After yesterday’s early escapade over the Port d’Envalira saw an unexpected group of the day’s big names go clear, it was a stressful affair which resulted in Peter Sagan whittling the group down to a total of seven riders, only to see his efforts set Orica’s Michael Matthews up for a storming victory; as predicted by Spokenforks. Today’s 162.5km adventure from Carcassonne to Montpellier offers the breakaway specialists ideal terrain to strut their stuff, but with so few opportunities remaining for the sprinters to take a stage win, it could prove tough to fend off the chase behind.
André Greipel has been extremely frustrated thus far at 2016’s Le Tour de France, currently finding himself without a win, despite appearing the clear favourite on several occasions. Today’s route to Montpellier is likely to be affected by the howling Tramontane wind, meaning those teams who are well versed in fighting against crosswinds and throwing their rivals into the gutter are bound to look favourably upon today. Greipel’s Lotto-Soudal certainly fit the mould here on Stage 11 and should feel confident of bossing the race in an attempt to set the German champion up for the win.
Marcel Kittel is another great German sprinter who finds himself racing on a Belgian team who are no strangers to making life difficult for their rivals once the crosswinds begin to hammer the peloton. Kittel is one of the fastest riders at this year’s Tour de France and is currently in resurgent form after a bout of illness left his sprinting abilities in an unrecognisable state. Having already taken a victory in the opening week, the pressure is off somewhat compared to his rival Greipel and that freedom will allow his Etixx team to be more patient before striking out on his behalf.
Dylan Groenewegen is a very interesting prospect for Stage 11 and warrants a close eye being placed upon him during a day which could play out favourably for the promising Dutch sprinter. The LottoNL-Jumbo team will be one of the most comfortable squads if required to fight amongst the crosswinds, but they are still yet to deliver Groenewegen effectively into the decisive final kilometres of a sprint finish. His pure speed is certainly under no doubts and stage 11 looks more likely than any to finally ‘click’ in order to earn him a maiden grand tour win.
Mark Cavendish has now lost Mark Renshaw, the most crucial component in his leadout train and a loss magnified by a stage which is likely to prove extremely stressful with reduced protection throughout the day. The preceding stages are likely to have been a draining affair for the Manxman, but his age brings wisdom, and with that the likelihood he has conserved energy so as to target today. He will have to attack this from behind the likes of Greipel and Kittel in order to challenge realistically, but leaving it late to break cover in the sprints so far has prevented him from picking up wins.
Dan McClay has surprised many during the first week of racing, but those who have watched him rise through the ranks will have only seen a rider earning the plaudits long anticipated of him. He has extremely limited support, but if he manages to stay relatively safe during the day, then a chaotic sprint finish could strongly favour McClay to surge late and cause an upset.
Peter Sagan and Alexander Kristoff would normally be two of the first names down to contest a day like this, but a combination of yesterday’s efforts by Sagan and Kristoff’s recent form does little to favour either of them today.
1st André Greipel 2nd Dylan Groenewegen 3rd Peter Sagan