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Tour Stage 18: A true Mountaintop finish

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Briancon – Izoard, 180km

Scott Mitchell/Getty Images

There’ve been plenty of mountains in this year’s Tour, and we’ve had uphill finishes. Thursday, though, promises the longest continuous climb to the line we’ve seen this year, up the haut-categorie Col D’Izoard. There are no mountains left after the finish of this stage – expect fireworks as all the main contenders make one last push to establish their position ahead of the Marseille time trial.

You can read the detail of the climbs from Will, and I’ve popped the climb graph below. All I’d say is that the Izoard ascent has just about exactly what you’d want for a tough MTF stage, which, remarkably, we’ve never seen before. Although it is “officially” 14.1km at 7.3%, neither of those figures do justice to the climb as we will see it. There is a long uphill run to the beginning of the climb proper that could shell any non-climbing riders who somehow survived the category one Col de Vars, and the average percentage is skewed by a downhill near the finish. After that, it is 2.5km or so at 10%, and it could very well determine who leaves Paris with a yellow top on.

Carte

Profil de l’étape

Final Climb

AmyBC’s Wine of the Day – Uliz, Petitprez mondeuse

I say: Deep purple and herbal, with more fruit showing with air.

From the importer: To say that Antoine Petitprez is committed to natural handmade wine is putting it mildly. During his education he was responsible for a research program on the moons effects on wines and vines.

Did you know?

This really shouldn’t be a stage where we need trivia. The race will be enough. That said, you might like to know that the early part of the stage follows the Durance river, which is the third largest of the tributaries of the Rhone. If you think that’s boring, wait for my second fact about it! The name Durance is taken from the Celtic words dour (water) and ans (stream). Yup, it is the waterstream river, or river river, if you will.

What’s at stake?

Oh, you know… the race.

It is highly unlikely that we’ll see any shifts at the top of GC during Friday’s stage, so the time gaps at the end of this stage will be carried into the Marseille time trial. For all of these riders, building up a sufficient cushion is essential. Froome will like his chances on the chrono bike, but Bardet and Uran will be less confident. Look for the pure climbers to throw everything that they can at putting some time into the Sky man. Meanwhile, Aru was just about able to hang on and limit his losses on stage 17 but he’ll need to ride better to keep his losses under control on Izoard.

Thanks to Kittel’s unfortunate DNF on stage 17, the sprintermediate holds less relevance than it might have done, and Matthews can make his lead still safer with a few points here. Also, Barguil still hasn’t mathematically locked up polka yet. Look for him to grab a few points here. Assuming de Gendt doesn’t win the stage, this one could be all over by the Izoard, too.

A quick reminder of the GC position coming into the stage:

  1. Froome
  2. Uran +0.27
  3. Bardet +0.27
  4. Aru +0.53
  5. Landa +1.24

Who’s going to win?

I’ve said on previous stages that we’ll see breakaway winners. I’m not saying that for stage 18. I think this one is going to be fought out between the team leaders and the best climbers in the race. I think Bardet will win – but not by enough to take yellow. This won’t be stalemate, but I’m not seeing big differences in skill and form between the top riders at the moment, and I don’t see big gaps at the finish.