Roanne > Belleville-en-Beaujolais 169km
Time for another bonkers breakaway stage. Tuesday’s stage was crazy, will this day follow a similar path?
Another sunny day with temperatures between 20-25 degrees.
The opening 40km of the stage includes three climbs: 3.9km at 3.4%, 4.2km at 5.6% (Cat 3) and 4km at 5.3% (Cat 3). I’m not sure it’s hard enough for the utter chaos that ensued on Tuesday, but you just never know.
The final 50km is tough, very tough. First up is Col de la Croix Montmain, which is 5.6km at 6.1% (Cat 2) and this is quickly followed by Col de la Croix Rosier, 5.3km at 7.5% (Cat 2). Not only do we have the climbs, but there’s also some fast descents to deal with too.
I couldn’t believe what happened on Tuesday, to see Pogačar attacking caught me by surprise. The start to this stage isn’t as hard, I don’t think we’ll see the same type of tactics employed by the GC teams. I expect this to be a classic breakaway stage, like usual, where the break forms is a mystery to everyone. Once it does go, all eyes will be on the finale. The final climb is a tough one, it slims down the list of potential winners, even though it crests with 28km to go.
Jumbo-Visma are in control of the yellow jersey, and with a big weekend ahead, don’t expect to see anyone except Van Aert to have freedom to chase the break. He clearly wasn’t at his best on Monday, which was another big surprise for me. The thing about a grand tour is that a rider performing poorly in one stage, doesn’t mean they can’t excel a couple of days after, don’t start writing off Van Aert just yet.
In recent stages we’ve seen Israel – Premier Tech performing incredibly well, just like at the Giro. Woods has a stage, Neilands was very close on Tuesday, and they have some more options who’ve yet to show themselves. They are one of the teams who benefit from not having to protect a GC rider, they can throw everything at the break. Other teams in that position include Movistar, Lidl – Trek and Soudal – Quick Step, it gives them more options for a stage like this.
As I mentioned in a previous preview, teams with multiple riders in the break have a better chance of winning. Say Van Aert is in the move, everyone will look at him and expect him to do more of the work, then riders fire up the road and if he doesn’t chase, no one else does. Winning a breakaway stage when you’re Van Aert isn’t easy, but the finale of this stage does give a strong rider the chance of shining. If the break is altogether going into the final 50km, the best climber has a wonderful chance of taking the win, but they also need to go well on the flat due to the distance from the last climb to the finish. Look at the start, look at the finish, which type of rider does it suit the most?
Also, keep an eye out for someone outside the top 10 looking to take some easy time back by making the break. The most likely will be Meintjes, but with three GC stages ahead, some will be reluctant to waste energy going for the break.
Ineos – they’ll be looking at Kwiatkowski and Castroviejo for a stage like this. Kwiato has been going well, he’s performed well in two breakaway stages. They don’t start as the favourites to take the win, but both riders are quality.
EF – they’ve got seven riders looking for the break but have yet to challenge for a win. I would think Chaves and Bettiol are their best options for this stage, but Cort can’t be written off.
Soudal – Quick Step – Alaphilippe is improving, will he find his best legs before the end of the race? The problem for the team is that he’s the only real option for the win they have, they’ll be hoping he hits his peak soon.
Bahrain – Mohorič is looking very strong just now, this is a great stage for him, lots of climbing and descending. Fred Wright is another possibility, but we’ve not really seen how his form is.
Movistar – Jorgenson, Aranburu and Guerreiro look good for this one. Jorgenson is another who’s not quite at his very best, but his form is growing, and he could hit his peak soon. Aranburu will love the finish, but the final climb is a worry for him. Guerreiro did well in stage 6, he’d love another chance to go for a win.
Israel – Premier Tech – Neilands is looking brilliant, but the team also have Woods, Teuns and Schultz. Having so many options is great for the squad, if they get a man in the break, they have a good chance of challenging for another win.
Lidl – Trek – Ciccone and Skjelmose are their cards to play. After having a sore back, Skjelmose looks to be improving, and Ciccone is an enigma. When he has a good day, he’s exceptional, but predicting these days can be quite hard. Both riders are very strong, this is a great chance for the team to take another win.
Wout Van Aert – started Tuesday looking great, but quickly blew his doors off and ended up getting dropped. I wasn’t expecting that from him, maybe it was post-rest day blues, especially considering how good he was on the Tourmalet. He’ll once again roll the dice and go for the break, but with all eyes on him, it’s hard to get away from everyone else. He’ll likely start the stage as the favourite, but winning will be complicated.
Rui Costa – barely seen him in this race, which is weird as he looked brilliant in Tour de Suisse. If not him, Intermarché have the excellent Georg Zimmermann.
Ben O’Connor – now out of the GC picture, he raced on Tuesday like a weight was lifted from his shoulders. After dealing with that disappointment, it would have been easy for him to feel sorry for himself, but he bounced back in the best way possible. He’ll look at this as another big opportunity, a stage win would turn the race from a disappointment into a success.
Ion Izagirre – simply an excellent grand tour breakaway rider. Not only did he win a Tour stage from the break in 2016, but he’s also bagged himself three 2nd places since 2018. He’s a good climber, an excellent descender, and has an okay sprint.
Alexey Lutsenko – he’s firing his bullets like he has an automatic machine gun; it seems to be the only way he knows how. No thoughts of trying to be clever, he simply smashes it until he explodes. It’s not the best strategy, but sometimes it works for him.
I’m going to take some pressure off the shoulders of Van Aert and not pick him for what feels like the first time in the race, just watch him win now.
To win this stage you need to be a punchy climber, who can descend and sprint well. I’ll take a win for Matej Mohorič.