The first mountain top finish. It is a well-known one, Super Planche des Belles Filles. The flat start will make it difficult for pure climbers to make the break but with a little slingshot from a teammate, a lot is possible.
La Super Planche des Belles Filles
It comes in stages. A very hard 1 km, a plateau, then 3.5 km of climbing before another plateau. Normally, we see the selection at the very, very top. The last 300 meters are 13.2%.
Another day with the wind coming from the north. They will not have as much tailwind as they had today which means there is no chance of echelons. It is almost windless at the climb, plus it is a forested area – it will not play a role. No rain, and high temperatures.
How will the stage unfold?
Well, this section is not going too well for me. The last 8/10 first mountain top finishes in Grand Tours have been won by the breakaway. That is a thing you simply can not ignore. Why is it? Normally, the GC men are looking at each other and waiting for the others to make a move. After two difficult days, I think we will want them to take it easy until the last climb.
UAE is now in the yellow jersey. Last year, Pogacar did not give it up and he took it on stage 8. Will he simply keep it until Paris? Likely yes. However, his team does not seem very strong – it is only McNulty and Majka who seem to be going well. He had problems on stage 4 in the battle for position as Bjerg and Hirschi both have a hard time finding good legs. They may have a problem giving the jersey away, but we had 8 breakaway wins in 13 stages last year – in the stages he had the jersey.
Everything is pointed towards the breakaway. Who could destroy it? Jumbo-Visma. While Wout van Aert puts on a great show, the tactical side of things from the main contenders seems unorthodox. INEOS sit with three riders within a minute too but they should not do the dirty work of UAE. Neither should J-V.
I will stick with a breakaway win.
Pinot & Storer – Pinot has been sitting at the back of the peloton all stages so far. Waiting. His win on Malbun was very good. It was a quality breakaway that day. The question is, how will he get in the morning break with a flat start? Oliver le Gac has been watching him all week – they will show you how to do a slingshot. Furthermore, Storer provides another option. We will have to see how many they are willing to send up the road – as Gaudu is doing well in the GC.
Teuns – he tried once today to get in the morning breakaway. I think he has his eyes on this stage, he has won here before. He is a specialist in the first mountain-top-finish stages. He won it in 2019 and in 2021. It is sort of his specialty. The steep gradients towards the top are his cup of tea – and he has the power to get away on the flat start.
Woods – he will need a slingshot, but I think he has been eyeing the stage. He is a happy man and has avoided crashing the first week. With a bit of help from Houle or Boivin, he could get a slingshot. If he makes it to the last climb from the breakaway, few can beat him in the last 300 meters.
Guerreiro – seems to be hitting the form of his life. Let’s see what EF can bring. Do they think Powless can get the jersey – no, they are realistic. Powless is the GC rider, but I doubt everyone will work for him. He has become known for burning matches when trying to get in the morning breakaway but he has been quiet and waiting for the right stage. That day is tomorrow and his win at Mont Ventoux Dénivelé Challenge proves how well he is going.
O’Connor – GC dreams over. Time for a classic O’Connor move and get back in the GC with a mountain stage raid? You can bet he will try! Naesen and Jungels both have the power to help him get in the breakaway.
Mollema – he has said he will make a move sooner than later. A mountain top finish does not scream his name, but he is a very consistent rider. We will have to see, how the Giro-legs are.
Lutsenko – tried to follow the moves today. It would be unwise to point at any Astana rider but he did well in Tour du Suisse despite a crash.
Grossschartner & Kämna – they said in the pre-race podcast that they would not wait behind. They know there are chances for the early breakaway and they would like to be a part of it. They all had to work a bit behind today, as Vlasov crashed (or was forced to crash) in the finale. Both Schachmann and Konrad were active today – they will try to get one up the road.
Pogacar – as things are looking now, he will win from the GC group.
Who will win?
I will go for Dylan Teuns, as I think he has a good chance of getting in the morning breakaway on the flat. You must remember, it is where it will form.