The stage starts in Switzerland where they do a clockwise lap starting in Aigle. There is a cat-4 climb 30 km into the stage. It could well be there we see the morning breakaway go. A rolling stage with Col de la Croix before they head back down to Aigle and to France. The stage has 3700 climbing meters.
The first section of climbing starts 31 km into the stage. It is a bit late, but I think some teams will be keen on making sure the breakaway is not formed before. They must insure the breakaway starts on these climbs to get a rider up the road who can win the stage.
Col de la Croix is the next big one – and the hardest of the stage. It starts 70 km from the finish, a long way out for any team to try something.
The descent from Col de la Croix is quite long and it is technical towards the end of it. This could be another area where teams could be interested in putting the hammer down. Following is a long valley – and that is likely going to ease attacks.
Pas de Morgins is the last difficult climb . It starts 25 km from the finish and that means the top is still 12 km out. That is good news for the breakaway but bad news for GC riders with an ambition of attacking.
From the top and home, we have a short descent before the last climb of 4 km at 4.4%.
Not a lot of wind, not any rain and 20 degrees C. Very good cycling weather.
How will the stage unfold?
Another flat start which means hitting the correct break is a lottery. If a team or two forms an alliance of keeping it together, the first climbs I mentioned are the obvious launchpads to get a climber in the breakaway. It could also be another rouleurs-breakaway.
Who wants a GC sprint with Pas de Morgins ending with 12 km left? Who wants to gift Pogacar more bonus seconds? It is not tomorrow you win the Tour de France. There is a chance of pushing it on Col de la Croix and keeping the hammer down on the descent but you would most likely just burn your domestiques before the last climb.
I simply can not see any big team (INEOS, JV or UAE) take the initiative to chase the morning breakaway. Pogacar will not give away the jersey. He did not do it last year, he will not do it again. They can be happy about the race situation.
Key attributes must be: Able to get in the breakaway potentially on the flat. That means being good on the flat OR slingshotted. Being able to contest on both Col de la Croix and Pas de Morgins. Lastly, have a good finish in case you can’t solo it off. A bonus is having another teammate with you in the breakaway and a must is not being a threat in the GC. UAE will not allow it.
Mollema – with Mads P on slingshot service, they could get Mollema in the breakaway. He has been saying publicly that he will try at some point this weekend. Even without Mads P (or Skuijns) he could get in the morning breakaway on the flat on his own. He is a very smart rider that should be able to handle both climbs and he got a good kick for the sprint.
Bora – with four potential riders that can win. Politt on slingshot duty – he has been very active, it is almost incredible he has not been in the breakaway yet. Kämna is in fantastic shape, just falling short on Super Blanche des Belles Filles. Schachmann crashed today but nothing bad. He is a good rouleur too. Grossschartner has been active as well and he climbed well in Tour du Suisse. Lastly, Konrad. He has tried a few times too without luck. I think it suits Grossschartner and Kämna the most.
Woods & Fuglsang – it will be difficult for both, but the whole team should work to make ensure the breakaway goes on the first hills. If they manage that, it will be very hard to distance both of them.
Ion Izagirre & Lafay – Izagirre awas ctive on stage 7 but did not follow the right move. He got the power to get in the breakaway if it forms on the flat. The same goes for Lafay, who has tried a few times too. On a good day and with a “weak” breakaway both could take the win.
Storer & Küng – Storer has not been trying to get in the morning breakaway yet. Just sitting and waiting. I think tomorrow is the stage that suits him the most. Küng on home roads for the most part of the stage. Another very strong rouleur that has climbed phenomenally this season. The last climb is not that steep, something perfect for both of them.
Lutsenko – it could be a good day for him. He has the power for the flat start. It looks similar to the stage he won here in 2022. We will have to see if Astana finally will have some tailwind.
Who will win?
I will be pointing at Bora – Hansgrohe, they have the numbers. A win for Felix Grossshartner. He is looking strong right now.