So, let’s go again.
Starting at the bottom of of Croix de la Couer. Well, that must be a cold start. I assume the riders will be there an hour or so before racing, meaning they get to get on rollers. You certainly have to be ready for what’s to come.
So, lets break it up into four sections.
Croix de la Couer
Starting at the bottom in Le Châble. Where in the city I do not know. Tough, tough climb. The last 4.10 km are on unspecified road surface at 10.3%.
It is 21 km long. The first half has unspecified road surface. 22 hairpins.
The valley next to the Rhône River
It’s a valley – it is the long flat. With the river on the left side of the riders.
We will see a bunch sprint to the bottom! As the cross the Rhone, they take a sharp right turn followed by a hairpin. You want to be at the front here. Since the change, this should be less selective due to the stage being 75.6 km.
No wind, but it should rain. That means the descent is wet which means it will play a big role. A cold and rainy day.
How will the stage unfold
With a shortened stage, everything is different. We’ve had one, if I can recall correctly, in recent times. Tour de France 2019, Val Thorens – Nibali won.
For INEOS, it makes it a lot more difficult to control who goes in the breakaway. Puccio and Swift will be done early, meaning they take the choice between sending Arensman/De Plus in the breakaway to demotivate attacks inside the closer GC range. That also means potentially isolating Thomas. Sivakov’s crash but a question mark above him. I think they will stay and set up a pace, so they have four riders over the top. They are not interested in the stage, but I doubt they will chase for it.
So, how do you disrupt that? The pace will be cruel but it will be steady. That means if you want to attack, you better be a very good climber distancing De Plus/Sivakov/Arensman. Looking at UAE, Jay Vine or McNulty are the only two good climbing domestiques for Almeida, therefore I think they have to stay in the bunch. At JV, Bouwman, Kuss and Oomen are in for a big task too. I think they will also be willing to sit back and see how many can follow. Bahrain-Victorious seem to be the team with numbers. Jack Haig had an awfull crash, so it leaves it down to Buitrago and Caruso. Well, that is not numbers – that is a duo.
With the tricky descent coming after the top, we will have to see if any teams are willing to risk it all before a long valley. I think in the valley, things will come back together. If you attack, you need to stay away on your own. Behind you there will open a gap because if a group of leaders is chasing you, they will likely wait for their domestiques.
What about the breakaway? Well, starting uphill suits them. Fortunato, Cepeda, Van Wilder, Dombrowski, Pinot and Verona are the names I think have a free card.
Roglic – he is the man that can really decide the outcome of the stage. I think he needs to rely on Kuss for a big performance, something Kuss seems to time about right every time. Then, he will test the competitors on the LAST climb. I just thing it is a bit of a suicide on the first. He should start as the favorite as the breakaway don’t have much road to expand their lead.
Thomas – second best climber here, his results speak for himself. He should be the closest thing we see to Roglic and he has a mighty strong team to help him. I have not seen him in a reduced GC sprint for some time, my gut tells me he is quite fast.
Caruso – If anyone is to launch it, it’s Caruso. I feel like some are still sleeping on the fact that he is a fantastic bike rider. I think he will look to test Almeida a bit, especially on the wet descent. It is his mark there to try and create a group willing to work together while distancing the other GC contenders.
Almeida – not too good in the rain as mentioned yesterday. I always read Mole’s previews after I write my own, wet descents is a problem too. It can be a very costly day for him. Luckily, he has a very good team to limit the losses. I also have an idea he will start yo-yo’ing Croix de la Couer meaning he will already be distanced over the top.
Carthy – time to shine. I hope he attacks from the get-go. Sits 12th. Just launch it, see what you can do. Otherwise, wait a bit – see if Healy is as good on a mountain as he is on the hills and have him pace you to the last climb. I hope EF are in it to win, because the last climb does not suit him too much.
Kämna – first big test. If he gets over Croix de la Couer, he has a good chance at a result. They do not see him as a big threat, meaning he will likely be free to attack. He sits 1:52 down, Caruso will have to mark him, meaning Almeida will follow that move. So, we will have to wait and see. Jungels and Konrad could be some decisive helpers today.
Dunbar – I think he will do a top-10. He is looking very good and he is climbing very well.
Pinot – breakaway hope #1. Yes, wet descent. I don’t care. He is flying.
Fortunato – breakaway hope #2. Valley is an issue, he will need help from others to pull there.
Cepeda – breakaway hope #2. See above, perhaps a satellite rider for Hugh.
⭐⭐⭐ Roglic, Thomas
⭐⭐ Caruso, Almeida, Vine
⭐ Dunbar, Kämna, Verona, Carthy
⭐⭐⭐ Thomas, Pinot
⭐⭐ Fortunato, Caruso, Kämna
⭐ Cepeda, Almeida, Kämna, Dunbar
Who is my new pick?
I think it suits the GC riders more because there is a bigger chance of seeing early GC action. That means the breakaway will have a hard time establishing because INEOS are setting a tough pace to discourage it or other teams are setting up an attack and therefore pacing. A win for Roglic.