Another sprint stage but this time much flatter.
Les Jambes en Bayonne: Neilson Powless took off early to get more points for the mountains competition and Laurent Pichon joined him for the ride, neither raced hard and the race was well behind schedule. Powless is building up a small lead in the mountains competition but he’s on 18 points and the first to the top of the HC-rated Col du Soudet tomorrow collects 20 points. The oddest moment was Victor Lafay attacking mid-stage, he went clear to get some more points for his green jersey at the intermediate sprint and it worked as he’s in green today, just.
We got a sprint win for Jasper Philipsen, with help from a majestic leadout from Mathieu van der Poel which capped off a hectic finish in Bayonne, no crashes as many teams tried to set the pace but it felt like nobody could quite control things. Philipsen won but had to wait for a moment before he could celebrate on the podium as the race jury reviewed the images of him and Wout van Aert but if the Jumbo-Visma rider was up against the barriers and had to stop sprinting, Philipsen didn’t really put him there, it was more the slight curve in the road and a bulge in the barriers so the result stood. Philipsen finished ahead of Bauhaus, Ewan, Jakobsen and then Van Aert which matters for the points competition as it gives the Alpecin rider a buffer on his main rivals.
The Route: 182km and 1,400 of vertical gain, the flatest stage so far. It’s across countryside more used to slow cycling, racing here feels too urgent and intense, especially on a summer’s afternoon after lunch as the race passes the home of Armagnac and foie gras. There’s not so much to write home about, the day will celebrate André Darrigade, the best sprinter of the 1950s, and then there’s the Notre Dame des Cyclistes chapel, a nice touch as it gives all the TV commentators something to talk about during the stage and on a smaller level, once upon a time in the comments section of this blog two readers discussed this place, found a common interest, met in real life… and got married. Hopefully it’s happily ever after.
The Finish: it’s on the Paul Armagnac motor racing circuit with its runway-wide tarmac track but to get there it’s through the streets of Nogaro, and after a right turn in the town the route funnels into a smaller road and there’s a small drag up, nothing steep and almost ideal given it’s not wide as it’ll calm things down but it will bother the sprint trains. Then comes a right turn for the circuit and it’s onto a big road for the final 3km. Motorsport circuits have a thrill about them but what’s dicey for cars and motorbikes at 200km/h is plodding for a peloton at 60km/h and the bends are wide.
The Contenders: another sprint finish but today is flatter as a whole so it should suit the dragstrip sprinters more. Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) is an obvious pick. Fabio Jakobsen (Soudal-Quickstep) should do well here, he’s got a solid lead out to help.
|Groenewegen, Ewan, Van Aert|
Weather: sunshine and a few clouds, 25°C and a 15km/h breeze from the west, so a tailwind until 40km to go where the race starts to loop back.
TV: KM0 is at 1.20pm and the finish is forecast for 5.20pm CEST.