In 1980 Bernard Hinault won the World Championships held in Sallanches. The circuit course climbed (several times) a steep 2.5 kilometre little road above/through the village of Domancy. The stuff of legends. Fast forward to June 2106: last month the Côte de Domancy road was officially named Route Bernard Hinault.
Stage 18 of the 2016 Tour de France is a seventeen kilometre Time Trial course that includes the Route Bernard Hinault (aka: Côte de Domancy) as it climbs to Megève Ski Station. Here is a brief low budget (€0) video preview of the course:
[Conor here, trying to live up to that brilliance by putting something in about the riders who will challenge on the slopes Will just showed you]
That course has some steep sections, flat sections and even downhill sections, so it's not exactly a traditional mountain time-trial where you put out a certain number of watts to get a certain time, and whoever can do the most does a Foliforov. No, managing the effort will be the key to stage victory, with ordinary time-trial skills also important. Now, if only we knew of a person with great time-trial skills, and is very good at managing wattage on climbs. Oh wait, we do, and it's the exact person you'd expect. Froome clearly is on good time-trialling form, as he showed by his second place to the rampaging Dumoulin on stage 13. He's also, clearly the race's top climber. The only person I really see challenging him for the stage is Richie Porte, who was the only guy able to escape the Sky train on stage 17, and got to the finish line with Froome. However, he was nowhere near Froome on the first TT, even if the Col d'Eze proves that uphill time-trials are his forte. I expect him to finish in a comfortable second.
Who are some other contenders? Well, Tom Dumoulin should be mentioned, if only for his TT abilities, but Froome is close enough to him there to beat him on this terrain. And really, who else is there? Fabio Aru's team did everything for him on the Col de Forclaz, but he had nothing on the final climb. Dan Martin had a good uphill time-trial in the Dauphiné, but that was far too short for comparison to this. Adam Yates is the only other person close to Froome's level, but in the final week of a Grand Tour, and with Froome's skills in TTs, he surely can't hope for better than a top three.
My pick to win is Froome. Here's where he'll put the race even more out of sight than it is already.