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 Aravis, Col de la Colombiére, Col 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.
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 Pauwels. Either 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.
1st Dan Martin 2nd Alejandro Valverde 3rd Vincenzo Nibali