It is time for the mountain top finish. A short climb but with high gradients. Le Mont Bouqeut was used for the first time in 2020 with Ben O’Connor winning with a margin of 16 seconds. They didn’t use it in 2021, but it was back on the menu for 2022 where a quartet sprinted for the win. It is suited for climbers, but early-inform riders can put in brilliant results here too.
4.6 km at 8.9%. KM 1 of the climb is the easiest, then it is 3.4 km at 9.8%. As you can see below, the start of the climb is right after turning away from a bigger road. We will have a bunch sprint to get into a good position for the climb. The best do this climb close to 13 minutes.
I will break the stage up into sections. Wind will blow from the north with 7-9 m/s.
KM 146 – 96: Going west. Tough crosswinds. More tailwind than headwind combined with crosswinds. This is very early on in the stage but it is perfect for echelons. The riders may not even need to force it, nature might just do it.
KM 96 – 40: Mostly heading north here into the harsh winds. They do a loop near Uzès. The lap has crosswind sections, but if we break it up – the whole section has 63% straight headwind/headcrosswind. Remember, 7-9 m/s. You will need a big split and riders willing to take their turns.
KM 40 – 13: A crosswind section, but in an area with trees and plantation. There are two small openings for echelons but the sections are very short.
KM 13 – 0: Tailwind until the foot of the climb. Plenty of trees on the climb, but more or less crosswind on the climb.
The best spots for echelons is right at the start. It would seem out of line to see a group of 20 going clear, doing their turns and holding the peloton off, but on the other hand, it happened in Paris – Nice last year – keep in mind they did not turn into the wind, but had crosswinds the whole day.
- Teams that want echelons, as it could benefit their GC situation: Trek-Segafredo (Skjelmose), AG2R (Cosnefroy), EF (Powless) and IS-PT (Teuns). Other teams who usually are up for it is UNO-X, Intermarché and Alpecin. The goal is to make the better climbers hurt (Sivakov & Pinot).
- Positioning for the final climb.
- Legs to finish it off.
- Form shown on stage 3.
Skjelmose – I think the climb will suit the small Dane. He does not have a lot of history on shorter, steeper climbs, but his 7th place in San Sebastian is an indication that he is rather good on them. With potential echelons, he could benefit from this too. Plus have Mads Pedersen guiding him and the team un to the last climb. It was bold (read: foolish) of him not to take turns in the front group today. It would have been a wise move.
Powless – I’m uncertain this is perfect terrain for him. Echelons and wind, sure – it will enhance his chances. It is the gradients and the length. But if I use the same argument as above, he has done well in San Sebastian. He just strikes me as a rider, who rarely will win when finishing uphill and he is a better rider, when we have multiple shorter climbs. He was the strongest on the climbs today, but it wasn’t enough. He will challenge for the podium tomorrow.
Sivakov – how does he fare in the wind? INEOS looked mighty good today on the first climb. On paper, the team should have the members to help him in the winds. He moved higher up in my personal opinion of his skill in autumn last season. It is a climb that slightly reminds me of Lagunas de Neila (Vuelta a Burgos) – where he did very well last year. Unfortunately, he didn’t fare very well today.
Cosnefroy – fell on stage 2, didn’t make the front group on today’s climb. No chance.
Dylan Teuns – he is looking good. He is a rider who has multiple wins on steep inclines. Unfortunately, he crashed in the finale – never a good thing.
Latour – up there today with the best. He was just a level beneath the best last year on the climb, something he likely will be tomorrow too. Nonetheless, expect to see him in the top-10.
Vauquelin – very lively today attacking and following attacks. I’ve mentioned the Frenchman is someone we will hear more about. He was 2nd last year on the steep finish in Oman, which is an indication that he will be one of the best tomorrow if you put together how well he looked today.
Pinot – I’m pleased to see him being one of the best on stage 3. It was not an optimal finish for him, but he looked better than expected.
Benjamin Thomas – attacked and then none would cooperate. He crashed in the finale, he looked furious and frustrated all at once. He did alright here last season, and with Euro Tracks coming up on his calender, he should be in good shape.
Who will win?
With potential echelons in mind, the rider must tick the box. EF and Trek-Segafredo has looked very good when the wind blows. It is a battle between Powless and Skjelmose with Teuns crashing in the finale. I will take a win for Powless, he looked best on the climbs today.