Le Tour de France 2018 Stage 18 Race Preview

Le Tour de France 2018 – Stage 11 Preview

Course:

A short but intense 108.5km trek from Albertville to La Rosière offers little in the shape of flat roads, with the riders poised to tackle four categorised climbs during the day. A double-header of HC ascents in Montée de Bisanne and Col du Pré comprise the first half of Stage 11, where plenty of riders shall soon discover if they have the legs for victory or the broom-wagon. The final rise to the finish is 17.6km with an average of 5.8% and could provide us with the first genuine skirmish amongst the yellow jersey contenders.

Le Tour de France 2018 Stage 11 Race Preview

Contenders:

Pierre Rolland is no stranger to the pursuit of the polka dot jersey and is likely to view Stage 11 as a springboard to a genuine campaign upon the mountains classification. With no real danger to the general classification, the Frenchman is bound to be given the freedom to join any move he can and has a sharp enough finish see the day out with a victory too.

Warren Barguil shall be testing the water on Stage 11, seeing who else is likely to begin challenging him for the polka dot jersey, at least learning who best to keep an eye upon during these days in the mountains. The lithe climber has made it clear his ambition is to leave this three week grand tour with the maillot à pois rouges upon his shoulders, thus his presence will surely be felt en route to La Rosière.

Romain Bardet has not had the best of luck during the opening week of racing, yet has demonstrated immense strength to overcome each hurdle convincingly, now appearing to be champing at the bit for these tough mountainous stages. With an uphill finish to La Rosière on offer, he may not win the stage, but will be a key instigator of any activity amongst the general classification favourites.

Dan Martin perhaps fancies his chances too on Stage 11, knowing that it is now or never to cash in on his blistering form which has already delivered him a stage win at this year’s race. Additionally, due to his earlier time losses, the Irishman is unlikely to be hounded down by the yellow jersey favourites and could instead find the space to attack upon the rise to La Rosière. Other than Alejandro Valverde or perhaps Rigoberto Uran, few can match Martin in a sprint for the line after such a gruelling day in the saddle.

Outcome:

1st Dan Martin 2nd Warren Barguil 3rd Romain Bardet

 

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La Vuelta a España – Stage 11 Preview

Course:

It will not take long on Stage 11 for yesterday’s rest day at La Vuelta a España to feel like a distant dream, this mammoth challenge being labelled as one of the toughest stages in grand tour history; perhaps the hardest ever at La VueltaCurated in part by Joaquim Rodriguez, few riders will be pleased with his work to design this memorable mountain expedition between Spain and AndorraPotent in nature, the brief 138km journey from Andora La Vella to the Category 1 summit finish of Alto Els Cortals d’Encamp will test the resolve of many and is certain to send plenty of riders heading home, as the race to make the day’s time cut causes the gruppeto to fracture under the riders’ anxieties to finish inside the time.

As soon as the riders depart they will open their account for the day with the Category 1 Collda de Beixalis, a 6.5km ascent which maintains an average gradient of 8.7%, though large parts are double digit gradients between 10% – 14%. The subsequent descent heads immediately into the base of the next climb, something which will be a recurring theme throughout Stage 11 and ensure no respite (physically or mentally) until the day is over. Next comes another Category 1 in the shape of the 9.9km long Colle de Ordino, a somewhat more forgiving climb due to its regular gradient which does not fluctuate far beyond 6% – 8%. At this point they head back to return to Andorra la Vella and begin the third climb of Stage 11, another Category 1 challenge which on this occasion is the Col de la Rabassa. A difficult start with slopes reaching 12%, which then give way to a more regular gradient which softens towards the summit, though double-digit gradients are dotted throughout the journey from bottom to top.

Another expectedly rapid descent follows suit from the summit, leading downwards to the more familiar Category 1 Collada de la Gallina which has appeared as a stage finish in recent editions of La Vuelta a España, though it is hard to imagine anybody thrilled by being reunited with this old ‘friend’. The 11.7km ascent is a true introduction to hell during Stage 11, the average gradient of 8.6% not truly revealing the nature of this beast however. The slopes here sit on a knife’s edge between double and single digit figures, making it difficult to establish a satisfying rhythm during the majority of this climb. The final major descent sends them back once again towards the Andorran capital and day’s starting point, but this time on an alternative passage which directs them up the Category 2 Alto de la Comella instead; a short 4km climb which remains challenging at 9.5% average gradient.

