It is difficult to believe we are only halfway there. On stage 11, we saw a team demonstration. What needed to be done, or tried, to a team falling apart due to poor form and illness. The second day in the Alps awaits. It is the stage with the most climbing meters in the Tour de France this year – 4700 of them.
It will be a day with Galibier again, from the opposite direction, Col de la Croix de Fer and Alpe d’Huez. Similar to the Dauphine stage but without the finish in Vaujany. This time, with an even harder finish
Galibier to start with. This must be the place the breakaway form and therefore, it will be a breakaway with very strong climbers in it.
A descent and a valley bring us to the next climb, Col de la Croix de Fer. It has a difficult early section but flattens out before getting tougher once again near the top.
Another descent and a valley before the hardest climb of the day. Alpe d’Huez. A magnificent climb most of us think of when we hear the words “Tour de France.” On paper, as hard as the climb we saw today at the end.
A mild headwind up Col du Galibier. Now, a few km/h or m/s is normally not much but if you looked at today’s stage, it is windier up there than forecast often predict. It can make it a bit more difficult for the breakaway to get up the road. We had the exact same wind forecast in the Dauphine and Verona won that day. We had a big break that day and I think we see the same tomorrow. It will be warm but we are still at high altitudes which means it will be colder on the climbs but very hot in the valleys.
How will the stage unfold?
We have a new team to control the morning move and they are used to it. I think they want to keep as many of their riders for as long as possible – what a surprise. I do not think they want to have any satellite riders tomorrow, their team is strong enough to defend. I think they are alright with letting the breakaway go – the same as UAE – as long as they do not lose the jersey.
Neither INEOS or UAE look like teams who can really put pressure on. UAE has tried and used a lot of energy the last few days. I think they want to sit back, rest up, and bring Pogacar unto the Alpe d’Huez is a good position. INEOS has not deviated from their mountain train. They have but Castroviejo and Van Baarle in the breakaways and look how they did today – nowhere to be seen. I think they will sit back to.
We will see a GC battle on Alpe d’Huez that much is clear. Will it be too late for the GC riders to take a stage win? Likely so.
That brings us to the morning breakaway. Finally, it will be a stage with a climb at the start. A big one. That should give a lot of good climbers the possibility to get in the morning break, hence increasing the breakaway’s chances of taking a stage win. That is what I think will happen. And do not forget, it is Bastille Day.
Pinot – you must mention the Frenchman since it is Bastille Day. He has looked good but it has been clear to see where his strengths and weaknesses lie. He must get help to insure the battle plays out on Alpe d’Huez. I think Küng could be that man tomorrow. On the climb itself, he will be very tough to beat.
Fuglsang – a Danish hattrick? Mon Dieu. He has been going well and dropped the GC shinanigans he started to give false hope for again. Fuglsang is an extremely gifted bike rider and he looks to be in good form. He proved in Tour de Suisse that his current level is very high.
Woods – a stage where Woods should be able to get in the morning breakaway. On paper, it looks like a perfect stage for him. He is a fantastic climber but that is about it. I have my doubts about him and the heat but tomorrow should be another stage without temperatures above 30 degrees C. He is Canadian, after all. In La Route d’Occitanie, he proved how well he is climbing and tomorrow may be his best chance.
Caruso – it has not been Bahrain – Victorious’ Tour de France. He has simply not looked very well if you look at the results. One could hope all the time lost today is not an illness but a sparing of energy. He has been good all year and very consistent too. I think he can be a contender tomorrow if he gets in the breakaway and is not ill.
Uran – he has a nose for getting in these breakaways. It has not been his year but we all know that it is the Grand Tours that get the best out of him. I hope to see him going well, getting in the breakaway should be his main priority.
Mollema – I will be surprised if he is not in the morning breakaway. I do think there will be better climbers in the breakaway tomorrow, but he is often attacking before the last climb and building up a gap. A tactic we have seen a few times this edition. If the breakaway is without pure climbers, he stands a good chance of a win.
Verona – Mas is out of the GC and Verona did not go on the attack today. The diesel is going to love the stage, he won the stage I have been referring to in Dauphine! It is a tougher climb at the end but he will know the roads very well and have a lot of confidence after his display of power on stage 9.
Meintjes – now out of the GC. He is a pure climber and did well in the Dauphiné. Do not sleep on him tomorrow, he is good on the type of climb we see tomorrow. He will hope to have a helper with him.
Vingegaard – GC contender #1
Pogacar – GC contender #2
Who will win?
I think it will be a day for the breakaway. I will go for Pinot, but my heart will hope for a Danish hattrick.