After a brilliant first edition in 2022, everything points towards another showdown between van Vleuten and Vollering. ASO have decided to bring in a time trial, which will be well received by many riders, and the route looks a hard one to me. All but one day looks tough, which offers many opportunities for the puncheurs of the bunch and should make for excellent watching for those glued to their TVs.
We’ve got a cat 3 climb (1.7km at 7.5%) cresting with just over 9km to go, and an uphill finish, this will be a challenging day for sprinters who dream of wearing yellow. Some of the GC riders are likely to attack on the climb and see if they can end the day in yellow, but some of the puncheurs will also dream of yellow.
Scenario – reduced sprint.
The opening 50km of the stage is very lumpy, this is a dangerous start for the GC teams. Once things do settle down, everyone will start looking towards the climb up to the finish, which is 4.7km at 4.2%. It’s another tough finish, and this stage has the most climbing of any in the whole race.
Scenario – GC day.
It’s not a flat day, especially the first half. The climbing sprinters will hope their teams can control the break and set up a sprint.
Scenario – reduced bunch sprint.
The final half is tough, constantly up and down. There are three categorised climbs and the final 500m is rather nasty too, yet another tough day in the saddle.\Scenario – borderline GC day.
The cat 3 climbs are not easy, proper little wall climbs. The type of stage depends on the GC position, a strong break will have a chance.
Scenario – breakaway day.
The easiest stage in the race, a nice one for the sprinters.
Scenario – bunch sprint.
The big GC day with Col d’Aspin and Col du Tourmalet. Just 90km in length, but two massive climbs will see enormous gaps on GC.
Scenario – GC day.
The race ends with a relatively long TT, one that only has a couple of climbs. Some of the TT specialists will look to save as much as they can for this stage.
Demi Vollering – she’s won just about everything she wanted to win this year, apart from the Vuelta, where a poorly timed pee break saw her caught out. Vollering dominated the spring, before switching her focus to longer climbs, where she also excels. She was 2nd here last year, but wasn’t close to van Vleuten, this year should be much closer between the big two. SD Worx has an excellent team to support her, Vollering starts as the favourite.
Annemiek van Vleuten – started slowly this year but looked close to her best at the Giro. It’s been a long time since she started a race like this not as the favourite, it’s almost a novelty for her. She was miles ahead of the rest at the Giro, which was a great sign for the Tour, but can she beat Vollering?
Juliette Labous – 4th last year, and after finishing 2nd in the Giro, she should have her sights set on the podium. There’s going to be many riders thinking they can challenge for 3rd place, recent results suggest Labous has the best chance of doing so.
Cecilie Ludwig – the fans favourite, but this year hasn’t been the best. Recent results have been better, she was 4th in the Pyrénées and 6th in the Giro, hopefully she can continue her improvement and challenge for a stage and the top 5 on GC.
Katarzyna Niewiadoma – rarely wins, but she’s incredibly consistent in top level races. She was 3rd last year, and this season after a strong classics campaign she as 3rd in Itzulia and 4th in the Tour de Suisse. Finishing on the podium again will be hard to do, especially with the TT, I would love to see her taking a stage win at some point during the race.
Mavi García – solid top 10 candidate.
Elisa Longo Borghini – crashed out of the Giro, not ideal preparation for this race. If she has managed to recover well, Longo Borghini should be challenging for the podium. The punchy stages are excellent for her, as is the TT, but she’ll struggle to follow the top 2 on the Tourmalet.
Veronica Ewers – another solid top 10 option. After finishing 4th in the Giro, the best result in her short career, confidence will be up, and a stage win is possible.
Silvia Persico – after an incredible 2022, she’s not quite lived up to the high expectations this year. She did win De Brabantse Pijl, but I was expecting more from her in the Giro, 8th on GC was a slight disappointment. She was 5th here last year, to achieve a similar result will require a significant improvement in form.
Ashleigh Moolman – was meant to retire at the end of last year, but decided to keep going, she’s still too good to step off the bike. Moolman had to abandon last year; she’ll have some extra motivation to put on a show this time round. Her form is good, the top 5 on GC is a realistic ambition.
Riejanne Markus – she’ll be delighted with the addition of the TT, especially given the length of it. Markus is a strong climber, but there are better. Her plan will be to limit her losses on the Tourmalet and look to gain big time in the TT. I think the podium is calling.
Marta Cavalli – it’s taken her a long time to get back to near her best, but a stage win in the Pyrénées was a big step in the right direction. Cavalli is a magnificent climber, if she’s at her best she’s the only one who can follow the big two on the Tourmalet, fingers crossed she can hit that level.
Given the season she’s had, it’s going to be a win for Demi Vollering.