Le Tour de France 2016 Preview

LE TOUR DE FRANCE – STAGE 21 PREVIEW

Course:

Once again we find ourselves reaching Paris in what seems like the blink of an eye, three weeks of racing around France has seen Chris Froome steadily ratchet up the pressure on his rivals and is now poised to be crowned Tour de France champion for the third time in his career. Stage 21 needs to be safely negotiated first however, a predominantly ceremonial 113km from Chantilly to the famous Champs-Élysées. A stage which allows the race’s remaining sprinters to stretch their legs one last time, thundering along the historic boulevard’s cobblestones as they duke it out for one of the biggest prizes the quick men can get their hands upon.

 

Tour de France Stage 21 Preview 2016

Contenders:

André Greipel has not enjoyed a great Tour de France and this will be his final chance to try and save his race this year. Though there is no doubt he has suffered in the mountains recently, the fact he now has the best leadout train by some margin will mark him out as a favourite today. This power based sprint finish is traditionally Greipel’s bread and butter type of finale, where if he gets the final few hundred meters spot on, it is hard to imagine anyone bettering him.

Marcel Kittel will be extremely motivated to add another victory upon the Champs Élysées to his palmares and is the favourite for many eyeing up the contenders on the final day. He still possesses a great leadout train, though one which has perhaps been more active in the Alps than rivals Lotto-Soudal, so fatigue may well be an issue for them in the high paced leadout.

Peter Sagan shall end today atop the podium with another green jersey to take home, but there is also a strong chance that he will need to revisit the top step as stage winner as well. He is the least fatigued of the sprinters, though does not often emerge victorious in these blistering drag races to the finish line, yet will still be confident of causing an upset. He has a great talent for following the right wheels and there is little to suggest he cannot time a perfect late surge to the line for another stage victory at this year’s race.

Alexander Kristoff will be a real danger to the likes of Kittel and Greipel today, the Norwegian potentially overlooked by some, despite his well documented ability to dominate towards the end of major races. The Katusha rider has failed to replicate his form from the previous season, though has remained a contender in the more attritional sprints at 2016’s Le Tour de France. He still has support at this late stage of the race and will be assured of a good position once the sprint for the line truly opens up.

John Degenkolb is still on the road to recovery in the wake of being struck by a car on the wrong side of the road while out training a few months ago, though still fits the bill as an ideal candidate for stage honours on the final day. There is no doubt he has the power to hurtle over the cobbles, and combined with the slight uphill drag, there is a good chance we will see him at his best once again.

Outcome:

1st Alexander Kristoff 2nd Marcel Kittel 3rd André Greipel

Le Tour de France 2016 Preview

LE TOUR DE FRANCE – STAGE 20 PREVIEW

Course:

Romain Bardet fulfilled the expectations of Spokenforks yesterday by taking Stage 19 with a stylish attack, securing another correct prediction for us at 2016’s Tour de France. Today’s affair is the final day in the mountains ahead of Sunday’s finish in Paris, a 146.5km route from Megéve to Morzine which takes in a total of four categorised ascents; Col des AravisCol de la ColombiéreCol de la Ramaz and Col de Joux Plane. With much of the top ten in the general classification still yet to be cemented, there is a strong chance of fireworks on the penultimate stage as riders hope to gain an extra place or two before Paris. Much of the day’s stress will be created by the final ascent of Col de Joux Plane, an extremely tough climb, culminating in a rapid descent to the day’s finish in Morzine. 

Tour de France Stage 20 Preview 2016

Contenders:

Alejandro Valverde has a brilliant skill for winning stages like these, which are often decided by the strongest rider over the top of the final climb who can then execute a swift and successful descent to the finish line. Valverde ticks all of the above and is notorious for his sprinting abilities when fighting for the victory within a select group too. The greatest negative here is the likelihood of Valverde being asked to work for his teammate Nairo Quintana once again, but any degree of freedom here would immediately mark Valverde out as a threat to the hopes of others on Stage 20.

Dan Martin is another rider with a similar skill set who could certainly challenge for the win today, appearing as one of the strongest and most aggressive climbers in the last few days. The Irishman is not afraid of attacking the big names, and though a top ten general classification placing is certainly a great reward for the last three weeks, there is no doubt Martin would enjoy another Tour de France stage win. His climbing and descending skills are exactly what are required to perform today, while there are few who could better him in a reduced sprint after such a hard day.

Romain Bardet was originally circled by many to attack here in hope of a stage win, but after yesterday’s victory, it is unlikely he will want to attempt the same again on back to back days. His descending skills are incredibly impressive, though with a podium place on the general classification already appearing to be in the bag for him, Bardet is much more likely to simply follow the wheels throughout the day.

