Treacherous waters await the peloton as they exit the final rest day of this year’s Tour de France, no rider truly certain of how their body will have coped with a day away from the rigours of racing. Their return begins on Stage 16, a 218km trek from Carcassonne to Bagnères-de-Luchon, featuring five categorised climb and a rapid descent into the finishing line. Looking like a key day for the mountains classification, expect the general classification favourites to be content with letting the breakaway vanish up the road and decide the honours amongst themselves on this occasion.
Warren Barguil is likely to fancy another swashbuckling attempt to sweep up the mountains points, as the Frenchman has made no attempt to hide his ambition to finish in the polka dot jersey by Paris. He looked strong in the second week of racing, and if he is fortunate to have sustained this factor as others begin to wane, then his chances of success look good.
Julian Alaphilippe needs to be following the moves keenly today if he is to retain his ownership of the polka dot jersey at the end of the day. With much of the day’s climbing being backloaded on Stage 16, this could make it tough for him to follow the biggest attacks late on, as a more explosive tail end to the day from his rivals could expose the fact he is not a pure climber.
Rafal Majka soon saw his general classification ambitions crumble before him once again, which no doubt means his focus will switch to taking the polka dot jersey if possible. Stage 16 is an ideal platform to really kick on in this respect, putting Barguil and Alaphilippe under some serious pressure ahead of the bigger days in the Pyrenees.
Omar Fraile makes the most of his strongest form whenever possible and it would not be surprising to see him in the break again and ultimately be one of the favourites to win Stage 16. Able to manage his efforts effectively, knowing precisely when to inflict the killer blow upon his rivals, Fraile has good pedigree when it comes to grand tour stages like these.
Romain Bardet seems to be the general classification rider most likely to attempt an attack in the concluding moments of Stage 16, especially with such a considerable descent down to the finish line. He could choose to ride the Col du Portillon at a fearsome pace, hoping to place his rivals on the rivet, before then pushing them into the red with another daredevil attack on the downhill into the day’s finish.
1st Warren Barguil 2nd Rafal Majka 3rd Omar Fraile