Briançon > Alpe d’Huez 164.8km
How do you follow that? Today, we witnessed one of the best stages in recent Tour history, one that will go down as one of the greats, but can it get even better? It’s Bastille Day, we have three enormous climbs, finishing on the Alpe, but is the yellow jersey now secure on the shoulders of Vingegaard? Will Pogačar come out swinging? Jumbo-Visma are now in control of yellow, and they have the team to back it up. Given their dominance today, the break will sense a chance of taking the win, it’s a big day for the French climbers.
Another roasting hot day and we have a light headwind for the majority of the stage.
First up is the Galibier, this time it’s the side they descended today. It’s the first time we’ve had a proper climb from the gun, the breakaway riders will be very excited, the sprinters will be very sad.
Next up is the Col de la Croix de Fer, a very long effort.
The stage finishes with the mythical climb of Alpe d’Huez, no words are required.
How will Pogačar respond? Well, he doesn’t have the team to rip the race up, he’ll have to do it himself. Either it’s a Hail Mary effort on the Galibier, or he waits for the Alpe and hope to drop all the Jumbo domestiques. Given the way he blew up today, it would be a surprise to see him back on top form, but this is cycling! Now, this is the first sign of weakness we’ve really seen from Pogačar, and even though it’s hard to bounce back from such a disappointment, he’s the type of rider who can. He cannot be written off yet.
Jumbo-Visma have an iron grip of the race, Vingegaard leads Bardet by 2:16, Pogačar is 6 seconds further back, then it’s Thomas at 4s and Quintana a further 11s back. The battle for yellow could already be over, but the podium fight is still alive. The Jumbo Bees will control the first climb, making sure a GC contender doesn’t get up the road, at the same time a strong break will form. They now have three stage wins and the yellow jersey, there is no need to chase all day for another stage, even though they’d love to win on the Alpe. That’s what is in my mind, the best riders want to win on the Alpe, maybe Jumbo-Visma will chase the break to set up another win. Winning in yellow is special, winning in yellow on the Alpe is next level.
The break will hope not, especially the French riders. They’ll hope the GC riders take it easy and save their moves for the Alpe, by that point the break should have established a big enough lead to take the stage, but a lot does depend on what Pogačar plans to do. If he goes on the Galibier, all cards are off the table. He does have the balls to attack early but given the strength of the Jumbo-Visma squad, it would be a suicide mission.
The podium battle will be tight, Thomas will hope Pogačar continues to struggle, he is well placed to move into third spot and put pressure on Bardet in second. Ineos won’t try anything fancy, they’ll follow Jumbo-Visma and hope that Thomas has another good day.
Thibaut Pinot – won here back in 2015, he’d love to do it again, especially on Bastille Day. He was very close to winning on stage 9 but waited a little too long before attacking out of the chasing group. The descents in this stage are all standard affairs, he should be able to follow the rest of his breakaway companions. The break will be full of the best climbers who are out of the GC race, winning will hard, but his form is good.
Michael Woods – crashed the other day, but he should be fine for this stage. He’ll be delighted that the day starts with a climb, he’ll definitely be in the morning move. He came into the race with great legs, he blew everyone away in Occitanie, but he’s not been able to show his best in this race. He’ll hope that Fuglsang also makes the move, that would put the team in a strong position.
Carlos Verona – another who approached the race in great form, his win in the Dauphiné was brilliant. Now that Mas is out of the GC picture, the whole team will be free to chase some personal glory. Given the climbs in this stage, Verona should be their best option.
Neilson Powless – had a bad day today and dropped way out of the GC picture, so I expect to see him chasing the break. Unfortunately, I think they’ll be better climbers in the move.
Warren Barguil – gave it a great crack today, he’ll be back at it tomorrow. He sits just 13 points behind Geschke in the battle for polka dots, and we have three HC climbs in this stage. The problem with targeting this jersey is that riders often have to sacrifice stage glory in the battle to collect points throughout the day.
Nick Schultz – I would normally think that the climbs in this stage would be too much for him, but he did look great in Megève. We’ll have to see if he can cope when the gradients start to get steep.
Enric Mas – lost a lot of time today, but to immediately bounce back is incredibly difficult. When a rider has their hearts set on GC, it usually takes a few days for them to refocus and go for stage wins.
Jonas Vingegaard – given the way he climbed today; he’ll be the worthy favourite if it comes back together. He won’t be taking anything for granted, and there’s no need for him to do anything silly. Jumbo-Visma will get their mountain train up and running, beating them will be very difficult.
Tadej Pogačar – I think we’re all excited to see how he responds in this stage. There’s still a long way to go in the race, there’s no need for him to attack on the Galibier and throw it all away. His team aren’t strong enough to chase down the morning break, he’ll hope another team does this for him. Once on the Alpe, he needs to be patient, let Jumbo-Visma do their thing and then attack in the closing stages. This is all about getting back on track, time can be made up in the final week.
Nairo Quintana – he was very impressive today, and this is a climb he knows well. He’ll hope Jumbo-Visma are in a generous mood, but I doubt it.
Given the new race situation, I think this is a day for the breakaway. The start means everyone who’s a strong climber should be in the move. It’s always a little risky backing someone who’s recently crashed, but I’ll still take a win for Michael Woods. Back in the GC group, Vingegaard will extend his lead and take an even firmer hold of the yellow jersey.
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