By David Hunter
Le Parc Des Oiseaux Villars Les Dombes – La Motte Servolex 147.5km
It’s time for some fun.
In true Dauphine fashion, the organisers have tried to give the riders a sneak preview of Tour de France stage 9, featuring Mont du Chat. This is renowned as the hardest climb in France and hasn’t featured in the Tour since the 1970s. I cannot wait to see how the riders deal with it.
8.7km at 10.3% is simply brutal. The climb does crest with 15.5km remaining, making it likely that a solo rider will not win. We have seen in previous races, when we don’t get a mountaintop finish, we often have small groups of riders coming together for the finish.
The descent from Mont du Chat is very technical, with lots of hairpin bends. The downhill finishes with 2km to go, that is good news for riders that want to fly down the descent and test the skills of some of their rivals!
Should be a sunny day for the riders, but there is always a threat of a thunderstorm at this time of year.
Chris Froome – we seem to be entering unchartered territory for Froome. His TT was below par, losing time to Porte, Valverde and Contador. That will have a put a seed of doubt in his mind, something we are not used to. Are we witnessing the decline of a great champion? It is still too early to say, but this stage will answer a lot of questions. As it’s not a mountaintop finish, I would be astonished to see Froome getting dropped. His descending has improved beyond belief in the last few years, he will have no fear of putting Porte under pressure.
Richie Porte – the descent, and any possible sprint, is bad news for the little Tasmanian Devil. If he’s going to win this stage, he needs to drop everyone on the climb. He is climbing very well, but that will still be difficult to do. This is not a typical “Richie Porte” stage.
Alejandro Valverde – perfect stage for the Spaniard, but he would prefer an easier climb. The great man can suffer when the gradient rises above 10% for a number of kilometres, but his form his better than ever, maybe he will flourish. The descent and possible sprint is brilliant for him, he is easily the fastest finisher of the GC favourites. Can he hang tough on the climb?
Alberto Contador – I’m really interested to see what Contador brings to the party. He has been in great form this season, but is yet to win. He has spoken about coming here under cooked, in an effort to be at 100% for the Tour. Saying that, he will not simply roll up the mountain, this is Alberto Contador! The difficulty of the climb is great news for him, it is ideal for his bobbing style. A rider that loves climbing out of the saddle, he should be at home on Mont du Chat. A terrific descender, he will also have a chance to attack on the downhill.
Dan Martin – loves the steep stuff! His TT was encouraging and I think he’ll be harbouring hopes of finishing on the overall podium. He also possesses a fast finish, he would be happy to try and sprint for the stage win.
Romain Bardet – how will he bounce back from a poor TT? His public will be expecting a big response, I did wonder how he would cope with this pressure. He can climb with the best and isn’t scared of a fast descent, but he’ll need his best legs of the season.
Simon Yates – the Bury boy continues to impress. His top 20 in the TT was a decent result and he now has eyes on moving up the GC. In doing so, he might take the white jersey, but that won’t be a big target for Yates. He is a rider capable of challenging for the stage win and will hope to finish the race in the top 5. Can he add to his total of three wins in 2017?
Fabio Aru – no.
I think we’ll see a few teams controlling the race and ending the hopes of the break. Despite the difficulty of the climb, we should see a small group of favourites approach the line together. That gives a rider a great chance of escaping in the last couple of kilometres and taking the win, especially as everyone will lean on Valverde. In this scenario, I’ll pick Dan Martin as my winner, with no gaps between the top 5 GC riders.
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