An extremely brief downhill section then places the bunch at the foot of the next and final major climb of the day, Alto Els Cortals d’Encamp’s Category 1 summit finish. This final beast is more about gradient than length, clocking in at 8.7km and averaging a draining 9.2% of paper, yet reality will see this exaggerated yet further. The slopes do not lower a great deal at first, spending the majority of the time hovering anywhere between 9% – 11.6% for the opening half of the ascent. After this, the second half lessens slightly to a more measured 7% – 8% almost right the way to the summit, also forcing the riders to trace their way through an array of tight hairpin bends which do not cease until 200m from the line. A stage win at any of the grand tours is a career defining moment, but to be crowned champion on this day in particular will no doubt assure the victors place in history as a result.

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Contenders:

Chris Froome appears to be riding himself into this race and cementing himself as a serious contender off the back of a dominant performance in July, which led him to win Le Tour de France for the second time in three years. Today consists of extended ascents which suit the Sky leader better than the more explosive finales we have witnessed so far, as well as a variety of descents which many will scramble to cite as definite weakness of Froome’s. However, as this season has demonstrated, he is nowhere near as fearful of descending as many would have you believe and Froome has often been able to stick the pace of one of the most talented descenders; Alejandro Valverde. The most likely scenario on the day will be Froome concentrating on his own race and tempo, ensuring he does not go into the red trying to follow the attacks and instead aim upon staying within a minute of his rivals come the finish. If he feels as good as he did on Stage 9, then he will certainly aim to kick on and attempt to land a punch on at least one of his rivals during this curtain raiser to the more hellish side of 2015’s Vuelta.

Nairo Quintana also came here after competing at this year’s Tour de France and has maintained a relatively low profile so far at this grand tour. The Colombian rider was suffering in the immense heat of the opening half of the race, but today could prove the polar opposite, with extended downpours forecast at the time of publishing. These longer climbs with relatively even steep gradients certainly play into his natural strengths as a climber, though he does admit that his condition right now is not as good as it was during July in France. If he can overcome the Tour de France hangover and find a degree of freshness after the rest day, he stands a great chance of performing strongly on this brutal stage.

Fabio Aru is the freshest of the overall general classification contenders on paper and has displayed a combative mindset so far which has perhaps only been bettered by Chris Froome. The Italian Astana leader has a unique dynamic between himself and his rivals for the title; below them in current climbing ability, but much better prepared for the race in regards to peaking when it counts most. His talents for attacking sharply to establish a gap on his rivals, before going on to maintain it during theses long and arduous climbs are well suited here, more so than the summits we have experienced until now. Aru should be given a slightly greater amount of freedom to attempt such a move compared to his rivals and will not hesitate to gain time ahead of the individual time trial if possible.

Alejandro Valverde is a difficult man to predict on a day as testing as this, the Spaniard renowned more for his puncheur abilities than competing as a pure climber at grand tours, though it is not to be forgotten that he did win 2009’s La Veulta a España. Taking into account his brilliant talent for reducing the gains of those more adept to these big mountain stages, especially when utilising descending abilities, he should not collapse entirely here despite his work being well and truly cutout. A noteworthy consideration when judging his performance today is the fact he did crash heavily during Stage 9 and has since confirmed limited mobility in his upper body and arm.

Kenny Elissonde is perhaps one of the strongest outsiders for victory today, the Frenchman having ridden an eye-catching race so far and also possesses the history for winning gruelling days such as these having already won on the Angliru at this race a couple of years ago. He thrives on these occasions which have the road solely going up or down and sits far enough back on the general classification at the moment, to be allowed to attack without having to worry a great deal about being shut down.

Esteban Chaves has relinquished his hold of the the leaders Red Jersey once more and can again be considered to feature here with a reduction in the degree of marking as a result. The Colombian has been the star of this Vuelta a España during the first half of the race, but it is difficult to anticipate how he will perform after his losses on Stage 9, as well as a rest day in between. Had he not already invested so much in protecting his interests, he would be a standout favourite to challenge for the win on a day full of climbing, but it just seems too much to ask of him right now.

