Cormoranche-sur-Saône > Salins-les-Bains 191km
The race starts to transition away from the sprints to the mountains, but before we hit the high peaks there’s a couple of stages for puncheurs, and maybe a few GC guys.
Another cracking day.
Starts with a bang. Double digit gradients for most the opening 3km, then things start to level off near the crest. The KOM point is after 3.4km, but the climb cruelly contains on for another 2km.
Normally, the GC teams would take one look at this stage and “give” it to the breakaway. The climb might be steep, but there’s much harder to come at the weekend, but the break must have the right mix of riders to not get chased down. UAE are in yellow, Bjerg would love to keep it for another day, we could see the team ride to protect it, and there’s still a lot of riders within reach of him, which could be problematic for those wanting the break to succeed. I expect a very fast start, lots of teams will want to get up the road, but as the opening kilometres are flat, you’ll need a big engine to make the move. Once it goes, the GC teams will decide if anyone in it needs chased down, I don’t think anyone will necessarily chase for the stage, but they might for GC.
The turn onto the climb is over 90 degrees and quite narrow. The bunch approach it on a downhill, this could be very dangerous as all GC riders will want to be at the front. Once they make the right turn, we’ll have to see if any of the big hitters want to come out to play. The climb reminds of something you’d see in the Basque Country, narrow and steep. The opening 2.5km of the climb averages 10%, it’s going to be a real kick in the nuts. The climb continues to roll after the KOM point, from the actual crest there’s 12.5km to go, most of which is downhill.
Say the breakaway is chased down, how big will the GC group be at the top of the climb? Is it possible for someone like Vingegaard to drop everyone and go solo? Will it be a group of 4 or 5 of the top riders? Will they cooperate once over the top? There’s a lot of questions in this stage, and I simply don’t have the answers. I think the shallow gradients in the second half of the climb, and the distance to the finish, will put the main riders off attacking.
In days gone by, this would have been a stage Soudal – QuickStep would have controlled for Alaphilippe, but will they do the same when there are still questions about his form. Yes, he took a great win on Tuesday, but winning this stage against the GC riders is a different prospect.
Jonas Vingegaard – if it turns into a GC day, he should be in yellow after it, but I don’t think he’s all that keen on being in it just yet. The final climb is a very good one for the Dane, he’ll be confident of being the best on the double-digit slopes, and he’ll hope that Tiesj manages to hang around to support him in the finale. If we get a GC sprint, he’s got a good kick.
Julian Alaphilippe – does he have the legs to win this stage? Today’s TT was solid, Soudal – Quick Step are one of the few teams who might chase the break. The climb is classic Alaphilippe territory, winning this stage would be a huge boost before the opening stage of the Tour de France.
David Gaudu – another poor TT from him today, he’ll now hope to have a little freedom to chase a stage win. The main contenders won’t be overly happy at giving him free time, he’ll have to earn the win, there won’t be any gifts.
Richard Carapaz – he’s in the same position as Gaudu, hoping that his poor TT will allow him a little freedom.
Adam Yates – he lost 45s to Vingegaard, that’s not too bad, he’s right in the mix for the yellow jersey. The climb is one that suits him well, I wonder if he’ll put a little dig in to test Vingegaard.
Rune Herregodts – the first of the breakaway options. He’s clearly in fine form, but will UAE let such a threat to yellow get up the road? I expect him to try and see what happens.
Maxim Van Gils – another who would have a great chance from the break. Van Gils is a good climber, but he’s not a genuine threat to the likes of Vingegaard. He’s very strong on steep gradients and packs a fast sprint, perfect for this stage.
Robert Stannard – 4:09 down on GC is a good spot to be in for a breakaway rider. His season hasn’t been great, but he’s looked good in this race.
Valentin Madouas – another solid option for the break.
Rémi Cavagna – close to winning today, the flat start to this stage is perfect for him to try and go in the break. The climb will be very difficult, but it depends who he’s up against.
Andrea Bagioli -another excellent option for Soudal – Quick Step. The big question is whether they go for the break, or go all in for Julian?
Fred Wright – is he too good to be allowed in the break? He’s still searching for his first professional win, this is a perfect stage for him to win from the break, he won’t be good enough to win from the GC group. I hope he takes the risk.
I don’t think UAE will chase and Jumbo-Visma are unlikely to, the final climb is hard but it’s not long enough for gaps between the best GC riders. I think this is a day for the breakaway and I don’t see much movement on GC.
I’ll take a win for Rune Herregodts.