Yesterday’s baffling finale will still have people scratching their heads while Stage 13’s crucial time trial kicks off, this race against the clock poised as ever to have a say in who will walk away with 2016’s yellow jersey in Paris. Starting in Bourg-Saint-Andéol and finishing at La Caverne du Pont-d’Arc, the 37.5km individual time trial takes in an uphill start and finish, while a large plateau and sharp downhill section forms the rest of this course which appears to be an open affair. There are no sustained climbs of serious gradients, so the general classification frontrunners shall not be able to utilise such climbing skills, whereas those who are comfortable grinding away big gears will fancy this. However, this is not drag race from one end to the other, much of the course requires changes of cadence and gearing; a testing demand that many struggle with.
Tom Dumoulin has grown immeasurably in the last couple of years to become one of the best time trial riders in the world, a fact made even more amazing by his parallel rise as a competitive name in the mountains too. The Dutchman has already picked up a stage victory at 2016’s Le Tour de France against the odds, but it is today’s offering which will truly catch his eye and it is Dumoulin who might prove to be toughest time of all to beat on Stage 13.
Fabian Cancellara is sailing ever closer to his retirement and is yet to really grab the marquee win which would seal his career satisfyingly. The Swiss legend has proven to be quite anonymous up until now, though the expectation is that he shall break cover on Stage 13 in an attempt to add one further Tour de France stage victory to his tally. The course suits him well enough, likely to offer him the terrain to gain sufficient time during the mid-point, before then rising to the finish with enough in hand so as to avoid burying himself.
Chris Froome will be pleased to return to his saddle after yesterday culminated with him sprinting up Mont Ventoux as the result of a moto stopping unexpectedly, sending him crashing into the back of former teammate Richie Porte. The profile is not ideal territory for Froome to truly dominate, but there is no doubt that he will be fired up to compensate for such a farcical display and will give it everything as a result.
Tony Martin continually progresses in the mountains, but many worry that such gains uphill have resulted in losses of his prowess against the clock. Admittedly, Martin has changed his career goals since being a World Champion time trialist, though you can never truly discard a rider who has achieved such a plethora of successes in this discipline.
Thibaut Pinot was long marked as being unable to realistically challenge for a grand tour due to his inability to compete in these time trials. This notion is no longer relevant though, as the Frenchman has not simply just improved his riding in this respect, but has now even won time trials. The course suits him reasonably well, if not perfectly and his goals at Le Tour now lean strongly towards stage wins. Given how much time he has now lost on the general classification, a good showing here will do little in regards to the yellow jersey, so he may decide to save his efforts and pursue a mountaintop stage win instead.
Richie Porte will be extremely frustrated after yesterday’s unexpected turn of events and will seek to deliver justice in a discipline which he normally excels at. Despite his amazing form right now, two bouts of misfortune have disguised this fact and he enters Stage 13 surprisingly underestimated. The rolling terrain plays into his hands nicely, while an uphill finish should really allow the BMC captain to make gains ahead of the finish line.
Tejay Van Garderen has continued to climb up the general classification with little fuss, now finding himself within a couple of minutes of the yellow jersey without having produced any flashy displays of riding. The American has fallen short of expectation in the recent years at the major grand tours, but 2016 sees a more assured Van Garderen, one who will fancy the odds of producing a convincing time trial on Stage 13 to climb yet further up the general classification.
Vasil Kiryienka is the reigning World Champion in this discipline and would no doubt like to secure a stage win at the world’s biggest race while wearing the rainbow stripes. However, Sky are ruthless in their meticulous planning of how to win a three week grand tour and it is hard to have seen them scheduling in a stage win for Kiryienka; a huge effort they are unwilling to allow of a man crucial to Froome’s success in the mountains.
Stephen Cummings has already demonstrated his immense form at this year’s Tour de France by taking a stage win and often placing himself in the battle for the day’s breakaway. These displays do make it easy to forget though that the British rider is somewhat of a time trial specialist and deserves a credible mention as a rider who could certainly find his way onto the podium. The downside of course, is that the consequence of his earlier efforts may have drained him and thus makes putting in a fully committed performance tougher than expected.
1st Tom Dumoulin 2nd Richie Porte 3rd Chris Froome