Joaquim Rodriguez has played a part in designing this stage, so already has a head start in understanding the demands expected of those wishing to perform well here. Though seemingly riding well in the first half of this contest, never losing touch with his rivals, Rodriguez has failed to capitalise upon stages which suited his strengths nicely; something he needs to do before the individual time trial. Because of this, it is possible to raise the question as to whether or not he has been riding conservatively so far in order to seriously compete here and forever write his name into the Vuelta’s history books. What may improve his slim chances of victory is the possibility of poor weather conditions; a cold and wet day able to sap his rivals’ energy and level the playing field in his favour.

Dominico Pozzovivo is pleased by his performances so far at La Vuelta a España and has seen Ag2r La Mondiale confirm their support for the Italian’s quest of at least a top ten general classification placing come MadridIf he maintains this level of competitiveness into the latter mountain stages, then it seems certain he will try his luck of taking a stage victory; today is perhaps not the ideal opportunity to attempt such a move.

Louis Meintjes is looking very strong at the moment and has a great chance of turning in a high general classification placing for MTN-Qhubeka, a factor which makes it difficult to predict how he will perform today. Was it not for his overall ambitions at this race, then today would be perfect for him to join the breakaway and attempt to push it all the way to the finish line. Regardless of which option he does decide to pursue on Stage 11, Meintjes is a man to watch throughout the day in order to assess the likelihood of him maintaing his current form all the way to Madrid.

Pierre Rolland has been anonymous up to this point, but could be lured out into action on a day suited to his pure climbing exploits. The Frenchman has recently confirmed his departure from Team Europcar and could decide to celebrate his move to Cannondale-Garmin with a fantastic showing on a truly historic stage. His strengths in a breakaway will be welcomed by many fellow escapees and he has everything required to push the peloton’s ability to reel him back to the limit.

Maxime Monfort is likely to be tasked with Lotto-Soudal’s daily attempt to get into the breakaway and pull off a shock victory at this year’s Vuelta a España. His season has been modest this year so far, but given the current tactics within his team, this could be his best opportunity to roll back the clock and resurrect some of his previous best form at grand tour races.

Outcome:

1st Nairo Quintana 2nd Fabio Aru 3rd Chris Froome

Outsider: Kenny Elissonde

Giro-d'Italia-Stage-11-Spokenforks-Preview-2015

Giro d’Italia – Stage 11 Preview

A huge miscalculation on Stage 10 left the sprinters’ teams bereft of the bunch kick which many had assumed to be a given, instead seeing the win contested by a group of four at the line; Nicola Boem emerging victorious in Forlì. Stage 11 is unlikely to remedy this loss for the pure sprinters, but the testing course could result in a reduced sprint for the strongmen, or even another successful day for the breakaway inclined riders. Another sawtooth profile is bound to find some stragglers once the climbing begins for the first time since the rest day, but some will view this as the perfect stage to get away and stay away.

Course:

Once again the order of the day shall consist of sending the riders’ noses pointing up or down hill for the majority of a course which seldom uses flat roads. A total of 153km separates the peloton from their start in Forlì to the concluding circuits in Imola; of which partially includes passages of the historic racetrack. The first week demonstrated how these shorter stages based upon transitional Italian highlands provoke much more aggressive riding than expected, predominantly due to the lesser requirement to eke out the efforts of a team. Though only three categorised climbs are marked on the stage profile, five clear peaks will need beating before they ride onto the first of the three finishing circuits in Imola.

First ascent of the day is the Category 3 Trebbio, 6.3km long with an average gradient of 6.3% that includes a ramp of 11%. Then comes the 4.2km Monte Casale, followed by the La Valletta at 2.7km in length with an eye watering 14% spike in gradient. Monte Albano and the Category 3 Valico del Prugno are next, the latter being 5.6km long with an average gradient of 6.2%, stretching to 9% in places. Once this list of lumps and bumps are ticked off by the riders, they will enter onto the first of the Imola racetrack finishing circuits.

