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 16 Preview

Course:

The first stage back after a rest day always generates a degree of trepidation for the riders, as some return feeling fresher after a day free of the rigours of racing, while others sense their form begin to go off the boil. Signalling the return to the saddle for the peloton is an 165km trip from Le Puy-en-Velay to Romans-Sur-Isère, offering little in the way of easing the riders back into the swing of things with its immediate uphill start. The opening rise forms the Category 3 Côte de Boussoulet, a 4.5km long ascent which averages a hard to ignore 6.3% gradient throughout its slopes. From its summit the road continues to roll for around another 40km, eventually tackling the relatively short Col du Rouvey and its subsequent fast descent. After dropping into the valley, the road does not feature a great deal of topographical challenges, though crosswinds could play a pivotal role in deciding the composition of any leading group late in the day. Whoever does reach the final kilometre first will face a very technically demanding run into the finishing line itself, with tight turns and roundabouts packed in to make things even more stressful. It may even prove tempting for some sprinters to chance their luck in the day’s breakaway in order to avoid such a hectic conclusion to Stage 16.

Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage 16 Preview

Contenders:

Alexander Kristoff is a master at measuring his efforts when the crosswinds begin scything apart the peloton, even going as far as to say he enjoys their destructive nature and the familiarity it brings having spent much time cycling along the Norwegian coastline. His main goal will be to survive the opening climb within touching distance of his main rivals for Stage 16, after which if successful, there will be a great chance for him to collect a Tour de France victory in 2017. With the winds potentially turning this into an arduous return to racing, combined with a technical finale, Kristoff should be able to emerge as a major contender for stage honours here.

Michael Matthews and his team will appreciate how crucial today could prove in the battle for the green jersey, having already secured a brilliant stage win in the absence of Marcel Kittel before the rest day. Stage 16 is another chance to turn the screw on the dominant German sprinter, likely aiming to make racing hard from the very start and hoping to drop Kittel as soon as possible. Though not renowned for his prowess in crosswinds, his teammates do offer plenty of experience in surviving the challenges it throws their way, so Matthews is likely to be in safe hands. A harder day will blunt the top end speed of his faster rivals, while the late turns and road furniture could derail a few leadout trains too, but he will need to be in the leading group before he can worry about victory. Matthews will be contesting this on an almost flat finish, so everything will need to fall perfectly into place if he is to stand a chance of winning and cutting the lead of Marcel Kittel upon the maillot vert.

Greg Van Avermaet could prove to have eyes upon joining the day’s breakaway if able to muster the sort of form we have previously seen from the classics specialist at Le Tour de France. He knows that life will be hard if a bunch kick ends up deciding the day, especially given the lack of incline, but the Belgian has a great chance of being the fastest rider present if he smuggles himself aboard a successful move. Unlikely to fear life in the crosswinds, Avermaet will know how to look after himself as best as possible and even identify the riders who are most likely to contribute towards forming a breakaway which will survive a day out front.

John Degenkolb looks to be on the up once again and Stage 16 does provide an opportunity which suits him more ideally than those which have already been sent his way. A powerful rider, Degenkolb is capable of producing the efforts required to make the cut if echelons form during the day; his immense strength a huge asset over his lighter weight sprinting rivals. Much like his countryman Marcel Kittel, his greatest challenge will be hauling himself up the opening climb of the day and ensuring he has enough left in reserve to battle it out in the final kilometres. He lacks team support to help him navigate the technical run into the finish, but a hard race could thin the ranks enough to give Degenkolb a better chance at victory.

Edvald Boasson Hagen shall certainly want to see his current form put to good use and is another rider who could potentially join the breakaway if he does not fancy his chances in a larger sprint at the end of the day. He can certainly climb well enough on his day to make the key moves, has the strength to manage life in the crosswinds and is often one of the freshest at the end of a tough race. Team Dimension Data have been working hard to produce a good result since the departure of Mark Cavendish, so should view Stage 16 as an opportunity to finally see their determination secure themselves a taste of victory once again.

Nacer Bouhanni has proven incredibly tough to gauge during this year’s Tour de France, though if he is returning to top form, then this will be the day to demonstrate so. With its anticipated nature and technical finale, Bouhanni has the tenacity required to ensure he finds himself stuck to the right wheel throughout Stage 16. Another fast finisher who lacks a convincing team support on days such as these, the Frenchman will no doubt see his chances of winning improve if the number of riders able to contest the outcome is greatly reduced by a hard race.

Other names to consider for both sprint and breakaway are Ben SwiftSonny ColbrelliStephen CummingsMarcel KittelDylan GroenewegenAndré Greipel and Davide Cimolai.

