Le Tour de France 2020 – Stage 21 Preview

Le Tour de France 2020 – Stage 21

Course:

Despite predicting the victory of Tadej Pogačar yesterday, it was still a surprise to see him go further still, producing a result to seize the yellow jersey at the final time of asking. Since his national time trial victory in June over his compatriot Primož Roglič, it was clear that there was a huge performance to expect at Le Tour de France and that is exactly what came to fruition.

As a note, it is perhaps most bizarre that this is seen as a shock by many, despite the fact that Pogačar finished third at his debut grand tour (La Vuelta a España) only a year ago, where he won three incredibly tough stages in the process.

Attention shall however be upon the sprinters today, as the finale of this year’s race is concluded by a gallop down the Champs-Élysées as ever, providing the sprinters with one last chance to snatch a victory. There is not a great deal to be said of the course, as the stage takes a familiar form, stretching 122km from Mantes-La-Jolie to Paris.

After the champagne and team photos, the sprinters teams will come to the fore once the laps around the capital begin, lining it up for another mad dash down the famous cobbled boulevard. It will be interesting to see who has survived the recent rigours of the mountains best, as some are likely to have kept their powder dry for precisely this opportunity.

Le Tour de France 2020 – Stage 21 Preview

Contenders:

There is no doubt that Sam Bennett shall wish to seal his debut green jersey victory with a win on the Parisian streets, cementing his place as the fastest man over the duration of this three week race around France. His team will be fully committed to setting the Irishman up for glory here, eager to be crowning his achievement in style on the final day.

Though it was a strong start to this year’s Tour de France by Caleb Ewan he does look to have been hit hard by 2020’s barrage of mountains and limited transition stages to recover upon. Regardless, he did win here last year and is respected because of that fact, yet will need to muster his best in the absence of a convincing lead out train to win again.

This must have been a goal for Cees Bol for sometime now, as his individual capabilities and team’s prowess suggest it is within reach, but can everything finally click into place on the final day? Though Team Sunweb have picked up several victories at this year’s race, there is no hiding how poor their results have been in the sprints, despite extremely convincing team performances to place Bol ideally late on. The cobbled terrain, slight drag and need for a good lead out help to place him as a favourite, but it is rare for everything to finally click on a final stage like these.

To spin the same old record yet again, Trek-Segafredo can look to Jasper Stuyven, Edward Theuns or Mads Pedersen to lead the charge down the finishing straight. As ever, it seems most likely that Pedersen shall get the nod, on a finale which suits him best given the ‘mano a mano’ nature we often see on this iconic sprinting showdown.

Maybe Peter Sagan can finally win a stage at this year’s Tour de France, though there is little to suggest he has the speed to truly threaten others likely to feature. It has certainly been a frustrating campaign for the green jersey, and unfortunately for him, it does not look to be remedied anytime soon.

Perhaps we neatly bookend this year’s race with another victory for Alexander Kristoffwho is apparently still here despite his anonymity as of late, and always goes well on the grisly cobblestones of Paris. Given the need for UAE Team Emirates to protect the yellow jersey, he might be left to his own devices late on, though that has rarely prevented the Norwegian strongman from collecting wins in the past.

Perhaps the most interesting name to mention is Wout van Aert, who might be the tonic Jumbo-Visman require after the capitulation of Primož Roglič on the final slopes of yesterday’s time trial. The reigning Belgian time trial champion performed extremely well, showing little sign of fatigue and would be anticipated to compete well in the rough and ready nature of the Champs-Élysées.

Others to consider are Niccolo BonifazioMatteo TrentinLuka MezgecEdvald Boasson HagenAndré Greipel and Christophe Laporte.

Outcome:

1st Sam Bennett 2nd Wout van Aert 3rd Alexander Kristoff

Le Tour de France 2020 – Stage 21 Preview

Le Tour de France 2020 – Stage 20 Preview

Course:

Le Tour de France reaches its only race against the clock for 2020, where the yellow jersey of Primož Roglič will seek to cement his lead upon the general classification, ahead of the finale parade stage into Paris.

Today’s test is a 36.2km individual time trial from Lure, finishing atop the well recognised La Planche des Belles Filles, a polarised stage which should produce some explosive surges up the decisive final categorised climb of this year’s Tour de France.

Beyond the yellow jersey and final podium spot to be challenged for, the greatest contest could be that of the polka dot jersey, as the fastest ascent of the climb can hand Primož Roglič, Tadej Pogačar or Richard Carapaz the title on last climb of the race.

