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Stage 11 Preview: “It’s a Trap!”

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Albi to Toulouse (167 km)

Tim de Waele/Getty Images

I said it in PdC’s stage draft and I think it’s been borne out by the first 10 stages-- it feels like the Giro and the Tour have swapped places this year. The first week and a half of this Tour has been chock-a-block with excitement. And if Stage 10 proved anything, it’s that even the flat stages that look relatively benign on paper are poised to produce excitement. Any other year, I’d be calling Stage 11 a tacked on sprint stage. However, this year, we even have Admiral Akbar Prudhomme in the official comment to the stage exclaiming that “it’s a trap!”

Hmmm…. looking at the profile, it looks like the last 50 kilometers have some unclassified hills.

Let’s take a closer look at those last 5 kilometers.

A kilometer of 5% gradients before the finish? Yep, looks like I might agree with Mssr. Akbar. Not a bad place for an ambush.

Also, the wind will be blowing in the right direction in the Tarn and Haute-Garonne regions of France tomorrow— out of the West. The route takes the riders on a long 70 kilometer section heading South before taking a turn East on the run in into Toulouse, making crosswinds a certainty. The only question is whether the wind will blow hard enough as the predicted 15 kph wind may not be sufficient for Deceuninck and Ineos to put the hammer down again like on Stage 10.

Let’s send it over to Amy to see what wine pairs best with the tears of disappointed sprinters.

Amy BC’s Wine of the Day

Mas del Perie les Escures 2014

From an importer: Fabien Jouves is from an old farming family in Causse and became a winemaker in 2006 when he created his first cuvée Mas del Périé on the highest slopes of Cahors. In this region, Malbec (Côt) is the king of grape varietals. Located between Quercy and Cahors, Jouves wanted to choose parcels that could help him show a diverse range of Malbec expressions. Following biodynamic agriculture adds strength to his terroir by supporting the whole environment from the vines to the animals.

Did You Know?

The race will pass by the small fortified town of Bruniquel tomorrow and the Bruniquel Cave, which was discovered in the dolomitzed limestone of the region in 1990. In the cave, explorers discovered the earliest-known human made construction, built by the Neanderthals over 175,000 years ago. Who knew that the Neanderthals were the Doozers of the prehistoric world?

Wikipedia/Luc-Henri Fage

Who’s Gonna Win?

For the sake of argument, let’s assume that the race stays together and we get a bunch sprint. No single sprinter has yet to dominate this race. Jumbo-Visma as a team have dominated, getting sprint victories from Mike Teunissen, Dylan Groenewegen, and Wout Van Aert, but their putative protected sprinter, Groenewegen, has not shown an ability to cope with the harder sprint stages. Elia Viviani has looked good and has had one of the better sprint trains along with Jumbo-Visma in the race, but losing to Wout Van Aert would suggest that perhaps he’s not the fastest sprinter in the race. Caleb Ewan has 4 podium finishes, but no wins, and has looked a little lost without a strong train. Peter Sagan has a win, but in a much reduced bunch, and quite frankly despite wearing the green jersey does not look anywhere near his former indomitable self. Michael Matthews has been consistently in the top 10 and has had an impressive Sunweb train but has had the timing accuracy of a microwave clock after a power outage. Honestly, with Fernando Gaviria injured, Sam Bennett finding himself a third wheel on Bora, and Pascal Ackermann and Fabio Jakobsen missing along with the actual absence of Cavendish and virtual absence of Greipel, the entire group of Tour sprinters is underwhelming and positively Vuelta-like. If I had to pick a sprint winner, let’s go with Amund Grondahl Jansen to get a fourth for Jumbo.

If the stage goes to a late attack on the unclassified hilly part, I’d look to riders like Matej Mohoric, who perhaps is allowed off the leash after Nibali’s resignation to going after stages, Lilian Calmejane, who is yet to really show himself near his home region, or even LL Sanchez, who may be given an opportunity after Fuglsang lost time on Stage 10.

Jersey Watch

Julian Alaphilippe should be able to keep the yellow jersey warm for Ineos for at least one more stage until the first Pyrenean stage. While there’s been a lot of doomsaying in the cycling press and with the DDIFP regarding Ineos having imposed a stranglehold on the competition after Stage 10, I’m not sure if that pessimism is entirely justified. Kruijswijk is only 15 seconds behind Thomas and 11 seconds behind Bernal. Mas, Adam Yates, Dan Martin, and the motherfuckin’ echelon-riding Nairoman are all within a minute of the Ineos boys. While Porte, Landa, Bardet, Fuglsang, Pinot, and Uran have all lost time, they’re probably more dangerous now as a result.

As to the green jersey, despite Sagan having a 62 point lead over Matthews, it still at least feels more competitive than it has ever been. Viviani is a not too distant third behind Matthews but should drop out of the competition now that the mountains start. I’m hoping to see both Matthews and Sagan fighting to get into the break to get some of those sweet, sweet intermediate sprint points.

The white jersey comp was probably already a foregone conclusion at the beginning of the race with the bookies-fave Bernal being young enough to be part of the competition for three more years. He’s in white and will only not be in white if he gets the yellow.

Tim Wellens still dons the polka dots and will have it at least until after tomorrow as there are only 3 points on offer with a category 3 and category 4 climb. All bets are off when they reach the Pyrenees, though, and I think that we are yet to see who the actual competitors for the mountain classification are going to be. I’d like to see Ciccone give it a go and add a polka dot to his blue jersey. Perhaps we’ll see the likes of Michael Woods, Vincenzo Nibali, and even Fabio Aru throw their helmets in the ring this year.