Vincenzo Nibali has continued to be active during the final week of this year’s Tour de France and would certainly like to finish the race with a stage victory, especially given his poor general classification showing. Whether he decides to bide his time amongst the lead group of elite riders or join an early breakaway, Nibali can navigate the trickiest of descents with ease and is one of the world’s finest climbers when on form.

Warren Barguil will not walk away from this Tour de France content with his performance, but a victory on Stage 20 would definitely save his race in the eyes of many. The French rider has not fulfilled his ambitions of a convincing general classification campaign, though was one of the stronger finishes during yesterday’s hectic finale. He already has grand tour wins to his name, demonstrating the required nous to pick the right moves and is a difficult man to reel back when on form in the mountains.

Two riders that have worked hard during this year’s race in the breaks, but are yet to secure a win, are Alexis Vuillermoz and Serge PauwelsEither rider has the potential to attack on today’s stage, though it is the latter who looks to be the fresher of the two, thus more likely to join the day’s decisive move.

Outcome:

1st Dan Martin 2nd Alejandro Valverde 3rd Vincenzo Nibali

Le Tour de France 2016 Preview

LE TOUR DE FRANCE – STAGE 19 PREVIEW

Course:

Chris Froome proceeded to tighten his chokehold upon this year’s Tour de France with yesterday’s blistering time trial, putting enough time into his remaining rivals to suggest the yellow jersey will stay upon his shoulders into Paris. Despite the race for the maillot jaune appearing dead, the battle for the podium is well and truly lit now, with less than two minutes currently separating 2nd to 6th on the general classification. These final mountainous days are are likely to prove hectic, as with shorter distances and a chance of being on the podium of Paris still possible for many, it is likely the stages will be ridden intensely. Today is a relatively brief 146km trip from the immediate climb out of Albertville to Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc, taking in a total of four categorised ascents which include the HC Montée de Bisanne and the final Category 1 summit finish.

Tour de France Stage 19 Preview 2016Tour de France Stage 19 Preview 2016

Contenders:

Chris Froome has sunk everyone’s ambitions of winning the yellow jersey at 2016’s Tour de France, seemingly putting the final nail in place with yesterday’s astonishingly potent time trial. Right now it looks like he is a level beyond the rest and it is easy to see him taking the stage today if the general classification names sweep up the day’s breakaway late on. The final ascent offers the steep gradients which have often seen Froome distance his rivals with great success, and with this being the final summit finish of 2016’s Tour de France, he will be motivated to add a stage victory here to the set.

Richie Porte continues to impress and would have been even closer to Froome’s winning time in yesterday’s time trial had he paced it more effectively. Most tellingly of all perhaps, Porte left Stage 18 believing he had failed to give it everything on the course and is clearly enjoying great form at the tail-end of this race. Froome has not dropped his former teammate thus far, though the impetus to do so has not really been required at this year’s race, meaning there is the potential of Porte being gifted a small gap in the final moments of Stage 19.

Romain Bardet is all too aware of how close he is to securing a podium place this year and could be tempted into attacking on the final ascent in order to gain time. Such a move would cause chaos in the lead group, as nobody in the top ten is truly assured of their place beyond Chris Froome, so a frantic battle to follow wheels would immediately break out. The Frenchman could wait until the penultimate stage to try and steal a podium spot, as the stage concludes with a downhill section, but given that he has appeared to be one of the stronger climbers in these final days there is no reason to avoid attacking if he senses rivals in trouble on Stage 19.

Rafal Majka seems to have been wearing the polka dot jersey since we first rolled out of Northern France given his dominant performance. Despite leading the competition with ease, the Polish rider is still lacking a stage victory and knows that this is his last chance of solving the problem.

Ilnur Zakarin has certainly shown a return to form after his horrendous crash earlier this year in the Giro d’Italia and will be motivated enough by his win on Stage 17 to try his luck once again. The uphill start will play into the hands of a strong breakaway of climbers forming and he will be wide eyed in anticipation of joining the right move.

Serge Pauwels enjoys these tough days in the saddle and was unfortunate to not be rewarded better for his performance on Stage 17. He should certainly be eager to join the breakaway once again and is likely to have learned from his earlier mistakes which cost him a better placing a few days ago.

Fabio Aru rode a fantastic time trial as predicted by Spokenforks yesterday and shall now be on the lookout for an opportunity to ride his way onto the podium too. The Italian loves steep terrain and shall be a man to watch on the final ascent as the battle for top ten placings is expected to boil over.

