Castelnau-Magnoac > Cahors 188.4km
Stage 19 of the Tour de France, and we have a sprint stage! Okay, it might not end in a sprint, but it looks the most likely option. We have a couple of cat 4 climbs in the second half of the stage, but the fast men will all survive, even though some are on their last legs. The issue is the wind, we have crosswinds for the entire stage, but can anyone be arsed trying to create echelons?
Hot and sunny, with the wind coming from just above west, which means crosswind all day long. It will be a steady 20km/h, with gusts a little stronger, but will we see echelons?
If this was at the start of the Tour, I think we’d see splits all over the place, but coming at the end of the race could mean the teams don’t attempt anything. Pogačar doesn’t have the team to do anything and even if he did, Jumbo-Visma are made for this. They might only have six men, but they have Benoot, Van Hooydonck, Laporte and Van Aert which is half of their classics squad. There isn’t a hope in hell of dropping Vingegaard, so will anyone try? Ineos are the ones who would normally look to split the race, and they could try to put Pogačar under pressure. He crashed today, and with only two men to help, he’s the one who looks vulnerable. The gap between him and Thomas is big, but you might as well give it a try.
A lot of the route is well protected from the wind, but there are several exposed sections throughout the stage. Okay, this is not De Moeren, the exposed sections don’t last too long but there is enough of them to get some teams interested.
Lots of the peloton are on their knees, most will hope for a calm day and no echelons. The sprint teams want a bunch kick, those without a sprinter want the break to succeed, and some of the GC teams want echelons. Normally a “sprint” stage at this point of the race would go the way of the break, but with so many teams wanting a sprint, that’s what we will likely get.
The worst section is between 5km and 4km to go, where the bunch are basically funnelled into single file due to the road furniture. The final turn comes with 900m to go, and then we have a nasty uphill kick to the line.
700m at 3.3% is hardly the Mur de Huy, but it will sting the legs at this point in the race. The uphill grind means you don’t want to be right at the front as the road starts to rise, coming from behind with pace is the best tactic.
Wout Van Aert – maybe he’ll take the day off and save himself for the TT, aye right! Yes, he’s used up a lot of energy in the stages this week, but his powers of recover are second to none. With Laporte to lead him out, and the uphill kick, this is another great opportunity for the Hulk to take another stage win. If we do get echelons, he’ll be right at the front driving the pace, splitting the bunch. He won’t start as the favourite, due to energy expended, but do not write him off.
Jasper Philipsen – loves an uphill sprint. He took his first Tour win in Carcassonne, a great moment in his career. Alpecin will ride for the sprint, and if he can take the right wheel, he’ll have a great chance of taking another win.
Mads Pedersen – another who’ll like the uphill sprint. Pedersen is enjoying one of those spells that some only hope to experience, he’s on fire just now. With Stuyven to lead him out, he’s guaranteed to start the sprint in a good position, then it’s over to his legs.
Caleb Ewan – this would normally be a great sprint for him, but his chances all depend on his recover from his recent crash.
Fabio Jakobsen – no Mørkøv, no party! He’s done well to make it through the mountains, and now he has two chances to take another win. The lack of Mørkøv is important, but Jakobsen has shown in the past that he can win without the mighty Dane. He has a good relationship with Sénéchal, he’ll be drafted in as final man, and then we’ll have to see how much power he’s got left in his legs.
Dylan Groenewegen – he’s coped well with the mountains, and he’s got one of the best sprint trains left in the race. With Matthews and Mezgec to put him into position, he should be starting the sprint from a great position, but will he have the legs to finish it off. The uphill kick is tough, but in reality, it’s not long enough to put off any of the pure sprinters.
Alexander Kristoff – too hot.
Peter Sagan – he’s not fast enough to compete against those already mentioned.
Fred Wright – breakaway hopeful number 1.
Matteo Jorgenson – breakaway hopeful number 2.
Alberto Bettiol – breakaway hopeful number 3.
Benjamin Thomas – breakaway hopeful number 4.
He might have used up a lot of energy but I’m still going for Wout Van Aert, the man doesn’t have limits.