La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage Preview

La Vuelta a España 2017 – Stage 5 Preview

Course:

An intermediate type of stage which as the potential to cause trouble at the top of the general classification, Stage 5’s 175.7km route from Benicàssim to Alcossebre offers plenty of opportunities for the major names to unexpectedly turn the screw on one another. Soon heading uphill after the day’s departure, the first ascent is the Category 2 Alto del Desierto de las Palmas, a 7.8km (avg 4.8%) launchpad for the day’s breakaway to likely form upon. From here the road drops away for a period, before climbing the Category 3 Alto de Cabanes (7.3 km, avg 4.4%) en route to the Category 2 Coll de la Bandereta (4.6 km, avg 7.6%.) The tempo of the day’s racing is likely to increase as they drop into the valley, preparing for the final Category 2 climb of the day; the Alto de la Serratella. Despite lasting a total of 13.2 km, its low average gradient of 3.7% makes it an extremely manageable affair for all the expected frontrunners on the day. The spotlight shall then be upon the gradual descent back to level ground, which is a short lived relief, as the conclusion of the day is the steep Category 3 Ermita Sta. Lucia. The 3.4km kick is far from a smooth ride to the top, finishing 1.4km from the finish line and possessing gradients which reach 20%. Anyone ahead on their own by this point will have no technical concerns during the run into the finale kilometre, though the road does kick up once more to 8% before the line.

La Vuelta a España 2017 - Stage 5 Preview

Contenders:

Romain Bardet was expected to be riding here on the hunt for stage wins, yet his showing thus far does suggest he could be aiming higher than this, regardless today’s finale certainly meets the criteria the Frenchman requires for another grand tour stage win. Often performing well on these steep drives to the line, Bardet will be expected to push hard over the top and aim to have a gap to his rivals heading into the final kilometre. However, if that is not successful, he is still able to turn in a convincing sprint effort against other climbers in a fight for the win. Given his apparent diminished threat to the general classification, he may be allowed to take this if he is unlikely to steal a great deal of time in the process.

Esteban Chaves knows that this will be a good opportunity to not only win the stage, but also put time into Chris Froome, potentially delivering him the leader’s jersey in the process. The irregular nature of the final climb, as well as the 20% inclines, do not suit Chris Froome at all and Chaves shall not hesitate to exploit this if possible. His form is often very strong for this final grand tour of the year and he has already performed convincingly enough to suggest there is a good chance he is the man to beat on Stage 5.

Michael Woods did not look an imposter when forming part of the elite leading group on Stage 3, dropping a big hint that he has a potential stage win in him for 2017’s La Vuelta a España. He will need his team to work hard and ensure the breakaway does not get to the final climb first, but if they do achieve this, then this is close to being an ideal finish for the Cannondale – Drapac captain. If the group of favourites begins to hesitate late in the day, Woods is a rider who will invest everything in jumping ahead and holding it right the way to the line.

Omar Fraile seems the rider most likely to strike out for the win from an earlier breakaway or move, a skill he displayed repeatedly well during Spring / Summer this year. He has been particularly well hidden during these opening stages, though the consensus is that he is simply keeping himself safe, rather than struggling to maintain pace with a hectic first week of racing. Should he make the cut for the day’s move, then it is hard to see anyone else alongside him being a greater favourite for the stage honours.

Other riders to consider for Stage 5 are Lachlan MortonJulian AlaphilippeAlessandro De Marchi and Chris Froome.

Outcome:

1st Romain Bardet 2nd Esteban Chaves 3rd Michael Woods

Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 20 Preview

Course:

There is perhaps less pressure placed upon this individual time trial than many anticipated heading into the final week, but that does not mean to say stress levels will not be soaring as the general classification favourites do their utmost to stay upright and avoid any late mishaps before the Champs Élysées. The short 22.5km course based in Marseille draws its focus to the sole climb of the day, a steep rise to Notre-Dame de la Garde which lasts 1.7km and possesses a gradient of 9.5%. The following downhill section is technically demanding and could prove hazardous if conditions are reminiscent of those seen in Düsseldorf at the start of this grand tour three weeks ago. Though the yellow jersey is unlikely to change at this late stage of the race, the general classification still as some major battles, most crucially between Romain Bardet and Rigoberto Uran.

Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage 20

Contenders:

Chris Froome will not wish to walk away from this Tour de France having won the overall and not managed to secure a stage win in the process. He has not been his normally aggressive self during this race and has relied more than ever on the strength of his teammates to ensure rivals are kept on a tight leash. He maintains that his form is now peaking during this final week, aiming to dominant this affair and hammer home a strong advantage at last.

Primoz Roglic has enjoyed a brilliant time at the Tour de France, taking great confidence into this time trial, one which he will no doubt believe is within his grasp of winning. He may well lose time on the steep ascent of Notre-Dame de la Garde and the subsequent technical descent, but has the power to outperform major rivals on the more simplistic parts of the course. At the end of such an arduous race, there is a chance of Roglic having lost a degree of explosiveness, though much of the same can be suggested of many contenders today.

Stephen Cummings entered the race in unexpectedly blistering form, though has not been fortunate enough on this occasion to take a stage victory. Had he not invested such a great deal earlier in the race, then Cummings may well have been a greater favourite for stage honours in Marseille, the feeling being that he is unlikely to have sustained the level of strength with which he first started Le Tour de France.

Vasil Kiryienka is a former world champion at the individual time trial, though has not produced that degree of performance for a long time now, often finding himself at the call of his Team Sky teammates at major races such as these instead. Of the traditional time trialists in contention here, the Belarusian rider is the one most likely to have survived in a convincing enough shape to still produce close to his best. The course does not truly suit his talents, but at the tail end of a grand tour, fatigue is often a greater factor than simply what appears favourable on paper.

Tony Martin could perhaps be the greatest time trial rider of all time, yet the German hero has seen his performances ebb and flow more than ever recently, struggling to sustain the level of dominance we once saw from him several years ago. He was bitterly disappointed to have missed out on the win and yellow jersey in Düsseldorf at the start of Le Tour, no doubt pursuing this second opportunity against the clock to compensate. He will have to produce his best in order to win here, as he has invested plenty in helping his Katusha teammates and is now likely to have paid the price as a result; class is permanent however.

Others to consider are Jonathan CastroviejoStegan KüngMaciej Bodnar and Michal Kwiatkowski.

Outcome:

1st Chris Froome 2nd Primoz Roglic 3rd Vasil Kiryenka

Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 18 Preview

Course:

A similar story and cast of protagonists is expected on Stage 18, as those with eyes upon the maillot jaune realise that time is running out to seize it before they find themselves charging through Paris for another year. Starting in Briançon and finishing atop the iconic climb of Col d’Izoard, the day totals 179.5km and should see the final melee from the most talented climbers at this year’s Tour de France. After a tame start to proceedings, the riders tackle the Côte des Demoiselles Coiffèes to ease the legs into the day, lasting 3.9km and wielding an average gradient of 5.2%. From here the road begins to subtly build upwards and directs the peloton to the base of the Category 1 Col de Vars (9.3km, avg 7.5%), which becomes much harder as the incline reaches double digits near the summit.

What is likely to prove an explosive descent then follow, plunging back down into the valley, a downhill chase which may prove too technical for some riders to follow the attacks upon. Everything then appears poised to be decided by the climb up Col d’Izoard, a task of 14.1km in length, with a somewhat misleading average gradient of 7.3%. Life is not too difficult as the riders ascend the opening 7km of the Col d’Izoard, though it is the second half which lays the foundations of a brutal war of attrition, fuelled by want of the yellow jersey. The latter half begins with a kick of 10% and then fails to do more than modestly drop below that for the rest of the way to the summit. A small dip in terrain occurs at Casse Déserte, though it is tortuous relief, as what follows leads to the constant grind of 10% in the final kilometre to the summit. The effort taken to win Stage 18 will prove monumental, but the effort to win Le Tour could prove greater still.

 

Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage 18 Preview

Contenders:

Chris Froome may well end up winning this year’s race without ever having looked particularly threatening, a victory which looks likely to become his most defensively ridden grand tour thus far. He knows that an individual time trial still awaits in Marseille, making this more of a ‘do or die’ situation for his rivals than himself. All of the questions regarding his condition entering the race were answered with claims of aiming to strike his form perfectly for these final mountain stages; making today the perfect time to showcase this if true. Normally by now in the Tour de France we have seen Chris Froome decimate his opposition with neatly orchestrated attacks of immense power and timing, yet the evidence is scarce to suggest he is in that sort of shape at present. Regardless, if the game plan truly is to put everything on the line today, then a full strength Chris Froome is bound to prove impossible to follow for his rivals.