Thomas De Gendt will be eager to apply pressure in the race for the polka dot jersey and has freshness on his side in comparison to his rivals, who have spent more time in the breakaways recently. If he performs well today, De Gendt could well end up snatching the jersey in the final couple of days before reaching Paris.

Outcome:

1st Romain Bardet 2nd Fabio Aru 3rd Chris Froome

Le Tour de France 2016 Preview

LE TOUR DE FRANCE – STAGE 18

Course:

The stifling heat of yesterday’s trek through the mountains ultimately extinguished the hopes of many fans who had been expecting the top general classification riders to duke it out amongst themselves for stage honours. There is no doubt that the prospect of today’s uphill individual time trial was weighing many ambitions down on Stage 17, riders preferring instead to conserve energy in the hope of putting in a good performance today. Beginning in Sallanches, the route opens with several kilometres of relatively flat terrain, before kicking upwards to 10% as it signals the start of the day’s real challenge; eventually finishing in Megève after 17km of racing later. Fatigue will play a large role in the outcome here, many of those suffering badly yesterday will be anxious of losing yet more time in this race against the clock. This course will allow the pure climbers to gain considerable time on the rest of the peloton, but it is those who can combine this with the required power to dominate a time trial that are most likely to benefit by the finish.

Tour de France Stage 18 Preview 2016

Contenders:

Richie Porte has an encouraging record in these short uphill time trials and will be confident of recording a time likely to challenge many of his rivals. He has appeared incredibly strong as the race approached its final week, looking like the only rider able to match Chris Froome right now, a factor somewhat obscured by his misfortune with punctures and crashes. Porte knows that this is a golden opportunity to climb the general classification, but a stage win here will surely be the greater motivation for 2016’s Tour de France.

Chris Froome will struggle to find many likely to bet against him today, the Sky leader is indomitable these days and has already proven at this year’s tour that few can match him in a time trial. The steepness of this affair will diminish the chances of the thoroughbred time trial riders contesting the win, opening this up for another stage victory for the race’s most dominant rider as it stands. He appears fresher than anyone, even after 17 stages, and many expect Froome to hammer a nail into the coffins of all around him with a potent performance today.

Tom Dumoulin is the most likely rider outside of the general classification battle to challenge for the win here, the Dutchman continually cementing his place as one of the finest time trial riders currently racing. He has demonstrated his climbing prowess already at the race, taking a stage win as a result of it, making it plausible that he shall blend power and climbing ability to great effect on Stage 18 to take the win.

Fabio Aru shall be an outsider worth watching here, the young Italian rider has emerged as one of the stronger competitors in the final week and has previously impressed on mountain time trials despite normally lacking a great ability against the clock. Once he enters onto the steepest sections of today’s stage, Aru will be able to strut his stuff on his favoured gradients, terrain he often uses as a foundation to victory with great success.

Nairo Quintana has fallen far from expectations and now seems to be openly admitting that his form is nowhere near good enough to challenge for the yellow jersey. This uphill time trial would normally see Quintana marked as one of the expected favourites, but his performances at this year’s race up to now show little sign of encouragement to back him here. Natural talent can compensate for a lack of form to a certain degree, though it seems too great a task to make it all up in one attempt and become contender today.

Other riders worth monitoring during today’s time trial are; Ilnur ZakarinAlejandro ValverdeRomain BardetAdam YatesRui CostaTony Martin and Ion Izagirre.

Outcome:

1st Richie Porte 2nd Chris Froome 3rd Tom Dumoulin

Le Tour de France 2016 Preview

LE TOUR DE FRANCE – STAGE 17 PREVIEW

Course:

Having ticked off the third rest day of 2016’s Le Tour de France, the race now enters the first of the final barrage of mountains which stand between the peloton and their annual procession into Paris. By no stretch of the imagination does Stage 17 ease the riders back into the swing of things after their break from the action, serving up a 184.5km trip from Berne to Finhaut-Emosson; an HC summit finish intended to rock the general classification. In total there are four categorised climbs, but much of the day’s focus will be centred upon the final 35km, a brutal transition from Col de la Forclaz to Finhaut-Emosson which could see a rider’s Tour de France slip away from them.

Tour de France Stage 17 Preview 2016

Tour de France Stage 17 Preview 2016

Contenders:

Chris Froome has once again placed the race in a chokehold before the final week has even begun, gaining time in all manner of fashions without even contesting a summit finish such as this yet. Nobody has been able to launch a realistic attack on the Sky captain, let alone actually gain time on mountainous days and much of the same can be expected here. Froome appears to be the strongest climber in this race by far, while his teammates have potentially put in the best Sky performance we have seen at Le Tour de France, ultimately making it tough to see past another victory for the maillot jaune here.

