It is time for the first of two mountain stages.
A tough day, almost 4000 climbing meters. Col de la Madeleine, Col du Mollard and Col de la Croix de Fer.
Col de la Madeleine. An irregular climb. Still, the gradients rarely go double digits.
After that, we have a descent and a valley before Col du Mollard. It is steepest at the first at the first half, but rarely gets very steep either.
Now, the final climb. This climb is irregular and to me, it is only the last 6.8 km that really matters.
Or if you prefer Veloviewer, the last 6.8 km at 8.1%.
They start early tomorrow. It should be mostly a dry stage for the riders with a chance of rain near the end. Temperatures will be lower, from 22 – 10 degrees C depending on the altitude. The wind will barely blow – we are talking 1-2 m/s. It may prove more windy on Col de la Croix de Fer – it is one of those bald mountains. Reports currently say headwind up it, meaning the gaps will be small.
How will the stage unfold?
This is one of those stages, that is just utter difficult to break down. Let’s try.
Flat start – flatter than today. Will the breakaway form before Col de la Madeleine? Then the breakaway stands no chance, you need to be a very good climber to win tomorrows stage. If it forms on the climb – I think their chances are greater. Now I say “very good climber”. It is very rare tomorrow they go above the golden 6%. That means, you benefit a lot from drafting tomorrow. It is mostly the last 6.8 km tomorrow at 8.2% where you can hurt everyone else.
So – who wants to chase? Jumbo-Visma do not need to. Today, we saw a mix of teams. UAE, DSM and UNO-X to name some. I think creating time gaps tomorrow will prove more difficult than it looks. The most likely outcome is a reduced GC sprint and whenever that seems to be the case, the breakaway takes the win.
With the headwind up Col de la Croix de Fer, it could become tactical too. The whole climb should take around 34 minutes, a little less with the headwind. The last 6.8 km, the real climb, I assume near 18 minutes. It will just be tough despite the headwind being just 1-2 m/s – it often blows a hell of a lot more higher in altitude.
Conclusion: It suits a diesel-climber with a punch. I think we will see a big group get to the difficult part of Col de la Croix de Fer, where we see people going out the back door when they reach the last 6.7 km. With the potential headwind, the gaps should be smaller than anticipated – expect a GC sprint. Who can win from the breakaway? Someone who can also get away on the flat. I think it will be a GC day, I do not fancy the breakaway options.
Vingegaard – the best climber here. He has said that is watching everyone for the next days. Therefore, I assume he will just wait to see who attacks, follow them and then drop them. Same procedure as stage 5. It will be very difficult to get rid of him.
O’Connor – He will be one of the better climbers tomorrow. The form is looking spot on, just like last season here in 2022. Fifth in the TT was a very good sign. He knows his chances in a sprint, wait for him to make a move!
A. Yates – he loves these climbs, the steady ones. It is much better for him to settle into that rhythm and then he has that beautiful way of climbing out the saddle. I think he will be one of the stronger climbers too. He has a good punch at the end of a climb.
Hindley – I think he is looking mighty good too but he rarely wins outside Grand Tours. Personally, I do not think it is difficult enough for him to win.
Ciccone – he will look to stay in contention and use his acceleration to fight for the win. This year he has been better than ever before.
Johannesen – he will look to stay in contention and use his acceleration to fight for the win. Tomorrow is a big test for him this season, where he is getting back to his best. If he finishes with the best, it is a big sign for the Tour de France.
Haig – he used the Giro d’Italia as preparation for this race it seems. He rarely wins but he will be in contention for a top-10.
Carapaz – him or Chaves? It does not really suit Chaves too much, so the best option may be Carapaz. Let’s see if he is in an attacking mood again, he sits quite down in GC now.
Martinez – he deserves to be mentioned due to his talent. 11th in the GC was not a good indication. A top-10.
Mas – seems to have found the legs just in time for the mountains. He rarely wins but uphill, he is a very consistent performer.
Honorable mentions: David Gaudu, he just seems nowhere near his prime form. Mikel Landa too.
⭐⭐⭐ A. Yates, O’Connor
⭐⭐ Mas, Ciccone, Hindley
⭐ Haig, Carapaz, Martinez, Johannesen.
Who will win?
Despite we likely will see the wind play a factor, someone will look to attack and Vingegaard will counter. The rest will be too bothered fighting for the podium he will likely just ride away.