By David Hunter
Saint Bonnet en Champsaur – Villard de Lans 183km
After the fireworks of today, we have another big day. Team Sky, blew Nibali and Valverde away but Froome lost ground to Van Garderen. He must have been feeling very strong, to attack from that distance. It now looks like an error, as it allowed Van Garderen to gain some more time. Romain Bardet was spectacular, all of France will be hoping he can move into yellow.
The stage is hard but not ridiculous. We have some minor climbs, but the cat 1 climb will see the first action of the day.
As usual, expect to see, Team Sky setting the pace. They seriously reduced the peloton today and will try to use the same tactic again. Froome is a massive 41 seconds down on Van Garderen, with Intxausti and Bardet in between. With Simon Yates, 2 seconds behind Froome, I would say that the winner of the GC, comes from these men.
Between the cat 1 climb and the final ascent, we have some unclassified bumps. This makes the closing 50km, hard on the legs. The race finishes with 2.2km at 6.2%. When the riders go under the flamme rouge, the road is around 10% and continues on for 400m, before becoming easier. This is a hard finish.
Same as today, it should really suit Valverde and Rodriguez. The won’t get dropped on the cat 1 climb and the final climb is too short for them to lose ground. They will be at the head of the race, at the right time. It should be a case of which Spaniard can finish the job off.
With the Queen stage taking place on Saturday, this is a great chance for the break. The big teams will want to save energy, so the break might be allowed to go. As it’s Friday, with a greater TV audience,Thomas Voeckler might come out to play. Tommy V, loves playing to the crowd and the bigger, the better. This is an ideal stage for him, as he doesn’t really enjoy the high mountains. Europcar have been very active and will certainly try to make the break.
There are plenty of riders, way down on GC. Despite the cat 1 climb, you don’t need to be a super climber to make the break. To win the stage, having an explosive uphill kick, would be an advantage. Contenders are:- Benoot, Alaphilippe, Hansen, Edet, Busche, Jeannesson, Serpa, Wyss, A Yates and Bouet. In all honesty, half the peloton will fancy their chances in this stage.
With lots of riders falling out of the GC picture, most teams will want to be in the break. In the peloton, it will be up to BMC to control the race. The stage is perfect for the Spaniards, so Movistar and Katusha would be expected to work, but with both riders not looking 100%, they might go for the break instead.
The nature of the final climb, means the top riders on GC should all finish together. We could see a little split, but only a handful of seconds. I would expect Team Sky, to control the finish of the race. The little kick, isn’t perfect for Froome, but neither is it great for Van Garderen. This stage shouldn’t alter the GC picture.
I’m going for the breakaway. It’s Friday, with plenty of fans on the road and watching on TV. The French teams and riders will be under strict instructions to make the break. There is a chance of rain, which should only add to their hopes, so I’m going with Tommy V.
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