Stage 3: Prades Conflent Canigo — Andorra La Vella, 158km
They held out for two whole stages before scheduling a mountain affair. Pretty impressive.
I’m not going to geek out on all the details of this one, because it’s not the type that should make much of a difference (which is something we usually say on the eve of a Vuelta stage that makes all the difference). The first climb is... the first climb, a warm-up, and the later Col de la Rabasse is 13km at 6.8%, something that could matter if it were the final moments of the stage but no.
Whom Does it Favor?
All the climber dudes, but more specifically someone who can descend and make a play for the stage. There are a lot of candidates at this point, with the exception of the GC favorites who will be marking each other closely.
Did You Know?
Today I’m going to look back from the start to stage 2 and talk about wind. Why? Because I can’t think of anything interesting to say about Andorra without sounding like the tourist board.
Today’s stage was a windy one, and I’m not sure if they would officially call this the Mistral, but the strength of the winds and the location of it makes me wonder a bit. The Mistral, a word that comes from “master,” happens when there is a high pressure in either the Bay of Biscay off France’s west coast or the North Sea, and a low pressure in the Gulf of Genoa in the Mediterranean. The wind rushes from the latter toward the former, gets funneled through some of the deep valleys of the Midi, and just pummels the region, sometimes for days on end. It’s usually cool, crisp air associated with nice weather, particularly the North Sea-origin one that affects Provence more, though there’s a long description in The First Tour de France of how a hot-weather Mistral blew up a stage of the 1903 Tour by putting a hot, bloc headwind into everyone’s faces.
The Mistral can mean winds of 20, 30, even up to 80mph out into the sea, for sustained periods of days or a week, and has a number of effects, from clearing out the dust to drying out vegetation and raising the wildfire threat. Beaches on the Cote d’Azur get colder as the warm surface water is blown out to sea. Trees in southern France lean toward the coast after years of being blown in the same direction.
We are done with legendary winds and France in general now, but got a slight taste of that today with 20mph winds that broke up the finale.
Pick to Win
Julian Alaphilippe. This is Quick Step’s time to shine, and Ala has the classics chops (not to mention the lack of three-week ambitions) to get something done here.