An opportunity for the mountain men and general classification to make their presence felt in the second half of this year’s Tour de France, as Stage 13 offers little in the shape of flat roads throughout its 191.5km duration from Châtel-Guyon to Puy Mary Pas de Peyrol.
For those who originally lined up at this grand tour with ambitions for the yellow jersey now dead in the water, this will be a salvage operation, so anticipate swashbuckling attacks from those eager to compensate.
Those who are still in contention for the overall win shall be aware of the dangers the conclusion to today’s stage may hold, where a sign of weakness could be exploited and a gulf of difference made apparent between those who began the day as favourites.
Much of the action is expected to be ignited during the final 30km of racing, with the 5.4km Puy Mary decisive, averaging 8.1% and tasking the riders with the final 2.4km of its duration at 11% – 12%. It will take an incredible ride to win the stage, yet much attention shall be upon the general classification riders, from which we may well see a bid for yellow left in ruins.
Perhaps the team with the greatest incentive to perform strongly today is FDJ, making it likely that Thibaut Pinot and his lieutenant David Gaudu will emerge as protagonists. Both are very well suited to this on paper, though Pinot perhaps more so due to the finale (slightly), yet there are obvious concerns as to the condition of his back at the moment. Gaudu has produced some incredible supporting efforts in recent seasons and perhaps this is his chance to step into the limelight and claim his richly deserved reward. Given the pressure upon the French outfit to leave this tour with something to show for, it would be surprising for both to be absent from the key moves or at least one to feature late in the day.
A similar salvage operation will now be underway for Emanuel Buchmann, originally arriving at this grand tour as a genuine outsider for the podium in Paris, yet he has looked consistently off the pace when demanded to match the favourites. Having shipped plenty of time on the general classification, he will undoubtedly enjoy plenty of freedom to join the breakaway on a course which suits him perfectly, 95% of the time. That missing 5% is the finale itself, which he will need to arrive at solo, as many others likely to be on the hunt for stage honours are better equipped to attack on the steep slopes.
There is a great question mark as to what can be expected from Dan Martin, upon a stage which would have had him as a leading contender several years ago, yet the Irishman has been totally anonymous thus far at Le Tour. If he has truly targeted today since the start, then he has enjoyed a relatively stress free journey up to now, conserving his condition and making himself poised to join the battle to get away. With so little to assess the classics specialist upon, it remains difficult to see him excelling on the finale, which would normally have been perfect; Martin will hope the adage ‘form is temporary, class is permanent’ rings loudly today.
It shall be interesting to see what the battle for the polka dot jersey looks like by the end of the day, with expectation being that Nans Peters will be tasked with getting up the road and winning points to keep it within the ranks of AG2R La Mondiale. He has already turned in one gutsy performance to win a stage, so should make the cut, but the finale looks too brutal for him.
Speaking of polka dots, Warren Barguil is a great fit for the challenges on offer today, but will need the freedom to leave team leader Nairo Quintana behind in order to pursue his hopes of victory. The lithe limbed climber has rarely looked as good as his initial breakthrough at the Vuelta a España in 2013 or his most recent peak in 2017, though the steep gradients of the finale will be happy hunting for the Frenchman if on a good day.
After his winning performance yesterday, there will be few demands upon Marc Hirschi to repeat his efforts once again on Stage 13, though there is plenty of reasons to consider he will feature here. The terrain is fitting for the young Swiss rider, while the steep finale tailored even more so to his talents, but can he really muster the energy to contest another tough stage?
If it all comes back together and we see the yellow jersey duke it out with his rivals once more, then Primož Roglič looks only to fear his countryman Tadej Pogačar, as both are well suited to this testing conclusion. Egan Bernal has already declared today’s stage an opportunity to open up gaps, but given his performances so far in the high mountains, it could be bluster in order to disguise concerns around his form; offence here could be a valuable defence though for the reigning champion.
The rest of the top 10 or so in the general classification will likely follow the pace dictated by the yellow jersey for the most part, but if it becomes apparent in the final kilometres that the group will decide the stage honours, attacks will surely fly. Romain Bardet has looked eager to test his legs whenever possible. Guillaume Martin has the condition to win a stage, but this is not ideal. While the Colombian triumvirate of Nairo Quintana, Rigoberto Uran and Miguel Ángel López can all produce a sprint against these concluding 11%-12% gradients in order to set off in pursuit of the win and perhaps a handful of seconds over the yellow jersey too.
In regards to the overall composition of the breakaway on Stage 13, there are plenty of names to consider and it will be interesting to see how many of those joining have already been active at Le Tour de France: Marc Soler, Esteban Chaves, Hugh Carthy, Pierre Rolland, Pello Bilbao and Alexis Vuillermoz.
1st Thibaut Pinot 2nd David Gaudu 3rd Primož Roglič