After yesterday’s stage, it is safe to say that anyone spending their time attempting to predict what happens next is mad…
Stage 8 sees the peloton leave Cazères-sur-Garonne and heading into a serious looking triumvirate of mountains, before then concluding 141km later in Loudenvielle. Much of the peloton spent yesterday busting a gut in an attempt to save their protected riders from the magic of Peter Sagan and the Bora crew, who felt that an easy day before the Pyrenees sounded a terrible idea.
The bunch will surely be thrilled that their lack of an easy sprint day came ahead of tackling two Category 1 ascents (Col de Mentè 6.9km 8.1% Avg, Col de Peyresourde 9.7km 7.8% Avg) and the joyous HC Port de Balès (11.7km Avg 7.7%) – no Christmas cards for Bora–Hansgrohe this year.
The relatively short stage and difficulty of climbing should make this an interesting spectacle, as it may well prove difficult for a breakaway to get away and stay clear for long, as the bunch is bound to catch them with plenty of racing left to do. This leads to the prospect of everything being together late in the day, GC teams riding tempo for the most part and probably assessing the threat of counter-attacks attempting to get up the road for the win.
It is likely that the main men on GC will end up deciding the honours on Stage 8, from which any of those who can offer a serious turn of speed in a sprint will be the favourites, but whether the yellow jersey changes hands is harder to predict.
It was far from an ideal start for one of the home nation’s greatest hopes, Thibaut Pinot, who has had to overcome a crash on day one and recover during some unexpectedly intense racing in the opening week. Yesterday was a superb performance by FDJ though, having numbers in the front group to protect Pinot, who is beginning to look in better form ahead of returning to his favoured terrain. Known for being one of the faster climbers in a sprint, there is a chance that the Frenchman could challenge for the win, though it is more likely that the first day of serious climbing will be approached with some trepidation; that isn’t to say testing the legs can’t result in him winning.
By far the strongest performance we have seen from the general classification big names has been Primož Roglič, possessing a formidable team to control the race on the ascents and a sprint finish which has already secured him a stage win. The pace setting of Jumbo-Visma has been unparalleled, already helping to sow doubt as to whether Ineos Grenadiers can survive a taste of their own medicine, and it seems certain that this tactic will sweep up the day’s breakaway; primarily as a result of the distance making it tough for them to gain a sufficient advantage. There is a strong chance of yet another stage victory for Roglič and Jumbo-Visma on Stage 8.
A great performance in testing circumstances yesterday, Tadej Pogačar once again makes it difficult to believe his age (21) given the way he is approaching his debut Tour de France thus far. Having lost time yesterday, there is a definite incentive to go on the attack and pull back some time given the favourable terrain. He will be grateful to be getting amongst the serious mountains at last and shall be all the better for it, as his aggressive riding could put plenty of pressure on the GC favourites to chase him down late in the day.
Adam Yates will be aware that holding onto yellow will likely be a testing affair this weekend, even though his form is good, there is plenty left to be desired as to the support he has for days like these (and worse.) The shorter nature of the stage and the climbs will not be favourable, and given how far behind the likes of Roglič he has looked so far, it may only be the lack of a summit finish which saves him from losing yellow today.
One rider likely to pounce on any hesitation from the favourites is Miguel Ángel López, who certainly appears to be in some sparkling form at the moment, no doubt wishing to make the most of it while able to. Rarely afraid to attack, even when the odds are against him, the Colombian could prove to be a real thorn in the side of Roglič and Jumbo-Visma during these mountain stages. An attack on the Col de Peyresourde would be the perfect springboard for stage honours, though that is not to rule him out from attacking even earlier if confidence blooms.
Others worthy of mention are:
Julian Alaphilippe is either going to blow up spectacularly or win the stage. The man does not compromise.
Guillame Martin sits nicely in third place on the general classification right now, and despite looking like he has at least one stage win him at this tour, the lack of summit finish today makes it unlikely the honours are to be his on Stage 8.
Ilnur Zakarin waved goodbye to a huge chunk of time yesterday, undoubtedly very interested by today’s offering.
Hugh Carthy is an interesting prospect and should be respected if allowed to get up the road in the early move. When on form, the British rider can make climbing look a total breeze, yet it will be tough to build a sizeable lead to stay clear of the inevitable yellow train.
1st Primož Roglič 2nd Thibaut Pinot 3rd Tadej Pogačar