With the stage preview done and dusted, let’s take a look at the changes that could impact the race.
It is likely to be the most important day in Denmark hence the big probability of crosswinds on the Great Belt Bridge. As of now, it does not look windy enough to create any chaos but there is a chance it could change. The main problem is – if everyone knows the big probability of echelons, will they actually be ready for it?
A day on the cobbles. I think some teams are ready to exploit the terrain while others will hope to limit the damage. Nonetheless, there will be crashes and punctures – we will just have to see the victims afterward. These are not the most difficult cobblestones, but you can still lose the Tour de France on this day.
The first big mountain test. Galibier into Col du Granon – finishing 2400 meters above sea level. It is just a short and brutal stage and add in Télégraphe before that. This is the first real mountain stage. Here, we will see who will not win. Does anyone want to attack early? Today is the day.
A difficult day with close to 1000 climbing meters more than the day before. We had an almost equal day in Dauphiné, seeing time gaps with an easier climb at the end. With the valleys in mind, I think everything will come down to Alpe d’Heuz
I will not say it is an easy day, but I will not call it a race-defining day either. It does not really get that steep before Peuregudes. In 2017, we had a group of 8 riders going into the airport landing strip and we had time gaps up to 27 seconds. It makes for a fantastic finale but not very big time gaps. That day, they also had a different ascent.
Col d’Aubisque, Col de Spandelles and Hautacam. A brilliant stage – just a bit odd with the flat start. Hautacam is a brilliant climb – one so late into a Grand Tour to perhaps breaking one last GC contender. All of the climbing is in the last 84 km of the day – it will be a very demanding stage.
The long TT. 40 km flat. I assume the best to do it around the 50 minutes. Expect huge time gaps between GC riders with a good TT and their rivals without.
The three most important mountain top finishes and the time trial.
Now, bare in mind, to remember accumulated fatigue when you see these climbs.
The first is stage 11: Col du Granon.
It is the highest finishing point in a Tour de France stage in 25 years. Before the climb, they do Col du Télégraphe (11.9 km – 7.1%) and Col du Galibier (17.7 km – 6.9%). The stage has a total of 4000 climbing meters, but it is just 152 km long. Narrowly the hardest mountain top finish if you look at the numbers. Now add in fatigue and 2400 meters above sea level and you start to understand, just how important this stage is.
Stage 12: Alpe d’Huez.
The day after Col du Granon. This is Bastille day, so expect a lot of Frenchman want to join the morning breakaway. It is the stage with the most climbing meters – 4700 in total. The finish is very similar to the day before, there are just 700 climbing meters more and the fatigue from yesterday. You can not have an off-day in the Alps.
Stage 18: Hautacam.
The last mountain top finish. 3800 meters of climbing in 144 km. Absolutely brutal. With Col d’Aubisque (16.4 km – 7.1%) and Col de Spandelles (10.3 km – 8.3%) and seventeen stages ridden beforehand, this is the last big battle in the mountains. This is also the stage that will tell us a whole lot about who will do well in the time trial. Who still has something left in the tank.
What these three climbs have in common are the length and gradients. Looking at records, it is about a 40:00 minute effort on all three climbs – perhaps even faster regarding the three best climbers in the world will push each other to the absolute limit.
Now, the time trial is one of the four most important stages. 40 km is retro – and I do like it.
It is really all about the power in the first 35 km. After that, we have two hills inside the last five km. If you have miscalculated, you are in for a hard time. Just think back to 2018, when Romain Bardet had nothing left in the tank and almost lost his podium spot. It would have been more interesting to see the TT after the two mountain stages in the Pyrenees. Instead, they have a flat stage in between to rest up a bit.
Pogacar – the two time defending champion. He sure did get a warm welcome in Copenhagen and it is hard to dislike the guy. What’s most important is having fun, something that resulted in a big applause in Tivoli. With Majka, Soler, Bennett and Hirschi to help him in the mountains, I would say he is well protected. Majka and Bennett are not being spoken highly enough about – both seem strong right now. He is fast after a hard day in a sprint, he can do cobbles and he can do a good TT. He is the favorite.
Jumbo-Visma with two guys. If we kick off with the second Slovenian, then we know he is the closest we yet have seen to beat Pogacar. He almost had it the year he lost in the TT but it shows he can. To me, Roglic has been a bit weaker than usual seasons. Is that part of the plan, to save energy a bit more? I think it is. I think we will see a prime Primoz Roglic – and that is not easy to beat either. Vingegaard – the man burst into tears earlier, overwhelmed by the support from us cheering in the crowds. He looked stronger than Roglic in Criterium du Dauphiné and he distanced Pogacar on Mont Ventoux last year. I think he poses a bigger threat than Roglic.
INEOS with G, Martinez and Yates. Now, G is looking better than I can remember for some time. He will have no problems with the TTs, the cobblestones or potential echelons, but I do think he is a level under the three best in the world. Martinez is the man I have the highest thoughts for. I think he will have a brilliant Tour de France and he found a good rhythm in Tour de Suisse after suffering from the heat the first days. He has been battling it out with some of the best all year – it is his Tour de France to perform outstanding and to give him sole leadership in the future. Adam Yates, flying a bit under the radar. Did well against Pogacar on Jebel Hafeet as always in UAE Tour but has not found the level since. He also got Covid-19 at Tour de Suisse and it hit him hard. He is unsure how well he is going, not a good sign.
Ben O’Connor – 4th last year, something he would be very happy to do again. I think we will see him fighting for the podium but I do not see him finishing on it. He has been great in both Romandie and Dauphiné but he will have difficulties following the two Slovenians and Vingegaard. He will be battling for a top-5. His lack of support is also a big worry.
Vlasov – another recent member of the Covid club. It is just not a good sign. He has had his best season ever but covid seems to have destroyed it at the worst possible moment. Luckily for him, it seems the first big battles in the Alps are some race days away which means he can gradually get into form as the race goes on. He has improved his punch and his TT level too. He would have been a podium threat, but now I think he will fight for the positions right under.
Bahrain – Victorious with Haig and Caruso. Both had trouble in Dauphiné, but stage races and Grand Tours are two different things. We saw in the Giro d’Italia 2021 how well Caruso can perform in the last week of a Grand Tour. I think Jack Haig is a level behind the best in climbing – I think it would be fair to say. Both will be fighting for a top-10 spot.
Enric Mas – crashed in Dauphiné before withdrawing. Not the optimal run-in. Mas is also a rider that excels in performing late in the Grand Tours he has participated in and he is very consistent. It should be a top-10 for him as well. I also think he is the type of rider that could suffer in the crosswinds we may see and the cobbled stage.
As for others such as Gaudu, Martin, Uran, Lutsenko and Quintana – we will see them fight for the few top-10 spots left.
Who will win?
Unless something unfortunate happens, it will be a win for Pogacar.