If you enjoyed stage 13, the chances are you too will be spending your Saturday on your couch.
Close to 4000 meters of climbing but the last climb of the stage is not on the Tourmalet scale.
Moving south this stage, before heading north for the finale climb.
Detailed analysis of the route.
Things kick off with 50 km of flat. That makes it difficult for any strong climbers getting up the road with certainty.
First climb is the Col Hourcére. Steepest at the bottom, eases off towards the crest. If the breakaway has not formed beforehand, it will happen here.
The start of the descent is very quick. It then too eases off before the riders get to the valley.
Now, for the hardest climb of the stage – Puerto de Larrau with 6, 4 and 2 bonus seconds at the top. It is very tough the first 10 km at 9.7%. Then a short plateau before a kick to the top.
Following is a descent with a small climb. It is more or less downhill until 22 km from the line. Then, 12.5 km of flat in the valley towards the last climb of the stage.
It is not too difficult compared to the two previous. Puerto de Balagua is most difficult in the first two thirds, then it eases off before ultimately flattens out.
Barely any wind. Dry, and quite warm with degrees in the low thirties in the valleys while colder on the climbs.
How will the stage unfold?
This stage may fool the eye. It is on paper a bit easier than stage 13 but not by much. The biggest difference is the valleys, the play a big role. The offer a chance to recover better between the climbs. That means you remember to eat and drink, which is more difficult to do when JV is pacing like madmen and it is difficult to open a bar going downhill with 80 km/h.
The flat start. What about it. I think we will see teams (Bahrain, DSM and INEOS come to mind) try and control it. That means their climbers (Buitrago, Poels, Landa – Bardet, Poole – Thomas, Castroviejo) have a better chance getting away on the flat. Now thinking about it, INEOS can get a really strong team up the road, especially if they can get Ganna to do a lot of work on the flat.
Col Hourcére will work a lot like Col d’Aubisque. Breakaway formation, JV to control. Just to make sure none sneaks up the road. Then, we will have to see how the GC teams tackle Puerto de Larrau, the first 10 km are brutal. Afterwards, it is simply too easy for any GC action, therefore it must happen on Puerto de Larrau. With 46 km from the top, it seems a bit too far out. We saw today that Jumbo-Visma does not go 100% for the bonus seconds.
Storer – he is going so well that he decides to go for KOM points instead of helping his leader! It must have been a team call. That does mean one thing, he would like the KOM jersey in Madrid. With the way he was riding today, he starts as one of the favorites for tomorrow.
Kämna – the German has an advantage with the flat start. If the breakaway forms there, I’m uncertain it will consists of strong enough climbers to win. Tomorrow is a diesel-breakaway stage. Very few people excel at this like him.
Herrada – already with a stage win. Usually, when he gets going, he is tough to stop. He will hope to cling on until the finale climb, those gradients suit him.
Cattaneo – Evenepoel is out. That means giving the Italian a carte blanche. 6th in the TT, the form is clearly good. He is an excellent diesel too.
Buitrago – he hung on for a long time today. Much longer than I thought he should. He has to hope the breakaway will form on the first climb. If it does, he will be strong enough to follow the best on the penultimate climb. Then, he will hope to outsprint them on the line.
Castroviejo – a diesel you say? I think Castroviejo will hope tomorrow is his day.
Thomas – on the move today. I think he realized that the breakaway stood no chance. That means we will see him up the road tomorrow, hopefully with some teammates.
Bardet – climbing well but is the finish too easy?
Roglic – Favorite if we see a bunch sprint.
Ayuso – Should be the second quickest of the GC men.
⭐⭐⭐ Kämna, Thomas
⭐⭐ Cattaneo, Herrada, Bardet
⭐ Roglic, Ayuso, Castroviejo, Buitrago
Who will win?
I’m going for Storer. Yes, I’m being stubborn once more but he is clearly in top shape.