The almost annual visit to Pau appears on Stage 18 this year, serving as the finish line to a 171km run from Trie-Sur-Baïse, potentially offering the remaining sprinters a penultimate opportunity of victory before the peloton arrives at the Champs Élysées on Sunday. There is little in the way of climbing, especially after yesterday’s monumental stage, with fatigue a key factor which could benefit the breakaway in their hopes of striking gold by the end of the day. With a technical conclusion once again for the sprinters, those who have anything left resembling a leadout train will be at a definite advantage compared to their rivals.
Alexander Kristoff shall certainly fancy his chances of winning today after rival Peter Sagan fell heavily during yesterday’s stage and is now likely to be focused on simply making it to Paris in good shape. The Norwegian’s team has worked hard for teammate Dan Martin, though should still be able to offer him a degree of protection and assistance during Stage 18, keeping him fresh for the finish in Pau.
John Degenkolb found great form earlier in the race during his triumph upon the cobblestones and will now be confident of picking up a late win at Le Tour as the attritional nature of the race sees him rise to the top of the favourites. As one of the only riders still in possession of a convincing leadout train, Trek-Segafredo will prove an immense asset during the technical finale, likely to be the deciding factor in Degenkolb’s ambitions to double on victory in the final week.
Magnus Cort has history of picking up stage wins late in a grand tour, looks fresh and is certainly one of the fastest remaining in the peloton. However, the finale is not ideal and his team are unlikely to offer much which can rival the likes of Groupama-FDJ or Trek-Segafredo in terms of a leadout. Instead, Cort could find success in a late breakaway move on the final climb of the day, knowing that those likely to join him will struggle to better him in a sprint.
Arnaud Démare should really have several wins under his belt at this year’s Tour de France, yet has continually made costly errors in the final moments of stages, leaving himself and the team without any glory at their native grand tour. Despite being the fastest sprinter present, and supported by a team which exists only to help him win, the feeling is that Démare will struggle once again to make his presence felt when it matters most. He has suffered in the mountains quite noticeably and is surely now past his best at this race.
1st John Degenkolb 2nd Alexander Kristoff 3rd Arnaud Démare