Le Tour de France 2020 – Stage 20 Preview

Contenders:

There is enough of a lead for Primož Roglič to ensure he does not need to take any risks on the penultimate day, simply needing to stay upright and produce a performance which is well within the abilities and expectations of the current yellow jersey wearer. He has not always produced his greatest time trials at the end of stage races, but given the nature of today’s course, there is little reason to think he will slip up now. His shape still looks convincing and many will have him down to seal the overall title with a stage win atop La Planche des Belles Filles.

It will be interesting to see what time Tadej Pogačar produces on the opening flat section, as an unexpectedly strong showing could make the timed climb to the summit, extremely interesting in comparison to his compatriot Roglič. The finale plays to his strengths well, but it is difficult to see him being within touching distance of the yellow jersey before the ascent to La Planche des Belles Filles begins. A stage win is possible, but the yellow jersey looks unlikely.

Though ridiculous to suggest he is a revelation, Wout van Aert has surprised many with his ability to shell pure climbers from the peloton, primarily thanks to his incredible durations setting a high tempo at the head of affairs. With the flatter start before La Planche des Belles Filles to build an advantage, the Belgian could very well produce a familiar performance from this year’s Tour de France, and go on to take the stage entirely.

Jumbo-Visma also have the talented Tom Dumoulin to pin their hopes on against the clock, having already earned himself the chance to go for the stage honours, after weeks of working hard in the role of Roglič’s super-domestique. However, it has been a long time since we saw the Dutchman’s best in time trials and a tough Tour de France seems unlikely to have placed him in a good position ahead of today.

In order to make the podium at the final chance possible, Richie Porte will need to turn in a fantastic performance, and hope his rival Miguel Ángel López produces an abysmal showing simultaneously. It is not beyond the realms of possibility however, as Porte is a noted specialist and will favour this uphill finale; having something to fight for beyond a stage win can prove decisive too.

It is tough to gauge the level of form some riders will bring into such a late time trial, but names to look out for include; Daniel MartinezEnric MasJulian AlaphilippeMarc Hirschi,, Nelson Oliveira and Lennard Kämna.

Outcome:

1st Tadej Pogačar 2nd Primož Roglič 3rd Richie Porte 

Le Tour de France 2020 – Stage 21 Preview

Le Tour de France 2020 – Stage 19 Preview

Course:

A relatively tame affair compared to recent days, Stage 19 is the last genuine road stage before the decisive time trial and ride into Paris, totalling 166.5km from Bourg-en-Bresse to Champagnole. Despite only possessing a single Category 4 climb, the day is continually rolling and will offer a close fought affair between the day’s breakaway and the peloton’s remaining sprinters.

There is still the potential of seeing the green jersey change hands before the finale in the nation’s capital, which should be enough inspiration to reel in the moves and set things up for a sprint finish of sorts.

Contenders:

This is the final chance Peter Sagan has to truly challenge Sam Bennett for the green jersey before Paris, and given the manner in which he has ridden during the Alpine stages, Bora–Hansgrohe will surely prove to be an active force on today’s offering yet again. The intermediate sprint is late in the day too, so the ambition might well be to snatch those points with a breakaway and then push onwards to a stage victory having successfully distanced Bennett already.

It seems likely that Wout van Aert will be given permission to pursue the stage honours if possible, as his limitless energy continues throughout this year’s Tour de France, potentially setting him up for another victory thanks to the rolling nature of Stage 19. The Belgian rider looks most likely to benefit from a hard ridden race by Bora–Hansgrohe, from which he is almost guaranteed of featuring within the leading group and being fresh enough to win from the subsequent reduced sprint.

As ever, Trek-Segafredo appear to be a lottery in regards to who they shall ride for, though today suits reigning World Champion Mads Pedersen most convincingly. He has the resilience to survive the likely tempo intended to shell Sam Bennett on this terrain and will certainly challenge for the podium if present late on.

Despite showcasing their lead out prowess to near perfection, Team Sunweb have repeatedly choked when working for Cees Bol in the sprints and it makes it difficult to show much faith in them remedying this fact ahead of today’s potential sprint. It may even be that their attention is firmly placed upon the Champs-Élysées already, where Bol suits the parcours well and has the firepower to enter the finishing straight ideally placed.

Though it does seem unlikely, if the day’s breakaway is caught late on, despite a less intense racing of the day than anticipated; Sam Bennett is the clear benefactor of such an outcome. The Irishman knows he is only a few days away from making history, but is acutely aware that Peter Sagan will make today as difficult as possible in the meantime. It is not an ideal offering and we have already seen that Bennett has been bested repeatedly on similar days at this year’s Tour de France.

Others with the potential to feature are Luka MezgecMatteo TrentinCaleb Ewan, Niccolo Bonifazio and Bryan Coquard.