A climb of Tre Monti will be apparent on all three passes from the Imola racetrack to the surrounding area; a 4.4km Catergory 4 climb with an average of 4.1% gradient which sneaks up to 10%. The finale itself is relatively simple and will be contested upon the racetrack’s finishing straight, the last turn being made 650m from the line itself.

Giro-d'Italia-Stage-11-Spokenforks-Preview-2015

Contenders:

Michael Matthews will be seen as the fastest man most likely to cope with the stressful ride to Imola, but will need to rely on the handwork of other teams to ensure the breakaway is reeled back in time. He has already stated that Stage 11 is a target for him and if he survives the intense riding through the hills there is not anyone faster than him after such a testing day. If Matthews is feeling less confident of his chances by the morning, Simon Gerrans will take the reigns on a day tailor made for his skills and attributes. The issue is the amount of climbing demanded of him, if he does manage to stick the pace as part of a select group, his speed on the finale’s finishing straight should be enough to send him clear of most rivals.

Along with Matthews, another sprinter who has displayed just how exceptionally well he is climbing at this year’s Giro d’Italia is Trek Factory Racing’s Fabio FellineClimbing this sort of terrain seems well within his current limits and he has the option of either hoping his team pull back the break or joining a larger group which gives the peloton the slip. Felline seems the only one likely to stop Michael Matthews if the day does come down to another bunch kick.

BMC might find their hopes best protected by Philippe Gilbert heading into Stage 11 and will hope he manages to make is way into the day’s successful break. The climbing should not be a huge concern for the Belgian and he will benefit from a well driven small group, of which he has a good chance of being a faster finisher than most. As the win will be contested on a pancake flat racetrack, Gilbert would struggle to fend off others with a more potent finish, the former world champion likely to have fancied an uphill drag to the line.

CCC Sprandi Polkowice could turn to Maciej Paterski in an attempt to be represented in the day’s crucial move. He will need another fantastic performance which he seems capable of summoning this season and is a canny rider amongst a race winning break. Weather or not he can cope with attacks from within the group is uncertain, but he shall be worth maintaining an eye upon.

Simon Geschke is currently leading the mountains classification and will be interested to extend his spell in the blue jersey by following any threats up the rode. Finishing third on day nine demonstrated that he is finding some form, now with the jersey on his shoulders, this is bound to build as he aims to defend it. He will need to join the break on a day where competition will be fierce, perhaps a larger group being the best fit for the German rider.

Many others have already stretched their legs in the breaks, but few have managed to succeed in their ambitions so far, meaning some are likely to make a return appearance on Stage 11. Jesús Herrada, Tom Jelte-Slagter and Carlos Betancur were all protagonists in the successful breakaway during Stage 9’s ride to San Giorgio del Sannio. The former suits the finale should he be present, while the other two are certainly capable of managing the day’s demands in the hills and will be looking to reverse their fortunes to snatch a stage win in Imola.

Others to consider are Giovanni Visconti, Yonathan Monsalve, Damiano Caruso, Damiano Cunego, Luca Paolini and Francesco Gavazzi.

Outcome:

A sprint of some sort should decide the race, whether it is a large group or smaller breakaway is difficult to predict, meaning the favourites will alter somewhat. Michael Matthews best hopes lie in a bunch kick, but teammate Simon Gerrans has the option of vanishing off up the road with a breakaway he deems worthwhile. Regardless of who is higher placed at the finish, it seems Orica-GreenEDGE will be represented in some capacity in the day’s finale. Trek Factory Racing will surely see their inability to catch the previous day’s escapees as a huge waste of an opportunity for their sprinters, so Stage 11 will be a goal for Fabio Felline. A diverse rider who can gamble on having a fair shot in the sprint or join the break, his current form at this Giro cannot be ignored and for that reason he remains dangerous. A breakaway has a fantastic chance of staying clear of the bunch here, but in terms of picking a name, it could be a spectrum of riders who join the decisive move.

Sprint: 1st Fabio Felline 2nd Michael Matthews 3rd Philippe Gilbert

Breakaway: Simon Gerrans

Going Up? – La Vuelta a España Stage 11 Preview

Having put the time trial bikes away again for another week or so, the peloton return to the joys of Spanish summit finishes on Stage 11. Beginning in the historic town of Pamplona, the riders are given the short distance of 153.4km to traverse, in order to make the summit finish atop Santuario De San Miguel De Aralar in Spain’s Navarra region. Looking at the profile, again we see the ‘made for TV’ style stage which abandons a full day of climbing in the name of two televised climbs – one being the summit finish.