Romain Bardet once again emerged as the most attacking rider from within the clutch of favourites who have a realistic chance of winning the race overall. As mentioned previously, the Frenchman relishes these tough Alpine stages and will consider much of this to be playing out within touching distance of his home region. Given the panache and swashbuckling tendencies he has, there is little doubt that Bardet will invest everything into winning Stage 18 and potentially Le Tour de France in the process. His team are strong on this type of terrain and have already proven capable of making life difficult for Team Sky when attempting to set Bardet up to gain time on his rivals. Though the Frenchman might not have enough to gain a race winning time gap upon Chris Froome, he is certainly talented enough to be first over the final 10% rise to the finish line.

Rigoberto Uran is the dark horse lurking in the shadows during this final week of racing, calculating best when to strike and potentially steal the yellow jersey from beneath the noses of both Chris Froome and Romain Bardet. Yesterday saw him collect a clutch of bonus seconds and move up to second place on the overall classification, though it is the savage final kilometres of today’s contest which will determine how serious his chances of taking yellow really are. Thus far his most aggressive riding has often come on days where a descent has led into the finishing line, more often staying safe in the group of frontrunners and allowing the prominent favourites to tear strips off one another. This might indicate that Uran is anxious of entering into a full head to head battle in the mountains, or may have simply focused upon staying as fresh as possible for this decisive day. He is the one most likely to benefit from any cat and mouse games being played by Froome and Bardet late in the day, as the closer he can attack to the line, the better his chances are of utilising his explosive power to great effect.

Mikel Landa would be a real contender for the yellow jersey if allowed to enter himself into the contest by Team Sky, yet has to commit his efforts into protecting the lead of captain Chris Froome instead. His form is no longer in question, as it is apparent how strong he is compared to the other major contenders right now, potentially being able to ride himself onto the podium if all goes well during Stage 18. Chris Froome is fully aware of Landa’s form and ambitions, perhaps agreeing to work as a double act to distance their rivals and earn the Basque climber a richly deserved stage victory in thanks of his loyalty.

Dan Martin is the only rider who could prove strong enough to stay in contention and thus dominant any potential sprint from an elite group of riders. There is no doubt that Martin will feel aggrieved by his misfortune at this race, having lost time as a result of Richie Porte’s costly crash and his own team’s miscalculations during Stage 16’s brutal crosswinds. A podium place would have been within his grasp had things gone to plan, so now he must hope that a stage win is still achievable and will have a greater degree of freedom to push onwards in the final kilometres as the general classification battle rages on behind him.

Other names worth considering are Alberto ContadorSerge PauwelsEsteban ChavesDarwin AtapumaDaniel Navarro and Alessandro De Marchi.

Outcome:

1st Romain Bardet 2nd Rigoberto Uran 3rd Chris Froome

Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 13 Preview

Course:

Bastille Day often delivers displays of swashbuckling attacking from native riders at Le Tour de France, so an incredibly short 101km Stage 13 from Saint-Girons to Foix should only serve to act as a pressure cooker to accelerate the selection process. A trio of Category 1 ascents define the day, beginning with the Col de Latrape after only 25.5km of racing; lasting 5.6km with an average gradient of 7.3%. A brief passage down the other side of the climb leads to the opening sections of Col d’Agnes, a longer task at 10km from bottom to top, sustaining 8.2% for its duration. The subsequent descent could prove a useful springboard for attacks, swooping down to Massat and beginning the final climb of Stage 13 in the shape of the Mur de Péguère. Considered to be divided into two parts, the 9.3km challenge sees the first two thirds contested at gradients around the 7% mark, but the real leg breaking sections come in the concluding kilometres en route to the summit. Predominantly in double-digit figures for the final moments, sections even begin to rise closer to 20% during this hectic conclusion to the last climb of the day. With a long descent all the way into the finish at Foix, the battle for the day’s victory could prove to be more tactical than physical, with the last 30km expected to be played out by a group waiting for one another to pounce.

Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage 13 Preview

Contenders:

Dan Martin was impressive once again at this year’s race during yesterday’s finale, doing extremely well to stay with the major general classification riders, only coming up short of the win in the few hundred metres before the line. If he can sustain this level of condition for another day in the mountains, then the long descent down to Foix has the potential to bring the race back together and allow the big names to decide the outcome; from which Martin would be hard to match in a sprint.

