By David Hunter
Sorgues > Malaucène 199.5km
Two times up Mont Ventoux, one from the easier side and last time up is the classic side, then a 20km descent to the finishing line. Looks like another brilliant stage to me.
This stage has the most amount of climbing of any stage in this year’s race, 4686m is an awful lot, but will it be another day for the break?
Sunny and warm with a light headwind at the top of Ventoux. Just like today there is a threat of thunderstorms, we’ll have to see if they actually happen.
The first climb of the day is this cat 4 effort, 1.7km at 7%. It comes after 30km, and the climbers will hope to use it as a launchpad to join the morning break. Also looking to get involved will be Colbrelli and Matthews as the intermediate sprint comes relatively soon after.
Col de la Liguière is the first cat 1 climb of the day. 9.1km at 6.3% isn’t overly difficult, but it’s all about building fatigue in the legs for later.
First time up Ventoux is from Sault, which means a different road to Chalet Reynard, then the exposed section that we all know and love. Once over the top we have a fast descent, but the road is a good one.
The beast in all its glory. Such a hard climb and as usual there is a headwind once the riders get out of the trees. From the crest there is 22km to go, all of which are downhill. To win this stage you must be a brilliant climber, but also a fast descender.
Another breakaway stage? Pogačar is so much stronger than his rivals I don’t see any team chasing down the morning break just to set him up for another win. This might be a little defeatist, but teams need to be realistic and look to the break for stage success.
Where the break establishes will help to determine the riders who make the move. Skinny climbers don’t like it when the move goes away on the flat, it’s hard for them to keep up with the powerhouses, but this is when teammates earn their money. You’ll see riders with big engines, with their climber in the wheel, trying to force the moves. It’s not impossible for climbers to make moves on the flat, they need good legs and teammates to help. Think of teams who don’t have a GC rider, they can commit lots of men to helping their climber make the move.
Once the break goes, we’ll see if anyone fancies chasing it. Realistically there are no threats to Pogačar’s yellow jersey, some teams might want to defend places in the top 10, but at the start of the second week it’s a little early for that behaviour.
The second time up Ventoux is obviously where we’ll see the winning move. It’s an HC climb, so those with eyes on the polka dot jersey will be keen on taking points, which means those chasing stage success can lean on them a little. The headwind in the final 6km is good news for those who aren’t explosive, staying in a small group will be beneficial, especially if you descend well. The downhill isn’t technical, but it is fast. Those who can descend very fast will be able to distance those of a nervous disposition, especially considering the length of the descent.
In the GC group Pogačar will attack and put more time into his rivals, but the battle for the podium will be interesting. Sunday showed that most of these guys are equal just now, but some are building their form and others will be starting to lose a little edge.
Julian Alaphilippe – now out of the GC, he’d love to win the Ventoux stage. There is a lot of climbing in the stage, but he can handle that, especially as the weather will be much nicer. He was in the break on Sunday, but he never performs well in bad weather. The descent to the finish line will be music to his ears, this is a brilliant finish for the world champion.
Simon Yates – was in the break on Friday and Saturday but rolled around on Sunday. After going very deep at the Giro, I was interested to see how his body would react to the first week. The signs have been positive, Friday wasn’t really his cup of tea, but he went well on Saturday, despite not liking the weather conditions. Of all the potential breakaway riders he’s the best climber, he’s another who’d love to win such an iconic stage.
Omar Fraile – he’d need to hang tough on the final climb, possibly using his descending skills to get back to the front of the race, but he has been climbing well in the race.
Mattia Cattaneo – so bloody consistent! His performance at the weekend has brought him back up to 12th on GC, but it’s a stage win he’ll desperately want. He’s riding as well as I can remember, he’ll see this as a chance of taking his first big professional win. He climbs well, he descends well and is deceptively fast in a sprint.
Nairo Quintana – will he waste all his energy chasing KOM points? It looks likely.
Patrick Konrad – he’s looked fairly good in the last few breaks, but just not quite at the level required to challenge for the win. As an experienced rider he’s likely to get stronger as the race goes on.
Dylan Teuns – already has a stage win but can’t be discounted from getting a second. Bahrain are riding very strong just now and the downhill finish suits him better than Poels, but I expect both to try and make the break.
Vincenzo Nibali – this is one of his target stages, but the same can be said for a quarter of the peloton. It’s been quite hard to judge where his form is just now, he looked okay in Friday’s break, but that’s about it. He’ll like the climb, he’ll like the descent, but he needs to arrive solo.
Sepp Kuss – he’s been knocking on the door; the American was in the break on Saturday and Sunday but didn’t manage to challenge for the win. Don’t let that put you off, I expect to see plenty of him in the next two weeks. The downhill finish isn’t perfect for him, but he’ll love the climb, especially the altitude. It’s not just the South American’s that love a bit of altitude.
Tadej Pogačar – is anyone foolish enough to chase the break for him? His level is currently much higher than his nearest rivals, he wins if the break gets caught.
The descent to the line is perfect for a couple of riders, but I’ll take a win for Julian Alaphilippe.
Back-to-back correct predictions from David! Gareth, who’s been contacted via email, has won a Cycle Pal Care Package.
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