You know who must love team time-trials? Sponsors. They’re the perfect thing to put on flyers and press releases alongside buzzwords like “teamwork” or “power” or “Alpecin caffeine shampoo.” You know who doesn’t love team time-trials? Me. I find them a bit inequitable. More importantly, I find them boring. For the riders, it’s less of a prize than a normal stage win. Surprises are at a minimum. There’s a prescribed list of contenders that is not often upset. More importantly, there’s a list of GC contenders whose hopes of winning will be all but over by the time the roadside hoardings are taken down in Cholet.
Anyway, it’s a rolling route with which the riders are faced. When the road rises, it does not do so too harshly, even if the Côte de la Segiuniere does look like at least a small challenge on aero bikes.
It’s one of the longer Grand Tour TTTs of recent time, mostly being made up of long straight sections rather than any kind of technicality being in consideration. Essentially, this is a power effort. The most cohesive, strongest team will win.
Anyway, let’s look at who’ll be up towards the top of the timing sheets. First though, here is Amy’s wine choice for the stage:
Wine: Bruno Rochard/Domaine de Mirebeau Moque-Souris Chenin Blanc 2014
Finally, the expected white! Let’s listen to an expert: Feiring Line Wine Society: May 2017 Selection — From Alice: Here’s a terrific wine which had its roots in the schist-based soils of Rablay/Layon. Bruno returned to his family’s estate in 1998 and started to work his 6.5 hectares in 2002, under the guidance of neighbor Richard Leroy. And in 2006 he started to convert to organic. Every year his wines get better and more expressive. I wrote up the 2013 a few months ago and the 2014 is no less lovely but a little different, there’s still plenty of flesh but a little less pith and firm. The plushness matched with refreshment is an adorable duo and the whole wine has a very long, violet narrative until the last drop. Bruno continues to impress.
Back to the cycling, there’s a short list of teams that can win this. A list of two, three or four if you’re being generous. At the top of said list for many people must be Team Sky, after their dominant performance in the Dauphiné. They do have such testers as Jonathan Castroviejo and Michał Kwiatkowski, alongside Froome and Thomas who are of course an addition to the team, rather than riders who must be protected. Five of the seven riders who rode the TTT last month survive to ride this. Two who did not, Froome and Bernal, both suffered crashes, but they should be in good enough shape to contribute fully. However, I’m not picking them to win.
I don’t think they’ll be strong enough to beat BMC, my pick for the stage. They will miss Rohan Dennis, but are not lacking in good time-triallists with Porte, Van Garderen and Küng all involved for the Swiss outfit. History has shown them to be cohesive and skilled at this discipline and they have some form in it, winning comfortably over a strong Sunweb outfit at the recent Tour de Suisse. The outsiders for the stage are Sunweb and Quick-Step Floors, bit it’s my expectation that they will fill third and fourth places.
This stage’s biggest story, however, will not be the stage win, instead the gaps forged in the GC standings. I’ve used the word inequitable to describe this stage, but what is oddly equitable is that the GC riders who may have expected to do the best in the TTT: Froome, Porte and Adam Yates for example, have all lost time, time this stage can only recover for them instead of them pulling out their own margins. There are exceptions of course: Tom Dumoulin and Geraint Thomas are both in a good position to move handsomely up the GC here. On the other side of the scale, Nairo Quintana, already 1:15 down, will not be making any gains on those ahead of him here. Movistar will not be the worst affected however. Daniel Martin and Vincenzo Nibali, on UAE Emirates and Bahrain-Merida, respectively, will have a long way to fight back after this stage, as will EF-Drapac’s Rigoberto Uran.
Anyway, BMC for the stage, a long way back for the losers.