By David Hunter
Pas De La Case > Saint-Gaudens 169km
Sound the claxon, it’s another breakaway day.
The day starts with a 19km neutral zone, all of which is downhill. This takes the peloton down from 2000m of altitude back to normality. The downhill continues after the flag drops, the opening 40km will fly by. If the break goes here it’s going to be full of rouleurs, the climbers will be praying the moves are shut down and the break forms on the first climb of the day.
Much cooler than previous stages and the rain is back. We’ll see if any of the big riders have problems with the sudden change in conditions.
The Col du Port is 15.4km at 4.9%, but is this the point where the break gets away?
Col de la Core is 13.5km at 6.4%. This is the only cat 1 climb in the stage, will any of the KOM challengers be in the break? A fast and technical descent follows before the main event of the day.
Col de Portet-d’Aspet is 5.7km at 6.7%, but the final 2km is very demanding, always above 10%. The descent is short, but technical. At this point there is just under 30km to go, a solo attack could succeed, but it’s unlikely.
600m at 8.7% and it crests with just 7km to go. It begs to be attacked.
The finish isn’t flat either! The last 400m averages 8.4%, a finish that suits the puncheurs.
100% this is another breakaway day, but where the break forms will have a big impact on who wins the race. Given the way the recent stages have gone, it’s likely the break will form on the cat 2 climb. It’s a hard climb, but still one that the puncheurs will like, meaning the break will be a lovely mix of climbers and punchy riders.
Once the break goes things will settle down. The cat 1 climb is quite hard, but it’s a long way from home. The climbers in the break would love to use it as a launchpad, but this is a very risky strategy with nearly 70km still to go. The fireworks will have to be saved for the Col de Portet-d’Aspet, but this is a climb the puncheurs would expect to survive.
Then we have the little cat 4 climb near the finish, and the rise to the line, this is a complicated finish. Teams that have multiple riders in the front group will have a big advantage, remember that every breakaway stage has been won by a solo attack, quite unusual for a race like this. The big teams will be looking to get multiple riders in the break, they know this boosts their chances of success. To win this stage you need to be a decent climber, a great descender and having a fast finish helps too.
Back in the GC group, they’ll be happy for an easy day, the perfect way to ease them into the third week.
Deceuninck – Quick Step – Alaphilippe, Asgreen and Cattaneo are their best options for a stage like this. Alaphilippe took a brilliant win in the opening stage, but he burned a lot of matches in the second week and got nothing back. The rest day came at the right time for him, I sense he’s got another win in him. Asgreen has been active in the breakaway stages, he’ll try again in this one. Cattaneo has been nothing short of sensational, he deserves a stage win for his attacking riding.
Bahrain – Mohorič, Teuns and Colbrelli are their best options. After a brilliant first week, the second week was a little quieter for Bahrain, how will they respond in the third week? All three are perfect for this type of stage and they must have riders in the break to protect their lead in the team classification. One more thing, keep an eye out for Bilbao, he might try and jump in the break to move up the GC.
Trek-Segafredo – they’ve consistently hit the breaks throughout the race, expect to see more of them in the coming week. Stuyven, Mollema and Elissonde are good options for this stage. I’ve been impressed by the domestique work of Elissonde, I hope he gets the chance to chase personal glory.
Astana – we’re not too far from Spain, step forward Fraile and Aranburu. Both riders are in great form, both riders climb well, both riders descend like a stone and both riders have a fast sprint. This is a perfect stage for both.
EF Education – Nippo – another team with an embarrassment of riches for this stage. They have Cort, Valgren, Higuita and Guerreiro as potential winners. I could make an argument for all of them winning this stage, the finish is perfect for both Cort and Higuita.
Movistar – Valverde and García are their best options for this stage. Valverde is at the race to support Mas, and to prepare for Tokyo. He looked very good on Sunday; we’ll have to see if this stage is one he wants to go deep in. García has the punch required for the final 50km, he came to the race in fine form. Neither are big favourites, but they could surprise.
Wout Van Aert – he can do it all and the form seems to be building. He’s now looking to try and get the polka dot jersey, making this break would certainly help that. If he’s the only Jumbo-Visma rider in the break, it will be very hard for him to win, I think the team will try and send Teunissen to help him. Even for a rider as talented as Van Aert making the break isn’t easy, he tried the day Mollema won, but couldn’t break the elastic. When he goes, everyone else wants to jump on his wheel, that makes it tough.
Lukas Pöstlberger – came into the race in great shape and now has freedom to chase personal glory. He has the power required to make the break and he has the ability to finish it off. Both he and Konrad would love to make the front of the race, both have what it takes to win.
It’s a very hard stage to predict as getting in the break requires a lot of good fortune. We’re not too far from the Spanish border, I’ll take a win for Alex Aranburu.
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