The Boomtown Rats don’t like Mondays. Neither does Garfield. Me? It kind of depends. Sometimes I have a restful weekend and get to the office motivated and productive. Other times, I slouch into the office and struggle, and then I’m playing catch up all week. This Monday was a rest day for the peloton, but to be fair, they had a busier weekend than I did, and certainly had a tough Sunday. So Tuesday is their Monday, and how good they’re feeling when they come back to will have a big impact on the ultimate destination of the yellow jersey.
Make no mistake, they aren’t easing into the week. If they were office workers, this’d be an 8am presentation, multiple meetings and an evening committee, with no lunch. When Moo Productions asked, 10% of us thought this was the Queen Stage. The riders will be eyeballs out for much of the day, with five classified climbs, including one hors-categorie. Here’s the profile:
It goes without saying that, when the roads slope up, you should be reading Will’s preview. He’s right to point out that the riders climb an additional peak that isn’t even mentioned. After a week of getting KoM points for going over flyovers, this’ll be a shock. Still, it is the HC climb and three category-1 climbs that’ll really make a difference.
My previews so far have been a little snide. I haven’t always agreed with the stage design that ASO have inflicted on us for the Tour, and if it wasn’t for Sunday’s cobbles, I don’t think I’d yet have woken up from stage seven. Man, that was terrible. I mention this because I really like the stage design for Tuesday. Will’s the expert on these matters, and if he says they’ve picked tough climbs, I believe him. If he says they’ve found a good new route, I believe him.
What I like in particular is the order of the climbs. Croix Fry is a leg-softener, and will get the peloton spread out, moving plenty of weaker riders away from the climbers. So far, so ordinary.
After that, though, the toughest and steepest climb of the day comes early in the stage. There’s about 90km left to cover after the top of Glieres, and there won’t be many lieutenants left with the bigs. If you’re hoping for a mountain train up to the final climb (Mr Froome) then you may well be disappointed. Only the absolute best will be able to manage this.
A traverse on gravel, a technical descent and an unclassified climb will make regrouping tough for a while, and the 16km between Bonneville and Cluses will be significant, because if you aren’t in the front group at the foot of the Col de Romme, you’ve got limited chances of catching up. Neither of the finishing climbs are as tough as Glieres, but both are tricky. As Will points out, you can consider these to be the same climb, as there is only a partial descent and no respite before the climbing begins). There’s 14km to the finish from the final summit but the bulk of that is a quick descent. I know le Grand Bornand from biathlon, but I’m sure it’ll host a good cycling finish, too.
So, the course designers have thrown down a challenge – tough, steep climbs and challenging descents. Not only that, but this is the first day in the mountains, and plenty of riders will still be shaking off the rest day and recovering from bruises and exhaustion from the cobbles. We’ve got all the ingredients for an exciting day. Let’s take a drinks break, then look at the potential winners.
Amy’s drink of the day
Les Grangeons de l’Albarine Combernand La Cluse des Peintres Aligote 2014
From CopakeWineWorks and their owner, Christy ,says: An engineer by training, Luc Bauer has set out to breathe new life into his little corner of the Bugey, the Côteau d’Argis in the Albarine Valley. Back in 1900, there were over 100 hectars of vines in this part of the Albarine Valley. Today, it’s less than 2 ha. Since 2014, Luc has been acquiring small parcels of vines which he works biodynamically, as well as an old barn, known locally as a Grangeons, which he is renovating into winemaking cellar. In 2015, he was able to quit his day job and focus full time on his wine projects. But 2016 didn’t turn out quite as planned. Terrible weather and even worse heath resulted in no wine to sell and a long stint in hospital. But 2017 was a year of recovery and with any luck, we’ll have more of Luc’s wines to sell soon.
In the meantime, for those who want a little Bugey in our lives, we’ll have to make due with the last bits of what we have on hand.
Before we get into the good stuff, it is worth pointing out that the intermediate sprint is very early, which is good news for Gaviria’s minor hopes of catching Sagan. He’ll need to pick up points here because it’ll be slim pickings this week. He’ll try and hang on through the cat 4 early climb.
After that, it is all climbers, all the time. The list of top climbers is fairly well known, and Conor’s GC guide is a pretty fair summary of the main contenders (ah, Richie. What could have been). What, though, am I looking for in particular?
Well, this is likely to be a day for the elastic, scattista climbers more that for the diesels. Sorry, Zakarin, sorry, Nibali. Probably not your day. Similarly, I would be wary of riders who had to burn a lot of matches on Sunday, or are likely to be suffering from their injuries. Any of Landa, Bardet or (more of an outsider) Majka might well have fancied their chances on a parcours like this – especially Bardet with a challenging descent at the end - but are likely to try and keep their heads down and wait for another day.
Who is left? Well, Team Sky’s Froome and Thomas will be hoping to make a statement – Froome tends to go hard early in Tours and would like a statement win. He’s probably favourite. Equally, Valverde and Quintana had a surprisingly quiet day on Sunday and could go well in terrain more suited to Movistar. Quintana will be desperate to claw back time and this course might suit him, whilst Valverde might benefit from defensive riding – if there is a group of 10-15 at the summit of Colombiere and he’s not been shaken off, he’ll be favourite to win the reduced sprint.
Dan Martin is another who’s ridden well so far, climbs well and can finish a race. Adam Yates will be hoping to match his brother’s “first day in the mountains” exploits from the Giro and is riding nicely and without much fanfare to date. I’ve made a habit of underrating Primoz Roglic and I won’t do so again. Warren Barguil is another who can make some noise in his favoured terrain, though the early signs aren’t promising.
Could we see a breakaway take this, or a surprise winner? I suppose we could, in which case the list of potential winners is far longer. However, I think the sheer volume of climbing, and the importance of a good start in the mountains means that the bigs will be riding hard. I think this’ll be contested from the leaders’ group, though a determined rider in an early break could pick up sufficient points to take the spotty jersey.
The other thing to watch for is a bad day. Predicting that is difficult but we can be fairly confident that at least one of our list of favourites will be well beaten. This is a stage where the “annoying camera at the back of the main group” might be less annoying than usual; it wouldn’t be a surprise if that is where the action is. Uran, Landa and Bardet are all at risk of a jours sans given their exertions to date, with Landa looking significantly sore in Roubaix.
I’ve been putting this off, but time for a prediction: a group of favourites stays together much of the way up Colombiere, with maybe seven or eight stars in the lead group. Froome’s late attack is reeled in and Adam Yates goes in the last 500m of the climb and wins solo, with Dan Martin pipping Alejandro Valverde for second.