Today’s 162.5km passage from L’Isle-Jourdain to Lac De Payolle was a stage which caught the eye upon the unveiling of 2016’s Tour de France route. A much shorter day in the saddle compared to the preceding few days, Stage 7 builds gradually towards its Pyrenean crescendo which should entice several of the mountain men into action. The main climb of the day is the Category 1 Col d’Aspin, a historic ascent which lasts for 12km and averages out around 6.5%, but it is the subsequent descent into the finale which should cause the greatest excitement today.
Stephen Cummings is in pursuit of another career grand tour stage win at this year’s Tour de France and today looks a good opportunity for the British rider to strike out. His form in the last year has been extremely impressive, but it is his ability to remain tactically astute throughout the toughest stages which has secured him so many brilliant victories as of late. If he catches the right move, it will be a hard day for the bunch to bring him back again.
Alejandro Valverde will be the favourite to win from a sprint if all the escapees have been swept up late on and should prove tough to beat given his condition right now. The Spaniard’s form has often wained as Le Tour progresses, so the chances of him winning a stage do look more likely during these opening mountainous salvos.
Dan Martin and Julian Alaphilippe could both emerge victorious from an elite group contesting the sprint, though the former climbs better and the latter sprints faster. Judging by his recent showings, Martin is in good form for this year’s Tour de France and could demonstrate this with an attack over the top of the Col d’Aspin. It seems unlikely that Alaphilippe will survive an aggressively ridden second half of the decisive climb, but if he does, the Frenchman is a tough prospect to better in a sprint.
Romain Bardet never normally shies away from attacking his rivals when he senses a chance of a stage win, so today could inspire the young Frenchman into action once again. His team AG2R have been relatively anonymous up until now, but he should feel confident of having enough protection to set him up for the win if needed. One of the greatest skills in his arsenal is the ability to descend at incredible speed, a talent which has been known to put other riders under immense pressure as a result.
Ruben Plaza has good form for getting into the right breakaways at grand tours and has already picked up wins thanks to his ability to get a move to stick. Orica’s ambitions are not clear cut here, so they are likely to want to take advantage of these early breakaway moves in hope of stealing a win.
Other names worth keeping an eye out for in the day’s breaks include; Ion Izagirre, Pierre Rolland, Serge Pauwels, Louis Meintjes, Jurgen van den Broeck and Adam Yates.
1st Romain Bardet 2nd Dan Martin 3rd Alejandro Valverde