Le Tour de France 2018 Stage Nine Race Preview

Le Tour de France 2018 – Stage 9 Preview

Course:

Anticipation has long been simmering ahead of this tantalising crossover between Le Tour de France and Paris – Roubaix. Populated with a total of 15 official sectors, Stage 9’s path from Arras to Roubaix is a potentially treacherous obstacle for the riders ahead of the first rest day of this year’s edition of the race. Plenty of talented and specialist riders line up for this demanding day, though with the shadow of general classification ambitions cast strongly, it will be a strategic headache to decide if the priority is protecting team leaders or going for glory. Unlike the usual monumental distance of Paris – Roubaix, the day will be far more explosive as a result of totalling only 156.5km, meaning even greater fireworks may be ignited.

Le Tour de France 2018 Stage 9 Race Preview

Contenders:

John Degenkolb ended up finishing third yesterday as a result of André Greipel and Fernando Gaviria being penalised for dangerous sprinting, though this does not flatter him and his current form. There is little doubt that this is a key ambition for himself and his team, knowing that his previous expertise in winning Paris-Roubaix is likely to be priceless during the defining moments of Stage 9. Likely to be an aggressive day, the shorter distance compared to the Hell of the North could be detrimental, though a week of racing is already in the legs of the peloton, which might negate this factor convincingly so. Powerful enough to follow the danger men and unquestionably fast enough to win at the end of the day, Degenkolb could find himself victorious upon familiar territory once again.

Peter Sagan is the favourite for many ahead of the day’s stage, the indomitable three time world champion able to turn his hand to any riding specialism and prove a contender immediately. Finally winning Paris – Roubaix this year after continuous expectation and pressure, Sagan knows that he is a champion on these cobbles, only adding fuel to the inferno of which is his ego. A victory here would also help to cement a tighter grip upon the green jersey, as few rivals in that contest are likely to match him here as well.

Philippe Gilbert appears to be in fantastic shape during the opening week of Le Tour de France, no doubt now looking to put this to great use by winning Stage 9. Capable of winning from a select sprint or epic solo breakaway (as we witnessed in 2017’s Ronde van Vlaanderen) he is a hard man to anticipate. Given Quick Step’s lesser ambitions with the general classification, he is likely to be part of a potent force alongside Niki Terpstra, Bob Jungels and Yves Lampaert who have the freedom to attack the day. Gilbert rode Paris – Roubaix for the first time in a long time this year with an eye catching performance, one he will be eager to push further.

Sep Vanmarcke must feel jinxed, a specialist in one day races who is continually plagued by bad luck and misfortune. Hoping that the context of a grand tour might alter this for him, the Belgian rider will fancy his chances of going for the win, as with no serious general classification riders to protect, he can give everything to finally take a victory of sorts upon the cobblestones.

Greg Van Avermaet is seeking to extend his time in the yellow jersey until the opening barrage of mountains. Not only is he capable of achieving this ambition, he has a very strong chance of winning the stage too, especially having won the genuine Paris – Roubaix only last year. BMC shall be in a quandary however, as any freedom for Avermaet to ride his own race could result in leaving team leader Richie Porte short of support when it matters most. An interesting dynamic to observe on the day, but the Belgian should be confident of having a shot at glory regardless.

Vincenzo Nibali could cause a stir amongst the peloton on Stage 9, as the grand tour specialist has growing ambitions to take a clean sweep of the five monuments before retiring, ensuring that we will not see the Italian shy away from the action. A dramatic Milan – San Remo earlier this season exemplified his strategic prowess compared to many, yet the feeling is that he is bound to be underestimated yet again by his rivals. His performance in 2014, when Le Tour de France visited the cobblestones in the rain, resulted in a third place finish ahead many of today’s classic specialists. As ever, the Shark of Mesina remains one to keep an eye upon.

Niki Terpstra possesses fantastic pedigree when it comes to racing around these parts of France and Belgium where cobblestones and hellingen are commonplace. An unrivalled performance during De Ronde this season was spectacular, while his previous victory at Paris – Roubaix certainly means he is comfortably placed upon Stage 9’s list of favourites. Likely to wait for a lull in the action or until his rivals go into the red, Terpstra’s best chance will come from his trademark solo attack. Additionally, fighting alongside his teammates from Quick Step can only help to soften the peloton up before he gives it everything.