Outcome:

1st Wout van Aert 2nd Peter Sagan 3rd Mads Pedersen

Le Tour de France 2020 – Stage 21 Preview

Le Tour de France 2020 – Stage 17 Preview

Course:

Le Tour de France 2020 arrives at its ‘queen stage’ in the final week, with both the overall win and third podium position on a knife’s edge, while plenty of other teams scramble to save their tour by taking a late stage victory.

Stage 17 is a 170km from the tour’s Alpine heart of Grenoble to the summit of Col de la Loze, featuring the fearsome Col de la Madeleine en route, helping to the bring the day’s total climbing to 4430m. Both of these ascents are long in duration and possess extended periods of gradients hovering in and around the double digit mark, making for a hellish day in the saddle; the Col de la Loze even dishing out ramps of 18% – 24% late on.

For many it will be a case of survival, but for those involved with the yellow jersey and the overall podium, it will be an opportunity to overturn deficits or cement leads convincingly.

Contenders:

It will be a day for Primož Roglič to demonstrate the value of possessing a team as powerful as Jumbo-Visma, who are bound to seek to set a pace so intense in the finale, that nobody has a hope of gaining time over the current yellow jersey by attacking. The concluding climb of the day does not truly suit Roglič in a manner to suggest he is poised for stage honours, yet his relatively defensive racing thus far, might prove to have been a foil ahead of a day he knows will be decisive if he can seize the stage with an aggressive performance.

The duration and steep ramps suit the yellow jersey’s compatriot Tadej Pogačar better, who has proven eager to make any possible advantages count and is bound to be seen on the front foot once again here. His greatest concern will be the potential of being isolated early in the day, as beyond the support of David de la Cruz, he is not blessed with much of a team for the high mountains. Able to follow all of Roglič’s attacks so far, then return the favour with more venom, it could be a dominant stage victory for the Tour de France debutant yet again.

Form seems to be appearing late into this Tour de France for Miguel Ángel López, though it may arrive on time for him to take the honours on Stage 17. His late attack yesterday was deserving of a second over the yellow jersey group, despite what the commissaires ruled, showcasing the Colombian’s ability to sense an opportunity and execute it effectively. The length and total altitude of the final climb look favourable, but can his form better those around him?

There is a hint of the best from Enric Mas once more, ahead of a stage which does play to his strengths well, especially given previous performances on similar terrain in the past. He will need to get clear of the yellow jersey group early on the Col de la Loze however, but if he can settle into a suitable tempo and grind through the 18% – 24% ramps late in the day, he has a chance.

The ongoing battle for third place on the podium is also likely to instigate attacks from Adam YatesRigoberto Uran, Richie Porte and Mikel Landa.

Outcome:

1st Tadej Pogačar 2nd Miguel Ángel López 3rd Primož Roglič

Le Tour de France 2020 – Stage 21 Preview

Le Tour de France 2020 – Stage 16 Preview

Course:

Far from easing the riders back into action after the second rest day, Stage 16 is a 164km journey from La Tour-du-Pin to Villard-de-Lans, finishing atop the Côte 2000 after surviving its ramps which reach over 10%. Overall, this is an extremely tough day in the saddle, totalling in excess of 3900m of climbing across the five categorised climbs the peloton must complete to move a step closer to Paris.

The expectation shall be to see a breakaway secure the stage honours, with the battle to make it into the early move likely to be fierce; as many teams are now under great pressure to leave this year’s Tour de France with a noteworthy result.

Contenders:

Previous polka dot jersey winner Warren Barguil could be eager to feature on Stage 16, likely to enjoy a greater amount of freedom, due to leader Nairo Quintana’s recent loss of time on the general classification. He is far from his career best form, yet could still prove tough to match if on a great day here.

Once again it is likely FDJ will send David GauduThibaut Pinot and Valentin Madouas into the fray, desperate to collect a victory in pursuit of salvaging something in the wake of their general classification disaster. There is immense pressure on the French outfit, and though Pinot would have once been the man to beat here, the recent form of Madouas suggests he will be the rider to threaten most today.

Though still on the path to recovery, Dan Martin can certainly challenge for the day’s podium, suiting the parcours well enough to suggest he will work to crest the Col de Porte in good enough shape to kick onwards for the win. Finishing upon the Côte 2000 is favourable, a finale which he would have been confident of dominating a couple of years ago.

Marc Hirschi is bound to throw his name into the hat again, eager to keep putting his incredible form to good use, though could do with some teammates to help him in the opening brace of climbs. If he gets such support, then there is every chance he will blow the rest of his fellow escapees out of the water once more.

