Annemasse > Morzine 152km
Welcome to ambush country. For me, this is the most important stage of the Tour de France, what happens in this stage will have a lasting impact on the fight for the yellow jersey. We’ve got an uphill start and then two cat 1 climbs in the first 50km of racing, this is a nervous day for most of the GC riders.
Sunny and warm, temperatures will peak at 32 degrees.
What a brilliant opening 53km. Uphill from the gun, then it’s Col de Saxel (4.2km at 4.6%), Col de Cou (7km at 7.4%), and Col du Feu (5.8km at 7.8%). One cat 3 and two cat 1s, it’s a big day in the fight for the polka dot jersey.
Col de la Ramaz is another cat 1 climb, it’s the longest mountain in the stage.
Col de Joux Plane is the only HC climb of the day, it’s a brutal effort and will have a big impact on the stage.
This is the descent down to the finish line in Morzine. The union has been worried about the potential dangers, but the ASO have done everything they can to ensure rider safety.
Jumbo-Visma will have been planning this stage for months, they’ll see it as the day where they can expose UAE and put Pogačar into difficulty. Their tactics have come in for criticism throughout this race, they always do from some, but they have been the best in this department for the last couple of years. The time put into strategy has paid big dividends in the world’s biggest races, but what have they planned here?
What Jumbo-Visma wouldn’t have believed is the way UAE rode today. Now, one of the reasons I think you like my previews is that I can be completely honest with you, I don’t have to worry about pissing off teams and not getting interviews, even if they are reading. Pardon my French, UAE rode like fucking idiots today. They used up boxes of matches for 8 seconds, what a bunch of idiots. Did you notice what Jumbo did? All their riders, apart from Kuss, dropped off early, saving energy for this stage. I struggle to believe that on the eve of one of the most important stages of the race, they used their whole team to chase a huge break. If you want to win the stage, don’t let a 20 man break escape, ride the front like a proper team. Time after time, we seem them unable to control the start, it baffles me considering the experience in the team. We’ll have to see if what happened today will have an impact in this stage, I think it will.
It’s a bit obvious, but Jumbo-Visma will try and get men up the road. UAE seem incapable of stopping this from happening, instead focusing on trying to keep riders round Pogačar for as long as possible. Last year, Jumbo-Visma had two cards to play, this year Kuss is too far down on GC to be regarded as a real threat. I think we’ll see the team start fast, get Wout and another up the road, try to drop UAE domestiques and then launch Jonas up the road, but only if UAE are out of domestiques. If UAE are riding strong, they’ll wait until the Joux Plane.
Col de Cou and Col du Feu are hard enough to blow the race apart, if Jumbo-Visma really push on, the peloton will be tiny near the top of Col du Feu, despite there being 100km still to go. If they have Van Aert up the road, he can help pull on the downhill section to Col de la Ramaz, then Vingegaard can decide if he attacks on Col de la Ramaz or waits for Col de Joux Plane, this will be modern racing at its finest.
This is a day which will have big implications for everyone on GC, some riders will blow up early and lose a lot of time. In recent stages we’ve seen Simon Yates, Bardet, Gaudu and Meintjes get into difficulty early in the day, if this happens in this stage, it’s goodnight, Vienna. All GC riders need to be ready for an intense day of racing, those who can follow the best will be rewarded with a place in the top 10 on GC, one that they’ll feel comfortable of holding on to until Paris.
But what will Pogačar do? If Adam Yates is there to follow a move by Kuss, it means he only has to focus on Vingegaard. He’ll remember what happened last year, he cannot get lured into racing like a headless chicken, this is a day for a calm head. Col de Joux Plane is an incredibly difficult climb, Pogačar will hope to use this to drop Vingegaard and take the yellow jersey, Jumbo-Visma are unlikely to get it all their own way. I’m not sure how the stage will unfold, but I expect it to be one of those days you need to watch from the start.
A GC fight early in the stage is a disaster for those hoping the breakaway will win, and for the riders looking to take KOM points. Those down on GC will still give it a go, but they know the break is unlikely to win.
Tadej Pogačar – looked like he wanted today’s stage but didn’t get it. He’s clearly still in great shape, but gapping Vingegaard in a sprint isn’t the same as dropping him on a mountain. Pogačar is going to come under severe pressure in this stage, we’ll have to see if he can respond. I always thought his form would drop a little in the final week, but he still looks good, he’s responded brilliantly to getting dropped on Marie Blanque. Strap yourself in, he’s going to try and drop a few bombs.
Jonas Vingegaard – it seems a long time ago when he dropped Pogačar on Marie Blanque. That day, he looked incredible, I thought the Tour was over. Luckily, for those who want a good race, Pogačar was able to fight back, and we now have a finely balanced race situation. There’s been a lot of chat about which climbs suit the big two the most, but I don’t think it’s really to do with the climbs, it’s all to do with who has the legs on the given day. I expect big things from Jumbo-Visma, this is a day where Jonas can strike and start to shift the momentum.
The Rest – not only is this a big day in the fight for yellow, the battle for the podium is also as juicy. With several riders in the fight, I’m interested to see the tactics employed by Ineos, as they have two riders high on GC. Will anyone dare try to get ahead of the race? This is a massive risk, energy used up early in the stage will be dearly missed on the Joux Plane. Unfortunately, I think we’ll see most riders simply waiting for Jumbo-Visma and UAE to do their thing, then see if they can follow. We’ll see if the crocodiles can jump over the mountain, while the wolves are dancing with the swallows.
Mattias Skjelmose – breakaway hopeful number 1.
Michael Woods – breakaway hopeful number 2.
Thibaut Pinot – breakaway hopeful number 3.
Ben O’Connor – breakaway hopeful number 4.
Jumbo-Visma to do Jumbo-Visma things.
A win for Jonas Vingegaard.