Richie Porte looks to have come closest to matching Chris Froome in the mountains so far, his collision with a motorbike last week somewhat obscuring his performance on that occasion, but he is certainly one of the strongest here. Such a huge day in the saddle after a rest day is always a concern for major general classification contenders, so there are question marks surrounding Porte’s potential performance, though much of the same can be said of all the favourites today. Interestingly, the BMC co-leader has already conceded a relatively large amount of time, so Sky might be happy to conserve energy for this final week by allowing him to gain around a minute or so and the stage win.

Romain Bardet is one of the most aggressive riders among those billed as yellow jersey contenders, but is yet to truly apply pressure to his rivals in this race. The Frenchman has seen his hopes of a podium place slowly diminish, thus might be more inclined to hunt out a stage victory, with today playing to his strengths of descending and steep gradients nicely.

Nairo Quintana looks to be on shaky ground right now and there is great concern as to how well he shall perform in these final stages of Le Tour de France. The Colombian rider would normally be a much more appealing prospect to back on a day such as this, but his recent showings make it tough to believe he shall be able to get the better of his fellow general classification riders.

Given that the following day’s individual time trial shall be hanging over them while attempting t0 measure their efforts on Stage 17, the breakaway and late moves do have a sound chance of making it to the finish first. Riders worth keeping in mind to benefit from a successful attack include; Fabio AruSerge PauwelsPierre RollandIlnur ZakarinRafal Majka and Laurens Ten Dam.

Outcome:

1st Richie Porte 2nd Chris Froome 3rd Romain Bardet

Le Tour de France 2016 Preview

LE TOUR DE FRANCE – STAGE 16 PREVIEW

Course:

Normally a rest day, 2016’s third Monday will in fact be another day in the saddle which exceeds 200km, as the peloton slink their way across France and into the day’s finish at the Swiss city of Berne. Yesterday’s immense amount of climbing saw an explosive race in the breakaway, but the high temperatures and ever increasing gradients nullified the anticipated attacks within the general classification favourites, but many of today’s contenders are bound to have suffered regardless. Stage 16 throws down a 209km route from Moirans-en-Montagne to Berne, a rolling day which the sprinters’ teams know could be the penultimate bunch kick before Paris, assuming they get their calculations correct to prevent a late move going clear.

 

Tour de France Stage 16 Preview 2016

Contenders:

Peter Sagan makes everything look so easy, chewing up the road and spitting it out with the comfort of a man en route to the café for a Sunday’s worth of coffee and cake. Today has a very Sagan feel to it, the opportunity for long breakaways, late solo moves and uphill sprints over pavé should definitely lure the reigning World Champion to the fore as the final decisive moments approach. The actual impetus for him to perform may in fact stem from the fight for the green jersey with Mark Cavendish, as Sagan knows that a hard ridden race here could blow the Manxman out the back door and thus extend his lead in the competition with a potential victory.

Bryan Coquard has established a growing reputation for dominating this type of finale and has shown form in this race deserving of a stage win already. The French are still without a win at 2016’s Tour de France and are running out of opportunities to remedy this fact, thus Coquard’s French team Direct Énergie will be extremely motivated to help him onwards to Stage 16 glory.

Alexander Kristoff was not far off taking the win on Stage 14 when chasing home Mark Cavendish to finish second and now looks confident as the race enters its final week. Given the accumulative fatigue by this point of the race, Kristoff begins to emerge as a greater threat to the ambitions of his rivals here, the Norwegian often one of the strongest men remaining towards the end of a grand tour. Katusha seem certain to boss the front of the peloton, attempting to prevent any breakaways going clear and deciding the outcome before Kristoff even catches sight of the line.

Michael Matthews should feel somewhat more relaxed as a result of taking the win on Stage 10 last week and will be a danger today yet again. The race should be ridden hard late on as the likes of Katusha and Tinkoff attempt to limit the odds of a breakaway making it to the line and similarly aim to knacker sprinters such as Mark Cavendish and Marcel Kittel before they reach the finish. The terrain should be of no great concern for the Australian, while his climbing prowess marks him out as one of those most likely to have recovered from yesterday’s mountainous efforts.

Edvald Boasson Hagen provides a great alternative to Mark Cavendish on Stage 16, the powerful Norwegian picking up several similar victories earlier this season. With a mixture of pavé and uphill drags in the final kilometres, EBH will be open to joining any potential late moves, as much as he will hope for a reduced bunch sprint to decide the day.