Rigoberto Uran offers a similar story to that of Irishman Dan Martin, though has certainly proven to be a greater surprise amongst the group of yellow jersey hopefuls, after failing to show much of the form which previously secured him podium placings at the Giro d’Italia. A proficient descender, Uran will look to bridge over to any frontrunners on the final downhill section and hope to secure another stage victory by beating the opposition in a sprint once more.

Romain Bardet took his third career stage victory at Le Tour de France yesterday and proved to be another correct prediction by Spokenforks during 2017’s race. Though unlikely for him to win back to back days, this course should offer him the chance to apply some pressure to the likes of Fabio Aru and Chris Froome, doing so with his brilliant downhill riding in the final 30km of the day. Struggling to match those with a more convincing burst of speed for a finish like today’s in Croix, Bardet would need to arrive solo in order to chalk up his fourth win at his home grand tour it seems.

Chris Froome is expected to be out for revenge on Stage 13, yet it more likely to utilise his teammates to act as a foil and defend his current position on the general classification by neutralising the stage early on. Regardless, he has recently proven to be one of the most competent descenders in the leading group and could call upon this skill to distance his rivals en route to gaining some time back. He is also capable of producing a reasonably fast sprint when required, so will be one to watch if the yellow jersey group are first into Foix.

Warren Barguil should perform strongly on Stage 13 in order to defend his hold upon the polka dot jersey and could go one step further by securing a famous French win on Bastille Day at the end of it all. He has been strong thus far and has only been distanced by the likes of Chris Froome when having already spent his efforts pursuing King of the Mountains points earlier in the day. A two time stage winner at La Vuelta a España, he previously took victory by pushing hard on a long downhill road into the finish line, similar to what we may expect to see today.

Other names to watch for are Mikel LandaPierre Latour, Jarlinson PantanoTiesj Benoot and Serge Pauwels.

Outcome:

1st Warren Barguil 2nd Rigoberto Uran 3rd Dan Martin

Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 12 Preview

Course:

Leaving the eternally synonymous Tour de France town of Pau, the course of Stage 12 is a testing affair which does not conclude until after 214.5km of racing en route to the finale atop Peyradgudes. A long day in the saddle, the onslaught of climbs which feature today have the potential to force cracks to appear amongst those with eyes upon the general classification at this year’s race. After a couple of moderate ascents, the Category 1 Col de Menté appears on the radar to initiate the real battle for the day, lasting a total of 6.9km and averaging a gradient of 8.1% to really test the legs of the frontrunners. The bunch will then plunge into the valley, before then turning onto the opening the slopes of the Category HC Port de Balès (11.7km, avg 7.7%)The climb is often seen to switch between gradients, making it tough to find a rhythm for for the riders, though much of the focus will be upon the following technical descent. The finale is signalled by the Category 1 Col de Peyresourde, an awkward climb which lasts 9.7km and averages a gradient of 7.8%, though much of the day’s anxiety will be upon the final few kilometres. The Category 2 rise to Peyragudes touches a gradient of double figures and could see some riders lose time if they crack late in the day.

Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage 12 Preview

 Contenders:

Chris Froome has often chosen to hammer home his advantage during grand tours at the earliest opportunity possible, making it likely that he shall be one of the key protagonists once again. His form is improving without doubt, and previous performance upon this concluding climb hint at Froome’s ability to bury the opposition with ease. If the day’s result does end up being decided by a group of elite riders, then it seems most likely that the defending yellow jersey winner will be the strongest man remaining.

Romain Bardet is likely to utilise the day’s descents in order to apply pressure to his major rivals, though will also be aware that the final rise to the finish is within his capabilities also. The Frenchman took a tumble yesterday, though appears to be in a good condition regardless, hoping to making one of the few summit finishes of this year’s Tour de France count for something with so much still at stake.

Dan Martin was extremely unlucky to be brought down as a result of Richie Porte’s crash a couple of days ago and will be strongly motivated to make his current form count for something, hopefully with a strong performance today. The Irishman has the acceleration required to beat the majority of big name climbers in the final metres and will be a rider who nobody wishes to carry all the way to the summit finish.

Fabio Aru knows how strong his form is right now, but needs the ideal situation in order to make a serious impact upon this year’s Tour de FranceIf others within the main group decide to hesitate during the final kilometres, then the reigning Italian road race champion will have a brilliant opportunity to secure a richly deserved stage win at last. His aggressive nature and love for steep gradients lends itself well to the rigours of today, perhaps emerging as the main threat to Chris Froome in the final kilometres.

