We are slowly towards the Pyrenees. They kick things off in Saint – Étienne and ride towards Mende. A climb most of us now. A steep incline very close to the finish. Today the breakaway won the day and I’m fairly certain they will do the same tomorrow. Nonetheless, I also expect Pogacar to attack Vingegaard. The stage has 3400 climbing meters. The last time we saw the Mende-stage, the break had 20 minutes.
The early start is bumpy. Tomorrow, no team with a sprinter will take control. That means it us up to JV to decide the size of the breakaway.
A lot of rolling terrains until the foot of Còte de la Fage. It is a good place to attack if you do not fancy your chances on Côte de la Croix Neuve.
Now, what you’ve been waiting for. Côte de la Croix Neuve. The best can do it just above 7 minutes. It is like the Mur de Huy on steroids. A descent from the top to the line.
A day with a tailwind. Another very hot day in the saddle too with temperatures around 30 degrees C again.
How will the stage unfold?
Well, as it is Jumbo-Visma who are now in charge of deciding the breakaways they will simply let them ride to the finish. One reason for that is bonus seconds. The second, not spending energy to set up a stage win. Their job is on the run-in and on Mende. To defend. That is what they do.
That means everyone who fancies a day out in front has a chance of taking the stage, as long as they do not pose a threat in the GC. The question is, if someone will attack before the last climb and have a gap. Fraile won here last time, attacking at the bottom and Alaphilippe did not have enough distance to catch him. You can easily end on the backfoot even though you are a fantastic puncheur.
Bora – Hansgrohe – how many will they try with? Normally, they end up with two in the breakaway on these stages. They have even tried getting Vlasov up there but it was not allowed on stage 12. I think Schachmann and Kämna are once again the two best options for the team, but you should not write off Konrad on these gradients either.
Bahrain – Victorious – is it finally time to see Mohoric up the road? He did wonderfully in the Tour of Slovenia on steep gradients but he just did not have the best legs the first 10 days. He has said the tide has turned and he is now fit to fight for a win. I could expect Dylan Teuns to make the breakaway too. Fantastic on these gradients but he has not looked 100%.
Mollema – he has said for some time now he will chase a stage win but he has not been in the breakaway. He has been up there trying to get in a few times but not hit the right one. It is just a matter of time before he gets it right and he is fantastic at winning these type of stages.
Isreal – PT – with Woods and Fuglsang. Neither made the split on stage 12 and I was very surprised. I think the chance of Fuglsang in the morning break is bigger than Woods’. He does not have as many matches to burn. If one of them is in the front group at the bottom of Mende, few can beat them.
Roglic – since they dictate who is going in the morning moves, why not let Roglic get up the road and steal away all the minutes he can. He can still play a role if you are a little naive like me. On a climb like Mende, very few in the world can beat him.
B. Thomas – it may seem like an odd pick but I’ve been following the Frenchman the whole year. He is simply doing very well on short climbs and he is the type of rider who would attack before the climb and could fool the competition.
Cort – he has been active but he is going well. On stage 10 to Megeve, he did not look like a rider who climbs well at the moment. But the Dane can pull out monster performances and is one of the best in the world getting in the correct breakaways. It will be difficult but I can’t write him off.
Who will win?
A difficult one, but I will go for Fuglsang. He has been in one breakaway but tried several times. Tomorrow with the bumpy start, his chances should be better. Back in the GC group, Pogacar will attack and finish in the same time as Vingegaard with G losing a few seconds and Bardet gaining a few on G.