Taylor Phinney was long touted as a future Paris – Roubaix champion, but racing schedules and a significant injury has meant that his talent for this type of terrain has fallen to the back of some people’s minds. A back to back winner on these cobbles at Paris – Roubaix Espoirs and an 8th place finish at this year’s elite edition sinks any doubt about his capabilities on Stage 9. With enough talent in the team to help protect leader Rigoberto Uran, the American powerhouse should be given the freedom to chase this victory, one which he would richly deserve if successful.

Outcome:

1st Philippe Gilbert 2nd Peter Sagan 3rd Greg Van Avermaet

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Le Tour de France 2018 Stage Nine Race Preview

Le Tour de France 2018 – Stage 8 Preview

Course:

Seldom are certainties in cycling, but Bastille Day is sure to bring a strong French flavour to the day’s attacks, especially when it comes to being in the breakaway at the world’s biggest bike race on the nation’s most celebrated day. Beyond the skirmishes which shape the formative moments of the day, Stage 8’s 181km route from Dreux to Amiens appears to be one of the final clear opportunities for the sprinters to contest the honours. However, given the rolling terrain and potential for crosswinds, few things can be guaranteed in reality at Le Tour de France. With a technical finish which couple hamper and hinder the prospects of some of the leading sprinters thus far, potential is high for a new name atop the podium.

Le Tour de France 2018 Stage 8 Race Preview

Contenders:

Fernando Gaviria has proven an impressive force at his debut Tour de France so far, which is of little surprise given his pedigree and powerful assortment of supporting riders. Stage 8 will be on his radar as an opportunity to take another win before the first rest day on Monday, which could position him nicely on the points classification ahead of the race entering the first barrage of mountains; the Colombian anticipated to be one of the fast men who copes best with the demands of climbing. He will need to be alert to the technical nature of the finale, but given his track experience, he shall not hesitate to surf the wheels if required here.

Dylan Groenewegen stepped upto the mark yesterday and took the win in some considerable style, distancing the likes of Fernando Gaviria and Peter Sagan with apparent ease. Having timed his run to the line to perfection, the Dutchman will be far more confident today and knows that this could well suit his strengths once again. The sheer power he possesses is enough to bury most rivals in a short enough sprint, so given that today’s final surge to victory may not be ignited until 200m from the line, it would be far from shocking to see another stage win for the young Dutchman.

Peter Sagan is certainly the most consistent rider in the sprints once again, playing the long game for his ambitions of the green jersey, even if that might mean not taking another stage win at this year’s edition. With the potential for today’s concluding 5km to become chaotic, the chances of the three time world champion winning certainly increases as result, with another podium place feeling assured at the very least in Amiens.

Arnaud Démare looks to be the best chance for a French win on Bastille Day, riding for a native team with plenty of supporting countrymen who will be passionately invested in performing well today. The Groupama-FDJ squad were only bettered by the imperious Quick Step team yesterday in regards to performance, positioning their lead man neatly in the concluding moments and staying out of trouble by avoiding any unwanted risks. With several crucial turns in the final 4km of Stage 8, this technical offering levels the playing field somewhat for Démare and his teammates, knowing that another convincing performance from all could place him in an unbeatable position. He defeated Fernando Gaviria in a similarly technical finale several weeks ago at Tour de Suisse, providing him with renewed confidence, while national pride on Bastille Day stokes the belief that anything is possible.

Outcome:

1st Arnaud Démare 2nd Peter Sagan 3rd Dylan Groenewegen

Le Tour de France 2018 Stage Nine Race Preview

Le Tour de France 2018 – Stage 7 Preview

Course:

Stretching for a total of 231km from Fougeres to Chartres, Stage 7 is the longest day in the saddle for the riders at this year’s Tour de France. Featuring just a single categorised climb, this gently undulating path deeper into France looks to be a happy hunting ground for the sprinters once again. The finale itself concludes with a wide finishing straight, against a moderate gradient of 2%, which will make timing the sprint even more crucial if a prevailing headwind is apparent late on.