Thibaut Pinot had intended to be on the hunt for stage wins and potentially the polka dot jersey, however, things have not gone to plan at all for the Frenchman. It seems a huge ask for him to suddenly muster the form required to challenge for a day such as this, but the nature of a home grand tour can stir the emotions enough to produce a sensational effort. With ambitions to ride himself into stage winning shape, Pinot may be getting stronger from this point of the race onwards and will be favourite to join the breakaway

Others to consider include Serge PauwelsWarren BarguilPierre RollandTiesj Benoot and Rigoberto Uran.

Outcome:

1st Romain Bardet 2nd Dan Martin 3rd Chris Froome

Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 9 Preview

Course:

Those wishing to sustain a serious campaign upon the general classification will need to ignite their ambitions with serious determination on Stage 9’s gruelling course. Starting in Nantua, the day begins immediately uphill and completes two categorised climbs within the first 11km of racing. A total of 181.5km will be traversed en route to Chambéry and a brutal trio of HC climbs will provide the first true insight as to who is struggling to find their best in the mountains this year.

First of the three major ascents to be ridden is the HC Col de la Biche, a 10.5km long climb which sustains a draining 9% average gradient, though features steeper sections along the way. The subsequent descent offers no true recovery opportunity, leading immediately to the base of the HC Grand Colombier, a historic feature of Le Tour de France for many years, the riders will be familiar with its average gradient of 9.9% and total 8.5km distance. A rapid descent then places the bunch back down into the valley, taking in the day’s intermediate sprint and the Category 4 Côte de Jongieux, before the showdown on the day’s concluding climb.

Mont du Chat is a particularly brutal HC challenge, lasting for 8.7km and tasking the peloton with ascending a mind numbing average gradient of 10.3%; ramps of 15% are also present on the way to the summit. There is no chance of hiding poor form on Stage 9 after such attritional climbing, as even the descent from the final climb of the day is an equalling gruelling affair, with tight hairpin bends being negotiated through dense tree lines. The frontrunners at the end of it all will have approximately 14km to stay at the head of affairs in order to contest the win in Chambéry at the end of the day.


Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage 9 Preview

Contenders:

Romain Bardet knows that he will have to make these outrageously tough days in the mountains count for something early on at this year’s Tour de France, as having to close any substantial lead which Chris Froome may establish heading into the first rest day will be the start of a huge challenge. There is a feeling amongst the riders that Froome is perhaps not as strong as expected in this opening week, hoping instead to peak for the final run of Pyrenean stages instead. This should be an opportunity too great to resist if true and Romain Bardet is the best equipped rider to take advantage of it. He enjoys these steep climbs, but most crucially, is not afraid of descending at eye watering speeds in pursuit of victory. If he attacks over the top of the Mont du Chat, then he could end up soloing all the way to victory in Chambéry.

Dan Martin will expect to be one of the fastest riders present in an elite group which forms as a result of the day’s final climb. Without the eternal thorn in the Irishman’s side at the race now (Alejandro Valverde), he can focus on saving himself for the final run into the finish line, where a strong sprinting performance from him is unlikely to be matched by those who have also made the cut. However, that in itself is the greatest issue for Martin, as an explosive race may jettison him before the final ascent due to the ferocity of the general classification battle.

Fabio Aru cannot be ignored on a stage like today’s, the reigning Italian road race champion having a real penchant for these horrendously steep climbs and could choose to combine them with his aggressive style of racing in order to put immense pressure on the likes of Chris Froome and Richie Porte. He seems the one most likely to not stick to the generally agreed race plan amongst the major names, potentially going on the offensive earlier than many anticipate to see who is most interested in following.

Thibaut Pinot should prove an enthusiastic presence on Stage 9, as the Frenchman will need a strong showing if he is to have a realistic chance of obtaining the polka dot jersey or a stage win at this year’s race. Having arrived off the back of a tough Giro d’Italia, his form has perhaps dipped, though Pinot has never raced particularly strongly in the opening uphill stages of Le Tour de France in recent years. If he does not prove to be overly fatigued, then this should arrive at the ideal time for him to stretch his legs and push on for a jersey and stage double.

Rigoberto Uran has the turn of pace required to win from a small group after the strains and stresses of Stage 9, but needs to be on his toes in order to ensure he manages to join the race winning move. Surprisingly quiet during yesterday’s infinite exchanges and skirmishes to shape the breakaway, Uran has perhaps chosen to keep his powder dry especially for today instead. He is no longer the climber which once delivered him podium placings at the Giro d’Italia, though is capable of producing his best when a chance like this appears on his radar. The tactic for Uran shall be to join the right move, conserve as much energy as possible and look to regroup over the Mont du Chat and finish his rivals off in a sprint to the line.

