Two demanding days in the Alps are behind us and the GC has taken a different form than when we started. The winner is not found but the losers are, that is how I always view the first days in the mountains. Tomorrow, we have different terrain. Just 1800 climbing meters is something for the sprinters to look forward to. But will they be able to fight for a stage win after two hard days in the Alps? It is not as certain as it should be.
A flat and downhill start. We know how that goes. It will be difficult for the breakaway to form. After 28 km of racing, they meet the Côte de Brié. I am not certain the breakaway will form there but it should be.
Moving on to flat terrain once again, the breakaway should be established. The next climb on the menu is the toughest of the day. After this, we will know if teams are interested in a sprint finish or not.
Once again, the road flattens for another good 70 km or so with a few hills. A longer one but the gradients are not too bad. It has its tops with 43 km left.
From the top, we have a descent before we have a good 15 km of false flat before a little kicker with 10 km left.
The last five km
It will be challenging in Saint-Etienne with three corners inside the last 1500 meters.
The first right-hand turn with 1350m left is a roundabout, which makes it easy but stretches the group out.
The second is with 1 km left. A left turn with road furniture makes it a tight corner. Once again, stretching out the group.
The last with 500 meters to go fool you. It is the road bending. It is a boulevard sprint.
Wind blowing from the North gives the rider a day with crosswinds. We will have merely 16 km/h or 5 m/s which should make it near impossible for echelons. The section with 16 km/h is 40 km long. The temperature will be high – everywhere.
As mentioned, it will not be enough. I can’t write it off as the wind can pick up and the wind gusts report fairly higher speeds.
Breakaway or sprint?
With just 1800 climbing meters, it should really be a day for the sprinters. But that changes after two very hard days of climbing for the sprinters. Côte de Brié makes it possible for a strong breakaway to form, the same does Col de Parménie. It feels like the stage never gives the teams with a sprinter a good long section to catch the breakaway. A climb after 26.5 km, 74 km, 110 km, 140 km and a hard false flat starting after 166 km. It just looks like a long and hard chase. Furthermore, 193 km is a hard day to control.
On the other hand, they do not have a lot of options left and the climbs are not overly difficult. The hardest climb is in the middle of the day which is not a good thing for the breakaway. I think a few teams will be keen to control the day – that is the only reason they are here. They know there are not many chances left.
Jakobsen – He is the fastest man on the planet but it is not certain the legs will be spinning fast tomorrow. Two hard days but tomorrow is his terrain. It will all depend on the other teams because you can drop him on some of the climbs tomorrow if you go full gas. If it, somehow, is a relatively easy stage with just a few riders up the road and Jakobsen is feeling well, he will not be easy to beat given his lead-out.
Phillipsen – he thought he had won a stage, shamefully I had hoped he would. He is good after a long stage but I’m unsure about the heat. I think he will be relatively fresh, he has been doing fine the last two days (not being in any danger regarding time cut). The sprint train is short which means he will need to do a bit of wheel surfing which will be easier if we have a reduced bunch sprint which is likely.
Ewan – looks like someone who has suffered a bit in the mountains. No prober sprint train either. It is difficult to see how he can turn around this Tour de France. He has the same problems here as in the Giro d’Italia. The results are poor because of worse support than the others which leads to lower self-esteem for him. At the moment, he is just not looking good.
Pedersen – a sprinter after a hard day you say? I present Mads Pedersen. The man has been going in the breakaways, mainly to get a lead before the mountains start. If you do that, you have good legs. I think he is the type of rider who will get more and more even with the pure sprinters throughout a Grand Tour. He has Stuyven to guide him and their synergy is good. They’ve lost Kirsch, which means they need to time it perfectly.
Kristoff – We Danes have Pedersen, our brothers to the north have Kristoff. He has been sitting at the back of the peloton for a few stages now but has not really been in trouble with the time cuts. He too is a rider loving a hard day and to sprint when everyone else is a bit tired.
Sagan – like the two abovementioned, he even tried to get Latour in the breakaway today. I too think he will be hard to drop.
Groenewegen – all the climbing in the Dauphiné to finally pay off? I think BEX are one of the teams willing to pull hard for a sprint tomorrow. I could also imagine he has been a rider suffering the last two days, but he has not been the last one riding over the line. He may surprise a few of us tomorrow.
Wout van Aert – why not? If it is a tough day and TotalEnergies and Trek-Segafredo try and put the hammer down and we have a decimated bunch sprint, he will go for it. After the last few stages, he will be one of the few sprinters who is feeling absolutely splendid.
Politt – breakaway option #1.
Taco van der Hoorn – breakaway option #2.
Who will win?
With all the sprinters left, you can make sure they will try tomorrow. I think a team or two will but pressure on the climb starting 51 km out meaning a few will drop. From the peloton, Jasper Phillipsen will win.