By David Hunter
Aoste – Alpe d’Huez 168km
After a big shake up on GC, we are ready for another important day in the battle for yellow.
We finish at the top of Alpe d’Huez, but it’s not the usual route to the top. Instead of heading up the road to the ski station, the riders climb Col de Sarenne, before joining up with the last 3.7km of the famous climb.
The Col de Sarenne is not the hardest climb of the race, but that is mainly due to some shallow sections. The last 7km of the climb is difficult, averaging 7.6%. The final kilometre begs to be attacked, as it is 10.3%.
The problem is that we still have 11km to go, before beginning the drag up to the top of the mountain. This could have a large impact on the race, as riders will not give everything they have on Col de Sarenne, they need to leave some energy in the tank for the finale.
With big gaps on GC, the break has a good chance of staying away. The climbers will hope that the peloton is still altogether, as they approach the cat 2 climb, Col du Cucheron. This climb is 7.7km at 6.1%, making it one for the real climbers. If the break goes at this point, it will be full of the little men!
Soon after, we have the cat 1 climb, Col de Porte. This is 7.5km at 6.7% and will allow the break to establish a big lead. A long section in the valley does follow, this is when the break will be vulnerable. It will be possible for a team to bring them back, but that depends on the tactics of the peloton.
Should stay sunny for the stage. The wind is light, but it is going from the west. That means we will have a headwind for the climb, up to the top of Alpe d’Huez.
Richie Porte – this season has shown that Porte is the master of the 3km climb. He looked in amazing form today, easily pulling the main group up the last kilometres of the mountain. He has a strong team around him, especially Nico Roche, the Irishman man is a great rider for Porte to have. We could see another rerun of today, with Porte arriving with Chris Froome. Friendships will be put to the side, as both men want the win.
Chris Froome – he answered a lot of questions today. He looked good on the climb and brilliant on the descent. I now expect to see Froome grow into the race, he will be better tomorrow and better again on Sunday. The finish isn’t brilliant for him, he would prefer a longer final climb, but we do know he has a fast kick if required.
Fabio Aru – nearly left me with some explaining to do! I did question if we would ever see his 2015 level again, today was very close to that standard. If he has really returned to that level, he is a man to watch. He sits a little further down on GC, but he won’t get any favours.
Alejandro Valverde – the finish is perfect for Bala. As I suspected, he did suffer do the difficulty of the climb, and a rather silly early attack. Who says he’s a wheel sucker? If he can survive with the front group, over the top of the penultimate climb, he is the favourite to win the stage.
Dan Martin – nearly managed to follow the move of Porte and Froome. He put in a huge effort, but was just distanced as the riders neared the top of Mont du Chat. Like Valverde, this finish is great for him. The Irishman is a big fan of the shorter climbs.
Alberto Contador – suffered a bit today, but he can never be written off. Contador is here to get some good feelings ahead of the Tour, but he would love a stage win too. Now a little further down on GC, he could benefit from Froome and Porte marking each other. A fan of a long range attack, I think he’ll try and move on Col de Sarenne.
Kristijan Durasek – breakaway hopeful number 1. Good climber and recently won a stage of the Tour of Croatia.
Tony Gallopin – breakaway hopeful number 2. Lost time today and didn’t go deep. The Frenchman is brilliant breakaway rider and would love to take a win in France.
Roman Kreuziger – breakaway hopeful number 3. Yates and Chaves are not in contention to win the overall, that should free some Orica riders up to attack.
The break to take the win, with Tony Gallopin making the French very happy! Back in the GC group, expect Froome and Porte to arrive together.
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