Can’t climb? Can’t sprint? Then today’s an opportunity for a stage win and a lot of the peloton will have this stage in mind.
The Route: 167km and 3,100m of vertical gain. A start in Vulcania, a theme park and then a long roll out via the Col d’Orcines with views of the Puy de Dôme. The first climb is a big wide main road… and so is the second one, they’re not steep or long enough to shatter the peloton by themselves. The intermediate sprint is on an uphill drag, the road is climbing here and the Croix St. Robert, 6km at 6% and the hardest climb of the day but no surprises. It’s all on exposed roads amid the extinct volcanoes, a wide open space that without traffic or spectators on a normal day has an empty feel but with the crowds today it’ll be more familiar.
The Finish: Issoire has its charms but we won’t see much of them as the route takes a run around the outside of town, it’s all flat and with 700m there’s a wide bend to the right.
The Contenders: who to pick for the breakaway? Rémi Cavagna (Soudal-Quickstep) is a local and while a TT specialist, he can handle some short climbs but the challenge is how to win, his sprint isn’t famous, team mate and fellow auvergnat Julian Alaphilippe is a contender but it’s not ideal terrain, the hills aren’t sharp enough for him although. Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) will find terrain to suit, whether the hills or the flat finish, but if he makes the break others will be very wary of him, he’d do well to have a team mate as a helper but does he move, he wants a stage but his team need him in the coming days. Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck) could work well with Søren Kragh Andersen. Ditto Mads Pedersen (Trek-Segafredo) who won a stage last year from a breakaway.
Otherwise it’s one of those “wheel of fortune” days where we can pick from many. Cross off the GC contenders and the team mates they need to keep fresh, count out the heavyset sprinters, forget those with injury issues and take your pick among many, these riders might attack but could go in the wrong move that gets caught, only for the next one to get away while they catch their breath. Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ), Fred Wright (Bahrain) and Michał Kwiatkowski (Ineos) are lottery picks. Bryan Coquard (Cofidis) is in great shape and he’s always going to struggle in bunch sprints so he could improve his chances by winning from a breakaway.
A breakaway is the most likely scenario, 3,000m of vertical gain makes it hard for most of the sprinters but not all, the terrain could see some teams pull things back for a sprint, unlikely but not to be ruled out if some teams miss the break.
|Van der Poel, WvA|
|Wright, Madouas, Mohorič, Coquard, SKA, Kwiatkowski|
Weather: hot and sunny, 38°C with a 10-15km/h southerly breeze which could gust more. With the heat clouds could build and a chance of a downpour.
TV: KM0 is at 1.20pm and the finish is forecast for 5.30pm CEST. This could be one of those stages with more action at the start than finish.