Le Tour de France 2018 Stage Seven Race Preview

Contenders:

Fernando Gaviria looks to be the favourite once again, enjoying his first Tour de France in convincing form and equipped with a Quick Step team who cannot help but win. The distance should not be of concern for the Colombian rider, as we have already seen during his earlier career that he can cope with the rigours of Milan – San Remo, a certainly tougher affair than today’s offering.

Arnaud Démare seems to have already fallen down the pecking order of contenders, despite not really having had a chance to demonstrate his great form this season. He was unable to contest the first opportunity to sprint at this year’s race, which was then followed by a powerful drag race on Stage 4 that did not suit his strengths at all. Today’s distance and slight gradient to the line will play into the hands of the Frenchman and could produce a blunt reminder of why he must not be forgotten already.

Dylan Groenewegen has not been at the level many had expected from the Dutchman thus far, with plenty considering this a potential breakthrough grand tour, yet things have not gone his way yet. Regardless, his immense power and positional abilities mark him out as a clear danger in relation to a finish such as this.

Peter Sagan can never be discounted from the win, but seems more like to take another podium finish here instead. The World Champion is eager to get his hands on the green jersey once again and knows that his immense consistency is unmatchable for many, therefore picking up points without risking his safety looks a sound plan on a stage like today.

André Greipel was exceptionally close to pulling off the perfect sprint on Stage 4, yet ran out of steam just before the line while battling against Fernando Gaviria and a testing cross-headwind. The finale today is not ideal for the German powerhouse, yet with 153 professional wins under his belt, it would be foolish to think this is beyond the seasoned campaigner.

Outcome:

1st Arnaud Démare 2nd Fernando Gaviria 3rd Dylan Groenewegen

Le Tour de France 2018 Stage Nine Race Preview

Le Tour de France 2018 – Stage 6 Preview

Course:

A 181km jaunt from Brest to the iconic climb of the Mür de Bretagne, providing the peloton’s finest puncheurs with a chance to test themselves upon the brutal finishing slope at the end of the day. Rolling throughout and featuring a total of four recognised climbs, much of Stage 6 should prove a tame affair, with many teams eager to ensure everything is back together for the anticipated battle up the Mür de Bretagne. With approximately 20km left of the day’s racing, the riders will be required to ascend the Mür for the first time, giving them one last chance to tweak any plans ahead of the decisive second climb to the line.

Le Tour de France 2018 Stage Six Race PreviewLe Tour de France 2018 Stage Six Race Preview

Contenders:

Alejandro Valverde is no stranger to mürs having won La Flèche Wallonne an astounding five times against the Mür de Huy, making him the clear favourite for victory on Stage 6. A specialist like no other, it will take a great strategic manoeuvre to soften his grip upon his dominance of this climb, but we did see it was possible to do so earlier this spring.

Julian Alaphilippe was the man to finally interrupt the dominance of Valverde at La Flèche Wallonne when winning earlier this year and will definitely fancy his chances of doing so once again here on the Mür de Bretagne. It could be argued that the fact this has taken the shape of a Tour de France stage rather than an Ardennes classic could favour the Frenchman with eyes on another win atop the wall.

Dan Martin has often proved the best man after Alejandro Valverde during springtime finishes like these, though must feel as if he is stuck in a video loop with how each contest seems to play out as he loses touch in the final moments to the Spaniard. However, Martin is another rider who may benefit from this famous climb being part of a Tour de France stage, leaving him to be more explosive and potentially overtake his rivals when it matters most upon the Mür.

Alexis Vuillermoz took the win when Le Tour de France last finished here and will have his eyes on repeating this feat once again, though shall not doubt appreciate his previous glory will have reduced his freedom compared to 2015.

Others to consider are Peter SaganPierre LatourGreg Van Avermaet, Daryl Impey and Rigoberto Uran.

Outcome:

1st Julian Alaphilippe 2nd Alejandro Valverde 3rd Dan Martin