll see the four teams mentioned looking to exploit their numbers and fire riders up the road. We don’t often have a Queen stage with this type of finish, I’m not sure what impact it will have.
Aleksandr Vlasov – given his current form, he starts as the big favourite. He was very strong in the Basque Country, Flèche and Liège, but will his recent focus on short climbs hurt him in this stage? Bora have a strong team, Vlasov has great form, and he doesn’t mind bad weather. He’s the worthy favourite.
Damiano Caruso – he was outstanding in Sicily, so he’s another who comes into this race with form. Bahrain look like one of the strongest teams, Caruso will have support deep into the finale of the stage. His 2nd place in the 2021 Giro was an outstanding performance, a big win here would help cement leadership status for the Tour de France.
Geraint Thomas – the defending champion is looking close to his best. As I’ve said, Ineos have been strong this week, but I don’t see too many of them surviving deep into this stage. Thomas could find himself isolated in the final 10km, which will make it hard for him to win, but not impossible. Despite team strength, these stages are normally won by those with the strongest legs.
Ben O’Connor – loves a bit of bad weather, he’ll be happy with rain. O’Connor has been in great form recently; this is a huge chance for him to take another world tour win. He doesn’t have a strong team, but that didn’t stop him in Catalunya. We all know his style, he’ll attack from distance and put pressure on his rivals.
Thibaut Pinot – he’s been mentioned as a favourite for this stage, but I don’t see it.
Rohan Dennis – another in brilliant form, but can he really cope in a stage with 4000m of climbing? I think he might surprise.
Steven Kruijswijk – he’s lost a little time in the last couple of stages, but he’s actually in good form. A stage with so much climbing is good for big Stevie, it would be great to see him at the front of the bunch. If he and Dennis can both stay in the front group until the final 10km, he has a great chance of sneaking away and taking the win.
Ion Izagirre – lost a lot of time in stage 1, which will buy him some freedom, and he also loves the rain.
Mike Woods – it’s been a tough season for him so far, but recent signs have been promising. He won the Queen stage in 2021, also in poor conditions, so he’ll be confident going into this one. He won’t have any team support, I’m not sure we’ll see him repeat his success.
His form is good, and his team is strong, I’ll take a win for Damiano Caruso.