The Tour considerately preserves my sanity by deciding not to force me to write another preview of a flat stage, and instead giving us an admittedly tame (compared to some this Tour) mountain stage, as the Tour makes a brief foray into the Pyrenees.
Profil de l’étape
The climbs taken in are the Col de Menté, Port de Balès and Col de Peyresourde, plus the ramp to the ski station at Peyragudes. This is a combination which has been used twice in the Tour and Vuelta, with Valverde and Geniez winning.
The final forty kilometres is full of climbing, with the irregular Port de Balès followed immediately by the double-punch of the Peyresourde and Peyragudes. My main worry about this stage is that it may not be selective enough to provide a true GC battle. Port de Balès is at an average of less than eight per cent, and while it does break ten on occasion, a five-man GC group got over the top when it was the final climb on a 2014 stage and the GC group only broke apart on Peyragudes on a similar stage in 2012. Even the Peyresourde, when ridden on a tougher stage eight last year, couldn’t rip a large GC group apart. Taking into account how well-matched the group of six or seven climbers who summited the Mont du Chat on Sunday seem to be, I struggle to see how this stage will separate them.
AmyBC’s Wine of the Day – Lapeyre Jurancon Sec 2013
From the producer: This family farm was traditional dedicated to mixed farming with livestock, small fruits and grapes which were taken to the local cooperative. From 1985 onwards, the estate was turned over exclusively to viticulture when Jean-Bernard Larrieu gave birth to Clos Lapeyre, farming his vines, fermenting his grapes, ageing his wines, bottling and then selling them. In 2000, the vineyard covered about 10 hectares and then in 2004 it grew when the magnificent, old vineyards of Domaine de Nays-Labassère were taken over, with an extra 7 hectares in the heart of Chapelle-de-Rousse.
The Lapeyre sec is made of 100% Gros Manseng. The grapes come mainly from a vineyard called Herrua.
Did you know?
Ugh, I was never good at this bit of the preview and this is the bit of the Tour where we hit ski station after ski station (Peyragudes is the ski station, anyone who’s never been skiing). Pau’s main story is that the race director always owns a house with a nice view of the main street there, probably, because the Tour never seems to leave. And Nicolas Portal, Sky’s DS comes from the town. Peyragudes is the brief home to a load of skiers.
What’s at stake?
As I’ve said, I’m yet to be convinced that this is a big GC day, but of course that precludes no one from having a bad day and losing time, avoiding which may be the main focus here, for teams who are not focused on the stage win. I think this will be a target stage for a number of teams, however.
Who’s going to win?
The breakaway, I think. This stage could be conducive to attacks, especially given the small number of teams still in with a GC interest. Sky will likely be the only team interested in chasing down a move (unless Astana use monumentally, er, questionable tactics) so the door should be open for a decent move to get away and win the stage. BMC will target it, Trek, some of Cannondale, Bora likely will, really anyone who isn’t in the fight for the yellow jersey, which is really just everyone except Astana, Sky and AG2R, will be on the hunt for this stage, which is likely enough to get a break capable of outfoxing Sky going. While the flat opening kilometres might discourage some climbers from getting in the break, a good few should still make it in to what ought to be a large pack of leaders. A few names likely to make it include Guillaume Martin, Thibaut Pinot, Primoz Roglic, Tiesj Benoot, Andrew Talansky, Nicolas Roche and Serge Pauwels.
Back in the GC group, I think we’ll be left with a group of six or seven to sprint up Peyragudes, likely without the stage at stake. Dan Martin would be a good pick to go well here, but after his crash on the Mont du Chat, on which he didn’t look entirely convincing anyway, I’ll wait to see it before I believe it. Chris Froome and Fabio Aru seem like the biggest players here, but I don’t think either will gap the other on this stage. Froome would be more likely to win the stage from the GC group, but from the break my pick for this stage is Primoz Roglic.