Saint-Gervais > Courchevel 166km
I bet you can’t believe the gap between the first and second is now 1:48, Jonas Vingegaard produced one of the best TT performances I’ve ever seen in my life, but I don’t think you can say the race is over. Pogačar managed to respond after losing over 1 minute on Marie Blanque, he cannot be written off, but today was a big psychological blow. Anyway, we’ve got the Queen stage of the race, get ready for some bombs.
Sunny, but there’s a real risk of thunderstorms, which isn’t great considering the amount of tricky descending in this stage.
The first climb of the day starts after just 15km of racing. Col des Saisies is a cat 1 effort and kicks off a day of fun.
Next up is Cormet de Roselend, another cat 1 effort, it’s a climb that most of the riders will know well.
The descent off the Roselend is very technical, there’s a series of tight harpin bends in the middle of it. The next climb is Côte de Longefoy which is 6.7km at 7.5%, and then there’s another technical descent.
Lots of twists and turns and very fast.
Col de la Loze is the big climb of the day. The last time the race was here it was 2020 and López took the win from Roglič and Pogačar. At 2250m above sea level, it’s the highest point of the race and first over collects 40 KOM points. Unlike 2020, the race doesn’t finish at the crest, another fast descent follows.
There’s a very steep descent, before the final 500m kicks up at an average of 11.6%. It’s a nasty finish.
I mean, do you actually expect me to predict what’s going to happen in this stage? Today’s events have a massive impact on the tactics. If Jonas was needing time, Jumbo-Visma would ride all day, making everyone use up as many calories as possible, before launching on Col de la Loze. Now that he’s got a lead of 1:48, there’s no need to do this, which could be good news for the breakaway.
All eyes will be on UAE and how they approach this stage. Normally, Pogačar is thought to be better after an easy day, but I think they can’t take that approach after losing so much time today, they have to throw everything they have at Jumbo-Visma and see what happens. Their domestiques might not be as good as Jumbo-Visma’s, but I would still expect the team to make this a hard stage and see what happens on Col de la Loze. A relatively poor TT (he beat all but one) doesn’t mean Pogačar cannot distance Vingegaard in this stage, but it does mean that Vingegaard can now go into defensive mode and look to follow Pogačar, which makes his life much easier.
No matter if the stage is won by the break or the GC group, the winner must be an exceptional climber, but also someone who descends very well, this is not a stage for a nervous Nellie.
What about the break? The main contenders will wait for the first cat 1 climb, then we’ll see who wants to go. Ciccone will of course be there, he needs as many points as possible, even if the break gets caught, but the problem for the break are those riders sitting 9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th, they all have something to fight for. Take Guillaume Martin for example, he’s certain to go for the break, but he’s only 1:37 behind Gall in 10th place, so he’ll need to follow Martin when he moves, which could trigger a move from Gaudu, and then Simon Yates might want to get involved. Remember, riders have given everything they’ve got for a spot in the top 10, there’s no way they’ll simply let Martin skip up the road and cheat them out of that spot.
Also in the mix is the battle for the team classification. Jumbo-Visma are in the lead, with Ineos sitting over 9 minutes down. Ineos will look to get one or two in the break, but they’ve also got to balance that with trying to fight for 3rd place.
Okay, let’s try and predict this stage. A big break will get away on the first climb, likely to feature a few riders from the top 10. UAE will start to pace, not necessarily to catch the break, but to make it a hard race. The good news for the break is that with lots of climbing talent, they have a chance of going all the way, but they’ll need to go full for the whole day, no messing about. Jumbo-Visma will try and get someone (Wout) up the road as a protection policy, just in case Pogačar decides to go very long, you know it makes sense. Given the difficulty of Col de la Loze, this is where we’ll see the big bombs launched by Pogačar, we’ll have to see if Vingegaard is strong enough to hold on. If he is, expect to see Jonas look to take more time and close the race out before the tricky looking stage on Saturday.
Jonas Vingegaard – after producing one of the best TTs in living history, what does he do next? He won’t be thinking the race is over, he’ll remember losing 24 seconds to Pogačar the day after dropping him on Marie Blanque, but he will sleep easier tonight. Jumbo-Visma have an exceptionally strong team, they’ll surround Jonas and try to ensure he saves as much energy as he can for Col de la Loze. The good news is that Sepp Kuss loves this climb, he’ll be with Jonas and able to help chase down attacks for quite a long time. Everyone knows Pogačar will attack, but now Vingegaard can sit on his wheel and wait for him to go, no more having to ride the front and look over his shoulder. If he can follow, we’ll then see if he wants to stick the knife in and go for the stage.
Tadej Pogačar – his record at high altitude isn’t as bad as people would have you believe. He’ll start this stage a little down, he had his arse served to him on a plate today. He’ll tell himself that all is not lost, and that yellow is still up for grabs, but will he really believe this? Last year, he launched everything he had at Vingegaard in the Peyragudes stage, but when he realised, he couldn’t drop him, he switched to going for the stage. It wouldn’t surprise me to see something similar happen here, but that depends on what Vingegaard does.
Tom Pidcock – breakaway hopeful number 1. Not looking great, but there’s a lot of descending.
Felix Gall – breakaway hopeful number 2. I’ve been waiting for him to win a stage all race. The descending isn’t great for him, but most of it happens a long way before the final climb.
Mikel Landa – breakaway hopeful number 3. He’s been looking better in recent stages.
Harold Tejada – breakaway hopeful number 4. High altitude = Pick a Colombian.
Wout Poels – breakaway hopeful number 5. One stage win in the bag, he rides without pressure.
The speed the GC group will go up Col de la Loze means the break will need a very big advantage to survive, and I don’t think they will.
Pogačar to launch his attacks, but Jonas Vingegaard will follow and drop him before winning the stage.