It could be worth Lennard Kämna getting up the road once again, as he has shown some of his best form on tough days like these and still has the potential to collect a stage win at this year’s Tour de France. If he has managed to sustain his form since the Critérium du Dauphiné, then the youngster will be a name to watch for amongst the breakaway again.

Others to consider from a long range move are Julian Alaphilippe, Dani MartinezMarc SolerOmar Fraile and Pierre Rolland.

Outcome:

1st Warren Barguil 2nd Lennard Kämna 3rd Marc Hirschi

Le Tour de France 2020 – Stage 21 Preview

Le Tour de France 2020 – Stage 15 Preview

Course:

Stage 15 takes the form of a 174.5km jaunt from Lyon to the fearsome Grand Colombier, though taking almost 100km before the road seriously begins to test those with eyes set upon the yellow jersey. The 11.1km Montée de la Selle de Fromentel will get the bunch warmed up, after which a rapid descent takes them to the base of the 6.9km Col de la Biche, soon making it apparent who shall not last the rigours of the day. Once again the road drops down, placing the frontrunners at the foot of the Grand Colombier, a HC climb which lasts for 17.4km and averages 7.1%.

This finale is one of the few where, not only could the race be lost, but there is a strong chance of it being won. An unrelenting gradient will offer little in the way of recovery, and if distanced, it shall become increasingly unlikely to regain the bike lengths to follow the leaders.

Contenders:

There is little to suggest that Primož Roglič shall not be the man to beat on Stage 15, where recent success on the same Gran Colombier ascent at the Tour de l’Ain make him the favourite. He has not offered a moment of weakness thus far, protected by an extremely strong Jumbo-Visma squad, who will endeavour to position him well in the final kilometres as he looks to sprint to another stage victory.

One of the greatest rivals to the ambitions of the current yellow jersey is Tadej Pogačar, the incredibly gifted 21 year old showing little to suggest he cannot survive the test at hand, nor struggle to contest the outcome. The youngster will certainly be on the wheel of his compatriot, but may well possess the turn of speed required to overcome Roglič, in order to win the stage; most likely having escaped together.

Next best placed to challenge for the honours is Egan Bernal, though he has failed to offer much so far to imply he can go the distance and win atop the Gran ColombierThe further into this year’s Tour de France we progress, the greater Bernal’s threat to the overall will become, as he so often emerges strongest during the culminations of such stage races.

One who may enjoy the freedom required to pursue the win on today’s stage is Miguel Ángel López, who has been showing glimmers of his best form at times recently. The stage suits him well, and given the unlikely chance of him winning the overall, this is a brilliant opportunity to at least collect a stage win.

Someone who deserves consideration is Enric Mas, who typically performs well on such finales, though might require a few more stages in the mountains to really find his rhythm. However, there will not be a great need to pursue him if attacking late, as the 25 year old offers little to genuinely threaten the yellow jersey.

It will not take much for the cunning Mikel Landa to sense a stage win if the likes of Roglič and Pogačar are clearly eyeballing one another as the road rapidly runs out. He is in good enough form to make a winning move, but it will need to be timed to perfect, as there are those around him who look faster on this finale.

Others who could prove animated are: Thibaut PinotMarc HirschiRichie PorteEmmanuel BuchmannMarc Soler and Pierre Rolland.

Outcome:

1st Tadej Pogačar 2nd Primož Roglič 3rd Mikel Landa

Le Tour de France 2020 – Stage 21 Preview

Le Tour de France 2020 – Stage 14 Preview

Course:

Stage 14’s 194km run from Clermont-Ferrand to Lyon will be an appetising prospect for those keen to pick up a stage win from a potential breakaway. There is plenty of climbing to be completed early on in the day, with the 10.2km Col du Béal bound to help shape the day’s decisive break away. The concluding doubleheader of Category 4 ascents should not be decisive, yet if the run into these has proven gruelling, then there is every chance these could be the deciding factor when it comes to the day’s frontrunners.

Le Tour de France 2020 – Stage 14 Preview

Contenders:

The majority of the day’s climbing comes early enough for Peter Sagan to consider getting in the mix and ultimately deciding the day’s outcome. Utilising his team to great effect once again, putting pressure upon the pure sprinters and placing himself amongst an elite group from which he could be the strongest left fighting for stage honours

It feels impossible to disregard Wout van Aert on most stages at this year’s Tour de France, which will make him a serious contender on today’s offering, where his ability to cope with rolling terrain is bound to prove favourable. His turn of pace is deadly on such gradients as those featuring in this finale, and if given the chance to pursue the win, would be tough to beat.

