By David Hunter
La Rochette – Meribel 141km
GC battle, round 2!
If today wasn’t enough for you, we have another cracking stage ahead.
We have 3 cat 1 climbs and the monster ascent of Col de la Madeleine. Only 141km long, this is a monster day of climbing.
All of this in the opening 70km of the stage. Best of luck to all the sprinters.
The final climb is might only be a cat 1, but it’s long and comes at the end of a demanding day. This will be hugely difficult for most of the bunch. The last 300m at 11.2% will be a horrible sight for most.
There is every chance that the race explodes on the very first climb of the day. 9.3km at 8.1% is a real hard start to the day and teams will want to see who doesn’t have the legs. Froome demonstrated his power today and the others couldn’t respond, apart from Richie Porte. It really helps when you only weigh 58kg!
Contador will not take this lying down. I expect to see a crazy attack from him, maybe on the Madeleine. He will try and send some riders up the road in the morning break, but Sky are no mugs. They’ll be very watchful and will chase down any move that has Tinkoff riders.
Etixx will look to try and benefit but in all honesty it would be a big surprise to see Dan Martin challenging on these longer climbs. How BMC approach the stage will be fascinating. They are not known for being overly attacking in these type of races, but Porte has a serious chance of winning this race. I hope they don’t just ride for 2nd, Porte needs to remember that he is riding against Froome, not for him.
Adam Yates is the other rider with a big say in the outcome of this race. His team isn’t very strong, so I don’t see him doing anything risky. Yates should just follow wheels and see where that takes him. He really is a talented rider.
The rest of the teams will hope to get some freedom in the morning break.
Chris Froome – was awesome today. After looking like he was in a tiny bit of trouble, he put in a blistering attack. Questions were being asked about his form and he answered them. With Porte only 7 seconds behind, there will be no favours given. Froome will go full gas and try to gain more time before the final stage.
Richie Porte – the only man able to follow Froome’s attack. That will have given him huge confidence and he goes into this stage will a real chance of winning the overall. He knows he can respond to Froome, so I would like to see Porte going for his own big attack. These two riders know each other very well, it will be hard to cause a surprise.
Adam Yates – another sensational performance by him. He just quietly gets on with his work and regularly features on the podium. Another good performance will see him move into the white jersey and maybe even move onto the overall podium.
Alberto Contador – now we’ll see what he’s got! For the first time in 2016, Contador has been well beaten. I really hope he goes for a long range attack to try and put Froome under the maximum possible pressure.
Looks like a rainy day for the peloton.
Keep An Eye On
Alexis Vuillermoz – was in today’s break and is now way down on GC. He is a terrific climber and if over his crash from Tuesday, he should contend for the win, if the break survives.
Romain Bardet – the other AG2R rider who crashed on Tuesday. He climbed very well today and is a little down on GC, so will be allowed freedom on the final climb. AG2R will continue to attack this race and hope for a stage win.
With enormous gaps on GC, the break has a good chance, but it does depend on the attitude of Sky. If Tinkoff try to make the break, they won’t be happy. There are plenty of good climbers far down in the standings. Riders like Hesjedal, Cherel, Vuillermoz, Coppel, Cataldo, Galopin, Fraile and Degand would all be good options. They won’t be happy if someone like Reichenbach tried to join the party. Anyone under 5 minutes will get Sky working hard, so they will not be welcome in the morning move. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen though!
I’m struggling to decide if the break makes it or not. If it does, it’s between the French pairing of Vuillermoz and Gallopin. If the bunch come back, I think Romain Bardet will get enough freedom to escape. That means a French rider is going to win, they will be happy! Decision time…I’ll go with Gallopin.
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