Binche > Longwy 220.1km
After the chaos of the cobbles, the riders are now faced with the longest stage of the whole race. We finish in Longwy, the place where Sagan won back in the 3rd stage of the 2017 edition. It’s the same finish, but this year the approach is harder. The breakaway riders will sense a chance of taking the win as the finish will be too hard for most of the fast men.
There is a risk of showers throughout most of the stage, and temperatures will be around 20 degrees. The wind is up over 20km/h for the whole stage, and we have a lot of cross/tailwind throughout the day. The route cuts through a lot of forest area, it’s unlikely we’ll see echelons that stick.
This is hard. The above graphic is the final 17km of the stage, it contains four hills. First up is the cat 4, Côte de Montigny-sur-Chiers, which is 1.6km at 4.4%. Soon after comes an unclassified climb of 2km at 4%, this tops out with just under 10km to go. A fast descent follows and then we have the cat 3 climb, Côte de Pulventeux, which is 800m at 12.3%, it’s a real kicker. This crests with 5km to go, and another fast descent leads into the final climb of the day. The rise up to the line isn’t classified but it’s 2.15km at 5.6%, it’s a bit of a grind. The first half of the climb averages over 7%, with the final kilometre easier at 4.3%.
Back in 2017 the bunch approached Longwy from a different direction, one with fewer hills. That day still proved to be very selective, and this stage is harder, so the front group at the end will likely contain the GC riders and a select few fast men.
I sense that today’s race will have a significant impact on the dynamics of the coming stages. First of all, van der Poel is clearly not on form, which means that Alpecin are unlikely to ride. Van Aert and Roglič crashed today, we’ll have to wait and see if it has any impact on them over the next couple of days. Given the difficulty of the finish, I’m not sure who will chase down the morning break.
The start of the stage is exposed to the elements, that means the pace in the bunch will be high, making it hard for the break to form. Things do get more sheltered the further the stage goes, so eventually the right move will establish, particularly as the roads are rolling in this part of the world. I think once the break goes, it could be big, but it will likely contain a threat to Wout’s yellow jersey. Will Jumbo-Visma ride to keep it? He’s going to lose yellow on Friday, and after what happened today, I think they might let the jersey go. Will another GC team ride on the front to keep them in yellow? I think that’s unlikely.
What I’m trying to say is that this stage should be one for the breakaway, but it’s not a certainty. To get in the break you’ll need to be a very strong rider, as the opening hour will be hard. To last all the way, the move will need to relatively large, 220km is a long day in the saddle.
In terms of what happens in the GC group, I doubt we’ll see any gaps, the final climb isn’t hard enough, but the entrance to the cat 3 climb is important. The riders head down a fast descent, then have a double left-hand turn to deal with. A poor position will leave you needing to make up ground in the opening metres of the hill.
Wout Van Aert – we’ll have to wait and see how he is after the crash. Today he rode like a monster, surely, he’ll be a little tired. If it does come back together, he’s the best for this type of finish. Jumbo-Visma are bruised after today, the best way to respond would be with another stage win and a dominant performance. The problem is that no one will help them chase, so the break will need to be weak. He’ll start as the favourite, but will he win?
Mathieu van der Poel – not got it just now. So, expect to see him trying for the break!
Michael Matthews – was a fast-finishing 2nd back in 2017, he could well have won with a better starting position. He should be one of the sprinters to survive until the end, but will he have enough to sprint for the win? He was riding well in the Tour de Suisse; this is a big chance for him to take his first Tour win in 5 years. One issue for him will be a lack of teammates in the closing stages, he needs Mezgec to be there.
Peter Sagan – took a brilliant win here in 2017 and was then DSQ the next day after causing Cavendish to crash. To win this stage he needs to have the same legs he did 5 years ago, and I don’t think he does. He also crashed today, not great news for him.
Tadej Pogačar – if it comes back together, he’ll be challenging for the win, there’s nothing he can’t do.
Tom Pidcock – he’s started the race in good form, and this is a finish he’ll like. He’s beaten Wout before in an uphill sprint, so he should be confident, but I doubt Ineos will ride.
Aleksandr Vlasov – it’s a very good finish for him, but I doubt Bora will chase the break. If it does end in a sprint, he’ll still need to beat Pogačar and Van Aert.
QuickStep – Bagioli and Honoré are both good options for this stage.
Matej Mohorič – loves a long stage, this one is perfect for him. He’s lost a lot of time, so not a threat to yellow.
Victor Lafay – very good on a finish like this but getting in the break will be hard.
Stefan Bissegger – you’ll need a big engine to make the break, and there’s not many bigger than his. The finish isn’t great for him, so he’ll need to attack before the steep climbs.
Jasper Stuyven – brilliant today, this is a chance for him to jump in the break and try to take yellow.
Lotto Soudal – Wellens and Kron should be their boys for the break. If either of them make the move, they’ll be challenging for the win.
Benoît Cosnefroy – form has been inconsistent this year, but the finish is good for him.
Lennard Kämna – it depends on how much Bora are committing to Vlasov. In the Giro, he was allowed to attack despite the team chasing the pink jersey. Like many, the end of the stage is good for him.
A breakaway win for Matej Mohorič.