A Steep Finish Awaits.

A Steep Finish Awaits.

 

Course:

It will take 100km of rolling roads before the race hits a categorised climb in the form of the Cat 3 Puerto de Lizarrega; a long 18.3km pass which averages around 2.6% for the majority. It should not cause any splits amongst the major teams and their riders’, but the following descent should be sufficient for anyone to bridge back across if in trouble on the climb. Similar opportunities will not be offered to anyone struggling on the slopes of the finale’s climb however, with the 9.9km Santuario De San Miguel De Aralar expected to detonate the peloton en route to the finish. Evidently more difficult than previous climbs this year, due to its length and average gradient of 7.5%, this could see some time being gained by a general classification hopeful as it maxes out at 14% with a little over 2km remaining.

It might prove difficult to find a rhythm here.

It might prove difficult to find a rhythm here.

Contenders:

A couple of surprises were present at the conclusion of the previous day’s time trial: Alberto Contador is either riding himself into form or has been sandbagging the entire time; and Nairo Quintana crashed most unexpectedly to lose the lead and drop to 3mins 25secs down. On the other hand, Chris Froome under-performed as expected during the time trial, putting his result down to poor pacing, though he appears to have been struggling throughout the Vuelta thus far. This will not be encouraging to Froome ahead of Stage 11, as with the length of the day’s finale, it will be likely that he loses further time to his rivals’. It still remains unclear regarding the possible injuries which Nairo Quintana sustained in his TT when striking the barrier hard on the descent. Rumours mention damage to his knee which became apparent when trying to walk, but riding a bike is a different story altogether, making it plausible that he will ride well enough tomorrow – though accelerating out of the saddle would seem an obvious issue. The duo who are likely to make a serious move in search of time and a stage win from the GC are Alberto Contador and Joaquim Rodriguez, both appearing to suit the length and difficulty of the day’s finish. Contador still maintains he is not 100% in terms of fitness, but his performances so far would suggest that he is still strong enough to mount an attack for the overall win. Yet to be seen on the offensive, Contador has not struggled to follow the attacks as of yet, and tomorrow could see him go away to gain time when reacting to a possible Joaquim Rodriguez charge. Katusha have the personnel to set Rodriguez up for the win compared to Contador, though it almost seems that the latter does not even require a particularly powerful line-up around him on occasions. As long as a breakaway does not manage to stay away for the entire day and end up deciding the stage win amongst them, Rodriguez and Contador are the men to watch. As said, Contador would appear more comfortable at the moment to react, rather than instigate attacks, saving his ruthless mountain beating form for the final days. A win here for Rodriguez would not only gain him and Katusha a deserved stage win, but also reenforce his chances of taking another podium finish at the Vuelta a España this year. 

Outcome:

A late attack by Joaquim Rodriguez would draw Alberto Contador out of the pack behind them and see the two Spaniards inflict some heavy deficits into the general classification as Rodriguez takes the stage win.

1st Rodriguez 2nd Contador 3rd Pinot

 

It All Counts – Le Tour Stage 11

Bescaçon to Oyonnax will have no impact upon who rides into Paris with the yellow jersey draped across their shoulders, but every day is important in Le Tour. Given the terrain it seems inevitable that a small breakaway will have the usual attempt at staying away all day, yet their chances are slim to none. The peloton may well give them a leash of six minutes or so early on, though the sprint teams will inventible come to the fore in order to set up the finish for their fast men.

Stage 11

Stage 11

Sprint Finish Contenders:

All the usual suspects will be ready to take their place on the podium once more after some seriously draining days in the Vosges region. André Greipel looked to be coping with the mountains far better than any of his contenders and may well be the favourite to add another stage win in the name of Lotto. Marcel Kittel certainly used as little energy as possible to get through the last few days, suggesting that he might be fresher than people expect for today’s finish. Simon Gerrans and Peter Sagan may savour the narrow roads and bumpy end to Stage 11, both having been on the cusp of stage wins this year already.