Chris Froome needs to put down a marker soon, as rumblings persist that he is not quite on his best form right now. There shall be no need for him to be the aggressor today, allowing him to challenge his rivals to light the race up if the wish to take the maillot jaune from upon his shoulders. However, we have seen previously that he likes to prove a point at the earliest opportunity possible, meaning it would come as no surprise to see him attack on the final climb in order to contend for the stage win.

Richie Porte and BMC are almost anxious at the prospect of not being able to land a blow on Chris Froome already, despite there being very few opportunities to achieve precisely that in the opening week. Perhaps not as strong as expected entering the race, Porte has the credentials to challenge for the win and cause a stir amongst the general classification, but needs to ride clever to achieve this. A great time trial rider, he should know how to pace his efforts through the day’s major climbs, before once again calling upon these talents to solo his way to victory in the final 14km of flat terrain.

Others worth considering are Pierre RollandPrimoz RoglicJarlinson Pantano  and Louis Meintjes.

Outcome:

1st Romain Bardet 2nd Fabio Aru 3rd Chris Froome

Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 5 Preview

Course:

It has taken less than a week for this year’s Tour de France to reach the first summit finish of the race, setting the riders on a course to battle it out atop the familiar slopes of La Planche des Belles Filles. Stage 5 is an 160.5km route from yesterday’s finish at Vittel, finally providing a day in the saddle under 200km, though finishing atop the Category 1 ascent of La Planche des Belles Filles. A simple enough start to the day’s action, the tension is expected to begin building with around a third of the stage left to race, as the peloton are able to test their climbing legs upon the Category 3 Côte d’Esmoulières (2.3 km avg 8%). The climb to the finish line is a much tougher prospect however, lasting for 5.9km at and an average gradient of 8.5%, though does feature a brief section of 20%. A real opportunity to put down a marker for the following two weeks of racing, expect the general classification riders to begin testing the waters of Le Tour de France.

Le Tour de France Stage 5 Preview

Contenders:

Thibaut Pinot is aware that his hopes of an overall win at his home grand tour is unlikely, thus shall be on the hunt for stage victories when possible, making him an expected antagonist during the decisive moments on Stage 5. The Frenchman will need to ride particularly clever to avoid running on empty as the yellow jersey favourites start attacking one another, but if he can position himself well on the steepest sections, then he has the power to accelerate hard over the summit into the finish.

Richie Porte has entered the race in eye-catching form, fully aware of how this could prove to be his greatest opportunity to take a grand tour victory in his career and will not hesitate to begin gaining time on his rivals. Often seen to make the top climbers in the world suffer as a result of his efforts on climbs, he has spent a great deal of his time working for others at major races, but will finally have the chance to attack for his own glory.

Fabio Aru will be eager to showcase his form after having to miss out on this year’s Giro d’Italia and suits this finale well enough to mark him out as a real danger to those with eyes set on the stage victory. A fan of tough gradients, it would be no surprise to see the recently crowned Italian road race champion attack on the steepest inclines of 20%, hoping to look back and see his rivals cave in as a result.

Chris Froome might not be able to gain a great deal of time on today’s stage, but he ticks all the boxes required of a rider capable of emerging victorious at the end of the 160.5km journey to La Planche des Belles Filles. Question marks have been hanging over him in regards to his form heading into the season’s biggest race, though the limited insight we have gained from him riding thus far at Le Tour, does suggest that he is certainly on the ball once again.

Dan Martin surprised himself with a podium place on Stage 3 and will have taken even greater confidence into today’s contest as a result of his impressive showing in the opening week of racing. The Irishman has admitted to making poor tactical decisions at major races and shall be aiming to succeed in benefiting from the tactics of those wishing to focus more on who will have the yellow jersey at the end of the three weeks. Likely to be afforded a greater degree of freedom than other favourites today, Martin could push clear on the steeper slopes and find himself without rivals to worry about as he approaches the line.

Other riders who should perform well are Esteban ChavesRigoberto UranJakob FuglsangAlberto Contador and Rafal Majka.

Outcome:

1st Thibaut Pinot 2nd Richie Porte 3rd Chris Froome