Marcel KittelAndré Greipel and Mark Cavendish are the purer sprinters who may struggle to remain at the front of affairs as the race enters its final moments in Berne. Kittel has recorded wins on far harder finishes than this, Greipel is the most consistent on similar terrain and Cavendish’s form right now gives the impression that anything is possible.

For late breakaway candidates, Greg Van AvermaetJasper StuyvenFabian CancellaraJan Bakelants and Sep Vanmarcke all fit the bill.

Outcome:

1st Michael Matthews 2nd Peter Sagan 3rd Alexander Kristoff

Le Tour de France 2016 Preview

LE TOUR DE FRANCE – STAGE 15 PREVIEW

Course:

Spending the majority of yesterday keeping the breakaway on a tight leash while riding into a headwind, actually allowed a degree of recovery for the general classification favourites on Stage 14. In contrast, Stage 15 will certainly prove to be a stressful day which takes in six categorised ascents, featuring the HC Grand Colombier after 113km of racing. This should be a day for the breakaway to decide the honours amongst themselves and it will be a ferocious fight for the riders to make the cut early on, after which point the GC teams will throttle back somewhat. Though a great cliché it may sound, today is an unlikely stage to see somebody win this year’s Tour de France, but there is a great chance of somebody losing it on the 160km route from Bourg-en-Bresse to Culoz.

Tour de France Stage 15 Preview 2016

Contenders:

Vincenzo Nibali has long since waved goodbye to a strong general classification placing and will instead now look towards stages like today in the hope of securing a victory for himself. The Italian got off to a shaky start at this year’s Tour de France, though does now look to be riding into more familiar form, so should be worth keeping an eye upon here. Climbing is evidently the order of the day, but the rapid descent into Culoz specifically will catch Nibali’s eye as a brilliant opportunity to make a race winning move, while Nibali would still be the favourite in a reduced sprint if unable to dispatch rivals before the finish.

Rui Costa often only seems to discover his best form on big days like this and will be hoping he can build upon similar performances of his during the early part of this race. Stage 9 saw him bettered only by Tom Dumoulin, while it could also be argued that the torrential downpour and temperature approaching the finale also reduced his odds of winning on that occasion. Regardless, Costa is clearly experiencing good form and would be foolish to waste an opportunity such as this to secure a stage victory

Alejandro Valverde will be poised to take advantage of the breakaway being reeled in earlier than expected if the peloton strike a faster pace than many are anticipating on Stage 15. The Spaniard appears to be gradually outperforming his teammate and leader Nairo Quintana, so might instead wish to bide his time until later in the race to make a move. However, if everything does indeed come back together ahead of the finish, it will be very difficult to predict how it will play out; we do know how expertly Valverde can exploit these decisions though.

Ilnur Zakarin is another general classification rider who finds himself with uncertain goals since leaving Normandy a couple of weeks ago now. The Katusha rider came here after a disastrous crash forced him to abandon the Giro d’Italia and it was unclear what level of form he was really in as a result of this incident. Though he has not exactly lit the race up so far, he has been unfortunate to miss a few key breaks and will prove difficult to distance if he does make it into the breakaway on Stage 15.

 

Jarlinson Pantano is always a dangerous man to join the day’s move and should be relatively interested in being part of the action on Stage 15. The major downside for the Colombian rider is the flat finish, a contrast to his favoured uphill finales which have previously delivered him success.

Laurens Ten Dam was once tipped to be a contender for the yellow jersey in his career, but currently finds himself riding a relatively anonymous Tour de France for his new team Giant-Alpecin. His prowess for climbing has never diminished, as it was stretching it over three weeks which was proven to be an ask too great, so a Ten Dam on form today is definitely a threat to others hoping for an easy day in the break.

Nicolas Edet is good at animating stages like this, though he is yet to translate this talent into a stage victory or top 10 stage finish at a grand tour. The French are still without a win at their home grand tour, and given that Edet rides for French team Cofidis, there will be an added incentive to remedy this situation as soon as possible.

Rubén Plaza has been highlighted on a couple of occasions during this year by Spokenforks to join the battle for stage honours and this appears to be another opportunity for him to do precisely that. Plaza has been surprisingly quiet so far, though given the attritional nature of the first run of mountain stages, he may have decided to keep his powder dry and strike out later on in the race. He turned in a very encouraging performance on Stage 13’s individual time trial and will aim to build upon that glimmer of form today.

Outcome:

1st Vincenzo Nibali 2nd Jarlinson Pantano 3rd Ilnur Zakarin