Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat > Puy de Dôme 182km
So far, we’ve had Pogačar on the deck after taking an uppercut from Vingegaard, then Vingegaard hit the deck after Pogačar connected with a big right. The Tour de France is starting to resemble Rocky, with Jonas playing the part of Apollo Creed and Tadej as Rocky Balboa, but which of the two fighters will be left standing after Puy de Dôme?
Sunny and hot. Temperatures will hit 30 degrees. The wind will be around 10-15km/h and will be a tailwind for most of the stage, but it’s going to be headwind on the climb.
13.2km at 7.7%, but that doesn’t do it justice as the final 4km averages 12%. This section is incredibly narrow, only one car wide. This is because the other lane is a tram track, it’ll be interesting to see where the organisers put the fans, there’s not enough room for them to be on the road.
There’s no need for Jumbo-Visma to send a rider in the break, as it’s a mountaintop finish, they can keep everyone back for the finish. The stage is an easy one to control, but do they want to? After losing out to Pogačar on Thursday, the team might decide to go relatively easy and take the bonus seconds out the equation. If they do so, all eyes will be on UAE to see if they chase the break. Normally, they would, but nothing is certain in this race.
Puy de Dôme is perfect for a mountain train to control. It’s about gradually ramping up the pace, dropping more and more riders as we go. The final 4km is brutally steep, this is where Sepp Kuss comes into his own. He’ll be the last domestique left, more than likely he’ll only have Vingegaard and Pogačar on his wheel, then we’ll see what happens.
I have no idea if this is a day for Rocky or Apollo, I don’t think even they know. Both riders have now gone deep to drop their rival, something that I can’t recall happening for a very long time. Who will be the first to attack? Will the other be able to respond? How big will the gap be at the end? So many questions, that’s why this race is shaping up to be a beauty.
Okay, the fight for the break will again be fierce. The reason a lot of riders will take the gamble is the current GC position, Monday is a rest day, and there could be a situation where Jumbo-Visma and UAE look at each other. After getting dropped on Thursday, will Jumbo-Visma chase the break? After getting dropped on Wednesday, will UAE chase? This is a beautiful position for the race, and the break could well take advantage.
The opening 30km has a few little bumps, but it is mainly a flat start, which isn’t great news for the climbers. However, as we’ve seen in previous years, climbers can often make a break like this with the help of a few teammates. There’s lots of good climbers down on GC who’ll dream of getting in the break and it going all the way.
One other thing I’d like to point out is the fatigue the riders will be feeling. As the Tour de France has started quite far away in previous years, there’s usually a rest day after stage 3, but not this year. The riders now have eight stages in the legs, most of them raced hard, some will find this stage a big challenge.
Jonas Vingegaard – looked amazing on Marie Blanque, but you could see on his face (near the top of the Tourmalet) that he was struggling while Pogačar looked good. The steep gradients on Puy de Dôme are harder than Marie Blanque, that should be good news for Vingegaard, but it’s all to do with the legs and head. Thursday was a blow, the damage done in his mind could be worse than the seconds lost. On Puy de Dôme, Kuss will be the last domestique, but what will Jonas do when he pulls off? He sits 25s ahead of Pogačar, he doesn’t need to be the one to attack. I think we’ll see Jonas ride a conservative race, he’ll try to follow Pogačar and only attack if it’s clear he’ll get away.
Tadej Pogačar – he’ll have one eye on the weather forecast, he doesn’t always like the heat. Nobody knows how he’ll respond in this stage, normally, the steep gradients are good for him. He’ll sit in the wheels and let Jumbo-Visma set pace, if they go too slow, he’ll get his boys on the front. As he was dropped on Marie Blanque, I think he could be a little nervous heading into this stage. His team can make as many plans as they want, but it all depends on how he feels in the final 4km. If you watched today’s stage closely you’ll have noticed Jonas pull a pain face on the final cat 4 climb, I wonder if UAE were watching closely.
Thibaut Pinot – breakaway hopeful number 1. France can dream.
Felix Gall – breakaway hopeful number 2. Excellent current shape.
Dani Martínez – breakaway hopeful number 3. Won on the steep slopes of Le Puy Mary.
Giulio Ciccone – breakaway hopeful number 4. When he has a good day, he’s exceptional.
Michael Woods – breakaway hopeful number 5. Double-digit expert.
Wout Van Aert – breakaway hopeful number 6. I wouldn’t put it past him.
UAE will sense a chance to stick the knife in, no way they missed Jonas pulling a pain face on a cat 4 climb. They’ll chase the break and set up a GC day.
I’ll take a win and yellow jersey for Tadej Pogačar.