By David Hunter
Grenoble – Valmorel 129.5km
Day 2 of the Dauphiné.
On paper, this is the easiest of the mountain stages, but it still features a very challenging climb. The day begins with an immediate climb, but it only lasts for 3km. We then have around 10km of flat before hitting the next climb, this time it’s 3.7km at 6.8%. We might not see the morning break get away until this point, but there is no guarantee.
When the break is eventually given the green light, the riders can start to think about the climb to Valmorel.
It might lack the 10% sections of some climbs, but this is still going to be a huge challenge. 12.7km at 7% is perfect for the true mountain climbers, they can create some sizeable gaps and drop many of the punchy climbers.
Despite having two more stages in the mountains, this looks like being the last stage most riders can win. The weekend stages are short and favour the GC riders, this could be the day for the breakers. The initial climbs will give the climbers hope of making the move, but if it goes on the flat, we could see a break without a recognised climber. It will not be an easy move to make.
The easiest day for the DSs. This stage is all about the final climb and a full peloton will hit the bottom slopes. Domestiques will then be tasked with staying in the bunch as long as possible, to help support their leader. On the front, Team Sky will be challenged, but they have so much power it is hard to see another team wrestle control from them.
As Sky will have a number of domestiques left deep into the climb, it makes little sense for GC riders to attack early. Expect to see the same as today, with the big attacks coming late. This might frustrate fans, but it is the right thing to do. Early attacks can be saved until the weekend!
Another hot day with a chance of thunderstorms, very similar to today.
Geraint Thomas – never looked in any danger today. Seemed to cover the Dan Martin attack with ease and when he crossed the line he looked like he had plenty in the tank. This is his moment to stamp his authority on the race and potentially grab Tour de France leadership. One word of concern, he’s never won a big mountain stage before. Sky have the numbers to control the final climb and Thomas doesn’t need to attack, thanks to his commanding advantage on GC. He can cover moves and then take advantage in the closing metres.
Romain Bardet – won’t have been thrilled at losing 4 seconds to Thomas. Pierre Latour did a huge pull for his leader, but the finish didn’t really suit him. This long climb to Valmorel is much more to his liking and he knows that he must put some time into Geraint Thomas. The pressure is on, can he deliver?
Julian Alaphilippe – the Frenchman has never won a mountain stage in Europe, only in California and Colombia. This length of climb isn’t ideal for him, but the easy day could allow him a chance of taking the win. Arriving fresh, he has a small chance of hanging with the climbers when the attacks start to fly.
Dan Martin – very impressive today, there was no shame in losing that finish to Alaphilippe. It’s hard to say if this climb suits him better, he can be a little inconsistent on longer climbs. Was today his big chance for a stage win?
Thomas De Gendt – standard breakaway pick.
Dylan Teuns – now way down on GC, he’ll be free to attack.
Nicolas Edet – excellent current form, but he rides for Cofidis and they don’t win many mountain stages.
Fabio Felline – recovering from illness/injury and has free licence to attack. If the break goes on the flat, he’s exactly the type of rider who can win.
AG2R seem keen on a stage win and they could be lured into chasing. If the break comes back, I think we’ll see Geraint Thomas take a big win. This type of climb is well suited to him.
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