By David Hunter
Creches sur Saone – Chalmazel 168km
A much harder day in the saddle.
It’s not a mountain top finish, so this will interest quite a lot of the peloton.
The day isn’t the hardest but ends with a long climb split into two sections.
Although long, this climb is not difficult enough to remove the puncheurs, especially with only 4 weeks to go until the Tour. Riders are just about on top form, they would be shocked to get dropped here.
We are still without big time gaps, so Tinkoff will control the early part of the race. There should be no shortage of other teams wanting to help, as this stage is wide open. Once on the final climb, we should see lots of attacks. It is possible for a few riders to surprise the bunch and deny us a big finish, but they can’t be a threat for the overall title. It really should be an exciting finish to the race.
Edvald Boasson Hagen – after an impressive start to 2016, EBH returned to winning ways in the Tour of Norway. He is an excellent climber and shouldn’t be worried about this hill. Remember he was very close to beating Wout Poels, Tour of Britain hill finish, in 2015. His move to Dimension Data has been a big success but he is yet to take a world tour win. Could this be it?
Michal Kwaitkowski – a solid prologue was a welcome return to form for the former world champion. At his best, he has everything required to win this stage. However, he will need Team Sky to set a fast pace on the climb and remove some of the faster finishers. He is a bold rider, so expect to see a late attack if the fast men are still there.
Julian Alaphilippe – seems that he can do everything! Won the Tour of California and was close to upsetting the big guns in the prologue. Despite all of his wonderful performances, he is yet to win a world tour race. He has a very fast uphill kick and will certainly be a worry to the other riders. Etixx know how to win races!
Alexis Vuillermoz – watch out for a late attack! This is a tactic Vuillermoz has used to great effect in other races, most noticeably, when winning on Mur de Bretagne in the 2015 Tour de France.
Simon Gerrans – perfect stage for him. Orica are here for stages and Gerrans has two chances for victory. I don’t expect to see him near the front until the very end, no doubt, guided into position by Daryl Impey. Gerrans started the season with a bang, but has been poor since. He is out of contract at the end of the season, so he could do with a few wins!
Tony Gallopin – the classy Frenchman is in the same position as Vuillermoz. It is doubtful he is fast enough to sprint for victory, so needs to attack near the finish. He’s a hugely popular rider and the home fans will be delighted if he wins.
Tom-Jelte Slagter – I find myself very frustrated with the Dutchman. He has all the quality in the world, but rarely shows it these days. It is only 2 years since his double stage win in Paris-Nice, but since that point, he has been very quiet. I know he won 2 stages in the 2015 Tour of Alberta, but that’s the Tour of Alberta! Time for someone to have a difficult conversation with him.
Enrico Gasparotto – his prologue was sensational! 14th place, 46 seconds behind Contador, was way better than what I thought he was capable of. The 34 year old has enjoyed a sensational season, especially his win in Amstel Gold. Another big win would be wonderful for Wanty.
Greg van Avermaet – after a little rest, he was back performing well in California. He then won a local race during the week, in preparation for the Dauphine. He should be able to survive the climb and has one of the fastest sprints of the riders mentioned. He is such a good rider and eventually has developed the horrible habit of winning!
Another humid day with a good chance of thunderstorms at the end of the stage. That should make it fun!
Get An Eye On
Valerio Conti – a rider bang in form. He played a crucial role in helping Diego Ulissi to two stage wins in the Giro. His 18th place in the prologue shows that he left the Giro with good legs. Conti has a solid uphill sprint and is a rider the others shouldn’t underestimate.
I think it’s going to be hard to hold the race together in the closing kilometres. A late attack should be the order of the day and I’ll go with Tony Gallopin.
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