By David Hunter
Saint Paul Trois Châteaux – Salon de Provence 198km
We enter the mountains, beginning with Mont Ventoux.
I really am disappointed to see Ventoux so early in the stage. TV viewers won’t be able to see it. They don’t climb all the way to the top, instead they come off at Chalet Reynard, making it 9.5km at 9.3%.
With 120km remaining in the stage, how important is Ventoux going to be? That probably depends on Alberto Contador. We all know what an attacking rider he is, it wouldn’t surprise me to see him kicking things off nice and early. The GC favourites know that Michael Matthews is a real threat, they might try and put him into difficulty. Orica will be able to pack the full squad around him, meaning if he is dropped, they could still rejoin the peloton. There is an awfully long way to go, once we crest the Bald Mountain.
The final climb of the day tops out with 18km remaining, it’s 1.7km at 7.2%, another perfect launch pad for a late attack.
In reality, the peloton will not go full gas over Ventoux. Most GC riders will want to have teammates with them, so the pace will be slightly relaxed. Teammates will be incredibly important as we approach the final 20km. Two quick climbs will slim the bunch down some more, leaving a small group to battle it out for the win. A late breaker could stay away, but we could also get a small sprint.
The breakaway experts will also hope for some freedom. If they can build a substantial lead, the terrain is perfect to stay away.
The closing 5km is very easy, except for the double corner with 700m to go. That leaves a finishing straight of 500m. Considering the size of the peloton, this won’t be a problem.
The big question is which sprinters can stay with the peloton, or rejoin it?
Certainly, Michael Matthews is the one that can. I can’t see any of the other quick men being able to cope. Other “sprinters” who might have a chance include JJ Rojas, Julien Simon, Fabio Felline, Sylvain Chavanel, Tom Slagter and Paul Martens. I know, they aren’t really sprinters!
The quickest of the GC riders are Gallopin, Dumoulin and Rui Costa. Tony Gallopin has been very attacking and clearly has good legs, he would love another stage win on home soil.
Looking at the Orica squad, Matthews should be able to count on the support of Albasini, Impey, Txurruka and Yates. That doesn’t leave a lot of men to control the final 30km. With two climbs and a small peloton, the attacking riders will come out to play. It will not be a surprise to see Thomas, Bardet and Contador trying to ride away form the bunch.
Everyone loves a breakaway. Riders who are over 5 minutes down will be allowed some freedom. That includes:-
Pieter Serry, Thomas Voeckler, Thomas De Gendt, Simon Spilak, Adam Hansen, Jerome Cousin, Alexis Gougeard and Dani Diaz.
Their success depends on how the GC riders tackle Ventoux. No one can really predict this type of stage, it’s hard to do! It’s hard to see Matthews getting dropped, so the other GC riders can’t just take him to the line and let him take 10 seconds. They need to think carefully about their tactics.
Gallopin has been one of the most attacking riders in the race, he will try again. His efforts have been impressive, a clear sign of form. When he makes his move will be important, the final climb is a little far out for a solo move. Team Sky will have numbers and they won’t allow any GC riders escape. That’s the problem for Gallopin and co.
What about Swift? Could he? Yes? No? Maybe? I have no idea!
I’m hedge my bets and go for an attacking rider, who can finish well. Cannondale and Tom-Jelte Slagter to get it right.
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