This might finally be a chance for Luka Mezgec to show his worth, as this terrain suits his talents extremely well, if he is on a good day. His potential lead out train could prove decisive if functioning correctly, while the distance and parcours of Stage 14, further plays into the hands of a rider who performs best when others suffer most.

Having now lost the leadership of Giacomo Nizzolo in the sprints, NTT Pro Cycling are likely to look to Norwegian superstar Edvald Boasson Hagen in order to be represented in the day’s conclusion. The strength of Boasson Hagen and his team is likely to secure him a safe passage into the finale, but there is a feeling that his survival would also guarantee the presence of those faster around him.

Others to consider from either a reduced sprint or breakaway are: Matteo Trentin, Bryan CoquardGreg van AvermaetJasper Stuyven and Clement Venturini.

Outcome:

1st Wout van Aert 2nd Peter Sagan 3rd Edvald Boasson Hagen

Le Tour de France 2020 – Stage 21 Preview

Le Tour de France 2020 – Stage 13 Preview

Course:

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.

 

Contenders:

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 QuintanaRigoberto 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 SolerEsteban ChavesHugh CarthyPierre RollandPello Bilbao and Alexis Vuillermoz.

 

Outcome:

1st Thibaut Pinot 2nd David Gaudu 3rd Primož Roglič

Le Tour de France 2020 – Stage 21 Preview

Le Tour de France 2020 – Stage 10 Preview

Course:

Le Tour de France returns after its first race day of this year’s edition, diving straight into the action with a 168.5km stage from Île d’Oléron Le Château-d’Oléron to Île de Ré Saint-Martin-de-Ré; both locations being islands. The creation of this stage, with its little elevation and open roads, was to strike fear into the GC riders at the potential of crosswinds eviscerating the peloton with ease. However, if current weather forecasting is to be trusted, the wind looks to be tame at best and rarely from a high risk position en route to the finish.

We have all witnessed how unpredictable 2020’s Tour de France can be, yet the belief is that this will be a sprint stage, which should allow the yellow jersey favourites to return home having avoided any peril en route. That is not to suggest the bunch will not be nervous though, as it could be theirselves that prove most dangerous on Stage 10 after all.

Le Tour de France 2020 – Stage 10 Preview

Contenders:

Still seeking his first career victory at the Tour de France, Sam Bennett shall be investing everything in making sure he makes the cut no matter the wind direction, ready to produce the stage winning performance everyone knows he has within him. However, it is anticipated to be a headwind in the finishing straight, which will raise concerns of a repeat misfire by the Irishman when finishing runner-up on Stage 3 in similar circumstances.

Caleb Ewan shall be hoping that his aerodynamic prowess in the sprint shall be enough to defeat Bennett once again, despite a smaller lead out train and having looked to have suffered badly in the Pyrenean stages last week. The Australian is very good at finding the right wheel or late developing gaps at the front of the sprint, which could be decisive if locked onto Bennett’s wheel as he opens up the sprint into the headwind. If Bennett or his team misfire yet again, Ewan will not need a second to capitalise and then seize another Tour de France victory.

Perhaps the most impressive lead out efforts so far have been in support of Cees Bol, his Sunweb teammates looking organised and strong enough to cause problems for his faster rivals. If crosswinds do prove damaging during Stage 10, Bol will have the protection and support of experienced riders in such conditions, after which he will be confident of being the fastest man remaining compared to any potentially fatigued pure sprinters remaining. Positioning will be crucial too, as will avoiding hitting the front too soon, both of which Bol should be confident of doing given Sunweb’s showings thus far.

Max Walscheid is the favourite to take the role of sprinter for NTT Pro Cycling in the wake of Giacomo Nizzolo’s abandonment, on a stage which he could be in the mix for on paper, thanks to its power focused finishing straight. However, the talented German will have to muster some of his best form to threaten for the win.

Trek-Segafredo face the familiar issue of deciding who of Edward TheunsMads Pedersen and Jasper Stuyven should be the protected sprinter, though the inclination is to reigning World Champion Pedersen to lead the charge again.

If crosswinds begin to howl and the thoroughbred sprinters become shelled out the back; Peter SaganAlexander KristoffWout van Aert and Oliver Naesen will all figure in the subsequent mayhem.

Outcome:

1st Sam Bennett 2nd Caleb Ewan 3rd Cees Bol

Le Tour de France 2020 – Stage 21 Preview

Le Tour de France 2020 – Stage 9 Preview

Course:

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.

Contenders:

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.

Outcome:

1st Julian Alaphilippe 2nd Valentin Madouas 3rd Alexey Lutesenko