So this is the stage, I suppose the one we’ve all been waiting for. It’s the shortest Tour de France mountain stage I will ever have viewed, and it’s the only summit finish left in the race. If Geraint Thomas is to crack, this is the stage his detractors have circled in red ink as being the one to do the job. The grid start has gotten its share of newsprint but in reality it will make no difference, maybe the top guys will be a little more secure heading for a coffee before the start but the racing should be unaffected, as is only right. Here’s what they have to deal with:
Peyragudes is a good starter if not the hardest climb imaginable (or even the hardest route there), while Val Louron is steeper and more irregular, if a little short. This year, there’s no desperate Contador to kick off attacks from kilometre zero, but there may be a desperate Movistar. Even so, I think it may simply be Valverde attacking early which is not something that should elicit much of a response from the peloton. On the second climb I think the tactics might change, if necessity is the mother of invention then desperation is the mother of doomed attacks. Sky should hunt down Quintana without burning too many matches.
That brings us to the final climb:
The Col de (not du) Portet is one of my favourite summit finishes I’ve ever seen on the Tour de France. I think it’s reasonable to compare it to Alpe d’Huez with its somewhat uneven gradient between eight and eleven per cent, but really? This climb is better. It’s two kilometres longer and actually gets harder towards the top rather than the Alpe’s lessening of gradient just at the business end. There was gravel at the top but it’s been replaced by a strip of new smooth tarmac, which is probably a good thing all things considered. Should this Tour be decided by a puncture? Maybe it already has been.
One thing that definitely isn’t a has-been is Amy’s ability to choose wines. Today’s offering — Ebellium Garnacha 2014
Dipping a toe into Spain for this earthy and fruit wine. Plus, a bit of a bargain.
So what will happen in the GC? This doesn’t look like a stage that should suit Tom Dumoulin, but then neither did the Alpe d’Huez stage and here we are. I don’t think he’s going to take time out of Froome and Thomas but I don’t think he’s likely to lose much if any. But here we get to the five hundred thousand euro (divided eight ways with ten per cent for the soigneurs) question: Thomas or Froome? Froome or Thomas? For me, I’m nailing my colours to the Welsh mast. Does Froome want to win the Tour? Of course he does. Would he sacrifice Thomas’ chances to do so? I reckon he would. Those are the wrong questions.
The question is this, and only this: Does he have the legs? As far as I’m concerned, he has nothing extra in his locker. Yes. He absolutely crushed it out of nowhere on the Finestre. That makes absolutely no difference. The fact that he made that much of an effort in May doesn’t make the chances of him doing the same in July more likely, in fact it may do the opposite. I can’t believe the amount of times I need to repeat this, not just out loud but in my own head: nobody has done the Giro-Tour double since Marco Pan-fucking-tani. The fact that Froome and Dumoulin did the Giro is more of a sign they’ll struggle here than Thomas’ history. He has never been on this form or anything near it before. Looking three years into the past for him breaking in the mountains is about as useful a foretelling technique as crystal ball-gazing. He is in the form of his life and only has one more summit finish to get through. He is going to do it. Hell, I’m going all out. Geraint Thomas will win the stage.