Col de Soudet and Col de Marie Blanque. It is time for two stages with mountains.
Don’t worry, today I will not miss the bonus seconds at the top of Col de Marie Blanque. Before the two climbs, it is relatively flat but there are a few kickers. It is also a big day for the KOM jersey, as there are 101 point to be dealt in total.
From the start to the foot of Col de Soudet.
We start of with 2.1 km at 5.8%. It is shortly followed by five short hills. I think the breakaway goes there. If it does not, it will for on the flat or on the foot of Col de Soudet. It will be interesting to see who wants to control the opening. With an intermediate sprint at km 48, expect Pedersen, Wout and Phillipsen to try and join the break. There is also the option the breakaway does not go the first 30 km, and the stage will then be controlled for 20 km before they let them go.
Col de Soudet
A tough climb, where it picks up in the second half. The last 10 km are 8.2%.
From Col de Soudet to the foot of Col de Marie Blanque
Since there is a long way from here to Col de Marie Soudet, I doubt we will see any big moves from the favorites. It is valley area, the break will lose some time here.
Col de Marie Soudet
The climb is tough and we have bonus seconds at the top. Last 4 km is 11.6%.
And to the line…
Half of it downhill, half of it flat.
It should stay dry. I see different directions when it comes to the wind, most importantly – it is not very strong.
How will the stage unfold?
The elephant in the room is, does UAE want to keep the jersey? If yes, they will control the breakaway. They were keen to do so on stage 2 and that was for bonus seconds. If they want, Pogacar should be able to win them on Col de Marie Blanque too. Adam Yates is there to tell the truth, it is all about Pogacar and he seems very strong. If I was their DS, I would have them go for the stage and bonus seconds.
The flat start is not ideal for the climbers. With climbs such as Col de Soudet and Col de Marie Blanque, the front group will lose a lot of time. Yes, the breakaway may form on the hills but if it does not, it requires the old sling-shot technique. A pure climber will have to do a long solo – and since we finish on the flat, it does not suit a pure climber.
We will see rouleurs in the breakaway hoping they have the legs to stay away. The GC action will come on Col de Marie Blanque if not before.
Pogacar – he should start as the favorite. The team should make sure the breakaway does not stand a big chance of making it and have Mikkel Bjerg keeping them within a reasonable distance. Send Pogacar when Majka is done, have Yates pace his own tempo and look to use two options in the finale. If everything goes well, he takes a lot of bonus seconds.
Vingegaard – he won’t be dropped but he will need to win solo. That is difficult against Pogacar.
Simon Yates – going surprisingly well. He goes well on double-digits. The way he has been going so far, I expect him to be among the best.
Adam Yates – seems to be going well too. He will have to use some energy setting up Pogacar but he should hope to get back with “the-best-of-the-rest”.
Jai Hindley – is going well just now. It is a Grand Tour, his level here is much higher than you’ve have seen the past 6 months.
Skjelmose – the first big test. The climb is not too long which is good news for him. If we see a reduced GC sprint, be aware – he is quick.
Gaudu – he is climbing well and usually goes well on double-digits.
Ciccone – time to see if he goes for the KOM or not.
Powless – he is going well just now and will likely be up the road defending the jersey.
Zimmerman – he has said he wants the KOM jersey, I expect him to have a free role.
Dark Horse – Woods – he has done decently so far. It is his terrain tomorrow with double digits. I expect him to surprise.
⭐⭐⭐ Vingegaard, S. Yates
⭐⭐ A. Yates, Hindley, Gaudu
⭐ Skjelmose, Zimmerman, Ciccone, Powless
Who will win?
I will take a win for Pogacar. It should be a stage that UAE can control and set up a bigger lead for Pogacar.