Yesterday’s showings from amongst the favourites was interesting viewing; the supposed super teams of Ineos and Jumbo-Visma spluttered, Yates proved unable to be dislodged, Bardet attacked for time in a race he does not want to win and the strongest looking riders proved to be Nairo Quintana and Rigoberto Urán. We waved goodbye to Thibaut Pinot’s hopes of the yellow jersey, looking seriously affected by back pain when climbing, but then saw Guillaume Martin cement himself as France’s best hope for a podium placing.
Today sees the peloton leave the familiar Tour location of Pau and take on a 153km route to Laruns, featuring a total of five categories climbs, the most testing likely to be the Category 1 Col de la Hourcère which averages 8.8% for its 11.1km duration. Similar to yesterday, the break will be given a decent run at establishing a gap before they reach some serious climbing, after which it is likely that the stage will be decided on the ascent to Col de Marie Blanque and the subsequent drop into the finish at Laruns.
Likely to be a stage for the breakaway to succeed again, the opening Category 4 climb of Côte d’Artiguelouve is bound to shape the eventual composition of the day’s move. Though that is not to suggest there will be no action from the general classification contenders behind, which if intense, may result in it all coming back together on the final climb.
As anticipated, Julian Alaphilippe produced a big effort to then promptly blow up and fall down the general classification yesterday, subsequently granting him much more freedom and the chance to indulge in joining the break on a stage which looks perfect for him. If he makes the cut early on, his fellow escapees will need to drop him before the descent from the Col de Soudet, as from that point onwards, Alaphilippe will be the favourite to take the day’s honours.
The FDJ duo of Sébastien Reichenbach and Valentin Madouas could be set free from their protective roles for Thibaut Pinot, now allowed to join the breakaways in order to chase the new goal of stage wins for the French outfit. Both have looked strong in their support of team leader Pinot and it would be no great surprise if they both manage to get up the road on Stage 9 to contest the honours.
Alexey Lutesenko will be confident of doubling up on his success so far, with his form in the mountains looking convincing and possessing the sort of sprint which could well be required to win in Laruns. Of course, it is wise to be wary of his condition after his winning efforts, but there is little to suggest he has not recovered well enough to at least make the day’s key move.
Breakaway specialist Alessandro De Marchi has been relatively quiet thus far at Le Tour de France, so there is good reason to suggest he will put an effort in on the final stage before the first rest day of this year’s race.
It is surprising how Davide Formolo appears to have fallen away quite rapidly, yet this stage falls within his territory for a stage win, so if his goal has been to simply save himself for this day in particular, it is worth considering him for the win.
Many will be eager to see what Marc Hirschi can produce on this terrain, with his sprinting and descending skills making him a clear hopeful in the final kilometres of the day. The climbs could well prove too difficult for the young Swiss rider, yet if he can survive, then he has a great chance of going one better than his result on Stage 2.
Lennard Kämna has not been able to show his real talent thus far, though if recovered after his crash, then this will be an opportunity to at least attempt to make the breakaway and potentially contest the stage win. If allowed the freedom to do so, then Warren Barguil has everything required to win, but Nairo Quintana’s strong showing yesterday suggests he will be required to support his in form leader once again.
The list is almost endless as to who could feature in the breakaway anticipated to go all the way into Laruns: Hugh Carthy, Dan Martin, Omar Fraile, Nicolas Edet and Luis Leon Sanchez may all feature.
1st Julian Alaphilippe 2nd Valentin Madouas 3rd Alexey Lutesenko