By David Hunter
Albertville – Plateau De Solaison 115km
What a day we are in for.
The organisers have continued with the trend in cycling of having a short stage to finish the race. The stage is only 115km long, but features no flat kilometres and four categorised climbs. It’s one of those crazy days where anything can happen.
The bunch climb from the gun, before starting the long grind to the Col des Saisies. This cat 1 climb is 15.1km at 6.4%. The climb is long, making it perfect for the attacks to start. Once over the top, there is around 15km of descent, before we start to think about the next climb.
Col des Aravis is 6.6km at 6.9% and has been given cat 2 status. The length and gradient of the climb is actually more like a cat 1 climb, sorry peloton! After just 12km of descending, the next climb starts. The Col de la Colombiere is 11.3km at 6.1% and gets steeper near the top.
The gap between this and the final climb is quite long, compared to what has already been completed. It could deter riders from attacking on the Colombiere, especially as the final climb is a monster.
11.3km at 9.2% sounds horrible. The beginning of the climb is the hardest section, with kilometres at 10%, 7.3%, 11.1% and 11.3%. This will blow the field apart, or what is left of it!
These short stages don’t always favour the escape artists. If we get a fast moving bunch, it can be very difficult for the break to establish a big enough advantage. That won’t stop some from trying. Due to the immediate climbing, only climbers can be successful from the morning move.
Another beautiful day for cycling.
Richie Porte – I’m running out of words for Richie. After dropping most today, he has all but secured the yellow jersey, continuing his brilliant season. Another good performance in this stage and he’ll be installed as the favourite for the Tour de France. Looks like BMC pulled off a masterstroke by signing the Tasmanian. He won’t be overly concerned about taking the stage, but if it’s there, he’ll take it.
Chris Froome – more questions about his form after he dropped time today. Porte attacked him and Froome looked vulnerable. This is not the Chris Froome we know, it looks like his decline has started. Froome has been at the very top of his game since 2012, it had to come to an end at some point. Is that time now?
Romain Bardet – has been at his attacking best in this race, if only he could sort out his TT position. He now sits 2:07 behind Porte and 52s behind the podium. Make no mistake, he will go, all guns blazing! I think we’ll see the Frenchman try a “Contador”. There is no real need for Porte to chase, it will be up to Astana to close down any move. It would be nice to see Bardet’s attacking riding being rewarded with a stage win.
Jakob Fuglsang – I can’t remember even seeing the Dane in such good form. Sitting just 13s behind Chris Froome, he has a good chance of finishing this race in 2nd place. He already has a stage win, he doesn’t need to go chasing another. Expect to see Fuglsang following wheels and hoping that Froome can’t.
Fabio Aru – Astana are in a great position, they have Fuglsang in 3rd and Aru in 4th. This should free Aru to attack. We have already seen that he is back to his very best and I think Astana will try and take advantage of their numerical advantage. Exposing Porte will be very difficult, he simply seems too strong just now.
Alberto Contador – a better day today for the Spaniard. It was good to see him try to follow the move of Porte, even if he couldn’t quite keep the wheel. It does seem that he is easing his way into top form, but I think he won’t be able to help himself in this stage. Contador is brilliant in these short stages, I think we’ll see him as one of the main protagonists. He currently sits in 7th, but he won’t be overly concerned with the GC, a stage win will be his aim.
Pierre Latour – breakaway hopeful number 1.
Dani Navarro – breakaway hopeful number 2.
Ruben Fernandez – breakaway hopeful number 3.
I think we’ll see AG2R blow the race to pieces. They have a rider in amazing form and I see them pulling back the break and setting up a win for Romain Bardet, with Richie Porte taking the yellow jersey.
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