Clermont-Ferrand > Mauriac 152km
This day has more climbing in it than any other in the race, it might not have a big mountain, but 2675m of climbing over 152km is going to test the legs and should see some gaps on GC.
Headwind for almost the whole day, and the weather looks a bit dodgy. It’s going to be cloudy, but there’s a real chance of thunderstorms and heavy rain.
This is the start; I’m hoping for fireworks. The opening 4km isn’t a classified climb, but it averages 7%, making it much harder than a lot of the classified climbs in the race. The road then continues to roll for the next 40km, with lots of little kickers. It’s a very hard start to the day.
This is the cat 2 climb, Côte des Plaines. 5.4km at 4.9% is hard enough to drop many riders, but from the crest there’s still 46km to go.
This is the final 5km, it’s going to be a challenge. 5km at 4.3% will lead to gaps at the finish, this is an important day for the GC riders.
I’m disappointed to see a headwind, I had hoped for GC moves in the opening 40km, but the wind will likely put the main contenders off attacking. Despite the wind, the start is still good for those wanting to form a strong break, but it must include the right mix of teams if it wants to succeed. It’s one of those starts where anything could happen, it depends on how the teams want to race it. I expect SD Worx to try and get into the break, that will allow the team to sit back and save energy for the finale, but all the other teams will surely be wise to this move, but will they have the legs to stop someone like Reusser from getting away from the peloton? The wind is the issue, I hope it doesn’t neutralise the stage.
With 26km to go, there’s a bonus climb (1km at 5.6%) with 8 seconds on offer, we’ll have to see if the break scopes this up. With only one mountain stage, bonus seconds are very important in the fight for the yellow jersey, but I don’t like the position of this sprint.
Whether the break survives or not, we’ll get a GC fight on the final climb. Expect to see moves from van Vleuten and Vollering, it’s the first chance to test each other and go head-to-head. Will anyone else be able to follow? As the climb is relatively short, I would hope a few of their rivals can go with them, it would be good for the race for us to have several riders still in the GC fight before the Tourmalet stage.
Demi Vollering – this is a brilliant stage for Vollering, it’s a day where SD Worx can use their strength to put everyone else under pressure. The punchy finish is one she’ll like, but it’s not a foregone conclusion she wins a GC sprint, it’s much better for her if the team can make it a hard race and make everyone burn vital energy.
Annemiek van Vleuten – this type of stage is one that van Vleuten has won many times in her career, including the recent Giro, but she wasn’t up against Vollering in that race. Movistar need to be careful in this stage, they can’t allow SD Worx to get riders up the road, putting pressure on them. The final climb up to the line should suit van Vleuten, and this is where she’ll want to put the pressure on and test everyone’s legs, we’ll have to see if she can drop Vollering or not.
Elisa Longo Borghini – the punchy finish is perfect for the Italian; this is a stage she’ll have marked in the road book. The climbing in the stage is good for her, as is the rise to the line. Longo Borghini has a very fast sprint finish; she’ll be hoping that Lidl – Trek can control the stage and set us up for a big finish.
Cecilie Uttrup Ludwig – I’m interested to see how she goes in this stage; I think it’s a good one for her. Her season hasn’t been great, but recent signs have been positive and she should enjoy the punchy finish.
Marlen Reusser – you can bet that she’ll be looking to attack and win from the break. This stage reminds me of a classics race, and Reusser has shown to be one of the best classics riders in the world. SD Worx love to attack, expect to see Reusser go for it and see what happens, safe in the knowledge that they have Vollering waiting behind.
Lotte Kopecky – she was magnificent today; I wonder what will happen in this stage. Go for the break, wait for a sprint or set up Vollering? It depends on what happens in the opening 50km.
Elise Chabbey – another rider who’ll be looking to jump in a break. Chabbey loves to attack, for her, it’s about sniffing out the right move.
Grace Brown – loves to attack and could have freedom as she’s not a contender for the yellow jersey.
The headwind should kill of the hopes of the breakaway.
I think we’ll see a GC sprint at the end and a win for Demi Vollering.