Saint-Paulien > Chastreix-Sancy 169km
We have a new yellow jersey, Alexis Vuillermoz rolled back the years with a stunning win from the break. In the closing kilometres we saw the other teams trying to lean on Jumbo-Visma, which I found rather strange as they already have a stage win, whereas the other teams do not. This stage is another one where the breakaway riders will sense a chance of doing something, but TotalEnergies will want to honour the jersey. Being in control of the race, on home soil, is huge for the team, but the break still has a chance.
Another cracking day in France, but the wind will be stronger than previous days. Unfortunately for those wanting the break to succeed, it’s a headwind for much of the stage.
It might only be a cat 2 climb, but it’s tougher than you would think. The hardest section of the climb is 4.9km at 6.6%, but it does contain a few steep sections. This ends with just over 1km to go, most of which is flat, but the road does kick up again in the final 100m. If the climb is raced hard, the group will be small at the top, especially as they’ll have a nice tailwind to help.
TotalEnergies are in yellow, they’ll give their all to keep it. That means if a rider close on GC gets in the break, they’ll chase. As we have almost 100 riders still in reach of yellow, there’s every chance of one of these riders getting in the morning break. TotalEnergies will also be happy to see we have a headwind, but will anyone else help them throughout the day? Jumbo-Visma are the most likely, this is a good finish for most of their team. Ineos might also lend a hand, but the finish might be a little on the hard side for Ethan Hayter.
Once we get into the finale, the GC teams will come to the front. This is a finish where we could see some gaps between the big favourites, that means all the main contenders will want to be at the front. In turn, this increases the pace on the climb, and that’s what will make it hard for the puncheurs.
In the pre-race interviews, we’ll hear a lot of, “we’ll decide on the road.” This is a well-used phrase in cycling, but it’s often true. Jumbo-Visma have two big favourites for this stage, so just how will they play it? It’s all about whether Wout will have to work in the finale. The team need to look after Roglič, and to a lesser extent Vingegaard, and when you remove Chris Harper from the workers it means they are down to three, assuming they can get away with just using Harper early in the stage.
Okay, the climb isn’t that long, so it might be the case that Kruijswijk, Laporte and Benoot can control the race own their own, but if they can’t then the team will have to call on Van Aert. If he does have to work, it obviously reduces his chances of sprinting for the win. On the other hand, Roglič won’t have to do any work, he’ll be sitting back waiting to attack. So, Wout has a chance to win this stage, but it’s complicated.
I’ve assumed they’ll only have to use Harper before the final climb, but if the race kicks off earlier, it means other riders must be used and it increases the chances of Van Aert being used as a worker. What can I say? It will be decided on the road!
Wout Van Aert – will it be a finish for him? The flat final kilometre is great news for the Belgian, but it depends on what happens on the climb.
Primož Roglič – a great finish for him, even though he’d prefer the climb to go all the way to the line. The climb is steep enough for Roglič to launch a big attack and try to take time on his GC rivals, even with the TT still to come. It tells you a lot about the team that they start with the two big favourites to win the stage.
Ethan Hayter – is it too hard for him? As he’s previously won on Fóia, it should be possible for him to survive with the GC riders, but it will be hard. He’s never won a stage like this, in a world tour race, but you’ve got to start somewhere. Imagine if he finally beats Van Aert but loses out to Roglič!
Dylan Teuns – a very good finish for him, but he’d probably prefer something a little shorter and much steeper. He’s enjoyed a fine season; I find it strange that Bahrain have been a little reluctant to tie him down with a new contract. As they arrive with Caruso and Haig as protected riders, Teuns might have to sacrifice personal glory, if the climb turns into a GC fight.
Tobias Johannessen – the young Norwegian is very fast, but I don’t think he’s ready to win a stage of the Dauphiné against the calibre of rider at this race.
UAE – they have two good options in McNulty and Ayuso, both have a fast finish. If he’s at his best, this is the type of finish where McNulty can surprise his rivals, I still think his sprint is underrated. Remember, he was 3rdin an uphill sprint in last year’s edition of this race, he can shift when he wants to.
QuickStep – another squad with two options, they have Bagioli and Honoré as potential winners. For both it depends on the speed of the climb, if the GC men decide to go for it, they’ll struggle to challenge for the win. If the pace is steady, both have the sprint required to challenge for the podium.
Antonio Tiberi – the Italian is my dark horse for this stage. He recently won the Queen stage in the Tour of Hungary, thanks to a very fast finish to the big climb. I hope to see him surprise the bigger names in this race.
Patrick Konrad – he’s incredibly consistent in finishes like this, do not underestimate him. I would be very surprised if he didn’t finish in the top 5.
Lukas Pöstlberger – breakaway hopeful number 1.
Harry Sweeny – breakaway hopeful number 2.
Stan Dewulf – breakaway hopeful number 3.
Someone close on GC will get in the break, which will force TotalEnergies into chasing. Later in the stage we’ll see Jumbo-Visma come to help them and they’ll catch the break, but I think it could be close. On the final climb we’ll see Laporte, Kruijswijk and Benoot ride like monsters, setting up Wout Van Aert for another win.