Tour de France 2021 – Stage 18 preview

By David Hunter

Pau > Luz Ardiden 130km

We head to the Spanish mountain.

The start of the stage looks flat, but there’s two little kickers that will get the climbers excited. They don’t last long, but it’s possible the break forms here and it’s big. After that the race will settle down until we reach the Tourmalet. Then it’s a fast descent before the Spanish mountain. Okay, we’re not in Spain, but this climb has been won by Samu Sánchez, Roberto Laiseka, Miguel Indurain, Laudelino Cubino and Pedro Delgado. Will we get another Spanish winner this year?

The stage is only 130km in length, which could make it difficult for the break to get a big gap, but they don’t always need one in a stage like this. Think back to Nibali’s win, 2019 stage 20, his gap at the foot of the final climb was barely 2 minutes, if memory serves me correctly.

Weather

It should be drier than previous stages, but the temperature will still be relatively cool for this time of year.

Key Points

After just 4km the road starts to rise. This is unclassified but does contain some steep points and leads straight into the classified climb.

2.5km at 5.9%, the climbers would like it to be longer, but they’ll just have to hit it hard.

The Tourmalet, such a beautiful mountain. Long and steep.

The stage finishes with Luz Ardiden, 13.1km at 7.5%. It’s nasty in the middle, narrow and twisty.

Tactics

Will the breakaway win? Probably.

Pogačar is too strong. Ineos are weak. Jumbo-Visma don’t have enough riders. Urán lost time today. I don’t see anyone wanting, or able, to chase the morning break. We’ll see a big fight to make the move, it could take some time for the right move to get away. Despite the look of the start, I think we’ll see a large break with lots of strong climbers, who’ll stay away until the end.

Back in the GC group we’ll see Ineos trying to help Carapaz secure a podium spot, I think he’d like more time on Urán. Pogačar and Vingegaard are looking very strong, they’ll likely finish together, but they might want to drop Carapaz after his actions today.

One thing to watch out for the intermediate sprint point. Matthews is 36 points behind Cavendish, he has to try something.

Contenders

Alejandro Valverde – he’d love to win on the Spanish mountain. I know he usually suffers at altitude, but that wasn’t the case on Sunday. With Tokyo just over a week away I think he’d like one last effort in the legs.

Ion Izagirre – he’s Basque, but he’d also love to win on the Spanish mountain.

David Gaudu – amazing today, his form is getting better and better. If he makes the break, he’ll be the favourite to win the stage.

Michael Woods – he’s still going for the polka dot jersey; the best way would be to win the stage. I do have concerns about how much energy he’s already used up in the race.

Dylan Teuns – his performance today was brilliant; he’d love a second stage win.

Sergio Higuita – another who impressed today. I hope EF allow the Colombian to attack, winning a stage would be better than staying with Urán.

Mattia Cattaneo – he deserves a win, but probably won’t.

Tadej Pogačar – how much does he want a third stage? He was impressive today, as was his team, but I doubt he wants to hunt down another stage.

Jonas Vingegaard – so good today, he’ll be very unhappy with how Carapaz approached the closing stages. His form deserves a stage win, but Jumbo-Visma don’t have the team to chase the break. He’ll have to hope that someone else does this, setting him up in the process.

Prediction Time

The break to take another win, I don’t see anyone wanting to chase. I’ll take a win for David Gaudu, with Pogačar and Vingegaard cementing 1st and 2nd on GC.

 

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David Hunter

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