Outcome:

1st Michael Matthews 2nd Edvald Boasson Hagen 3rd Greg Van Avermaet

Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 15 Preview

Course:

The breakaway could finally have a chance of being allowed a shot at victory by the peloton on Stage 15, something which has become a rarity during the opening two weeks of this year’s Le Tour de France. Starting at Laissac-Sévérac L’Église, the course takes in a very lumpy 189.5km route to Le Puy-en-Velay, featuring four officially categorised ascents and plenty of shorter digs to tire the hopefuls. Beginning with a small section of flat racing, the peloton will soon find themselves heading briefly downhill in order to approach the foot of the day’s opening climb, the Category 1 Montée de Naves d’Aurbrac. The climb itself is 8.9km in length and averages a gradient of 6.4%, concluding by almost immediately starting the next challenge of Stage 15; Côte de Vieurals. A Category 3 task, it is only 3.3km long and averages 5.9%, but could prove crucial in the formation of the day’s break as a result of its proximity to the first of the day’s climbs.

There is then an extremely long duration of rolling roads, with the rise towards L’Hospitalet du Sauvage able to impact upon the escapees, before the road then plummets rapidly downhill shortly after passing Saugues. From the valley the riders will ride upwards to tackle the Category 1 Col de Peyra Taillade, a climb which could leave some struggling to find a rhythm at times, lasting 8.3km with a gradient which averages out at 7.4%. Having reached the summit, the frontrunners will chase one another down again, quickly overcoming the Category 4 Côte de Saint-Vidal as they accelerate towards the penultimate finish before the second rest day of Le Tour.

Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage 15 Preview

Contenders:

Alexis Vuillermoz should be the ideal card for AG2R La Mondiale to play on Stage 15, allowing them to sit back in the bunch with their leader Romain Bardet and leave those interested in the stage outcome to take up the chase. Performances up to this point have been encouraging from the French rider and should be enough to gain the backing of his team to make a move on the tough start to the day. Gifted in all three aspects required to compete well on this course (climbing, descending & sprinting), Vuillermoz could emerge as a key protagonist on a day expected to be decided by the breakaway.

Greg Van Avermaet has previously caused a surprise when successfully taking on grand tour stages of this nature and emerging victorious at the end of what many assumed to be too tough a task for the classics focused rider. BMC are now aiming themselves at stage wins as a result of Riche Porte’s abandonment and could choose to back the Belgian hero from their strong array of breakaway riders. Certainly the fastest in a sprint of those likely to make the day’s break, if Avermaet is on top form and able to control the accelerations throughout the major challenges, then he will be a tough prospect in any deciding sprint. His greatest issues however is joining the crucial attack early on despite a categorised climb not long after the start, meaning his team could turn to the likes of Damiano Caruso or Alessandro De Marchi instead.

Tony Gallopin briefly tried to get away from the peloton late in yesterday’s stage, but soon realised his efforts were better saved for today, especially given its more fitting course. He is returning to full strength after sustaining a foot injury early in the race and now looks to be poised to make a move in order to secure another memorable win at his home grand tour. A fully fit Gallopin is capable of making the cut on the first couple of climbs and fast enough to see off many of his likely rivals in a sprint at the end of the day.

Stephen Cummings could decide that Stage 15 is another opportunity to join the breakaway and hope that the peloton are more forgiving in comparison to his earlier efforts last week. Having taken both national titles the weekend before Le Tour de France kicked off, many were surprised by his strength and condition, given that he had been out of competition due to broken bones for some time. An extremely astute rider tactically, Cummings will not wish to waste energy in the rolling attacks which occur when riders seek to escape from the peloton. Instead, he will wait until he sees the right move beginning to form and then commit his efforts in order to increase its chances of sticking. If he can do this, then the final 40km – 50km offer him opportunities to go it alone and push for the win using his time trial talents once again.

Nicolas Roche will be hoping to bring some celebrations to BMC after a torrid first half of the race, now potentially the strongest man available to them, given his lack of lieutenant duties which are likely to have kept him relatively fresh compared to others with eyes on Stage 15. Very strong on his day, the Irish rider will be hoping to set a strong pace which ditches the faster riders hoping for a larger sprint, as he knows that a tough race is bound result in him being the fastest men left at the front of affairs.

Lilian Calmejane already showcased his talents a few stages ago and will be eager to revisit his exploits once again on Stage 15. No doubt marked more closely now than before his victory, the French rider will be expected to animate the selection process upon the opening climb of the day and pin his hopes upon slipping away from his rivals in the final quarter of the day to take another brilliant win.

Alberto Contador is the rider most likely to attack from the group of original general classification favourites, though admits himself that his focus is now upon stage wins rather than a good overall position by the time the race reaches Paris. The finale is the most unappealing aspect of the course today, as he will be concerned that faster riders will be able to follow him into the finish town, so will want to work hard in the second half of the race to force another split amongst the break.

Others to consider are Alessandro De MarchiDamiano CarusoTiesj BenootEsteban ChavesGianluca Brambilla and Primoz Roglic.

Outcome:

1st Alexis Vuillermoz 2nd Nicolas Roche 3rd Alberto Contador

Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 8 Preview

Course:

Stage 8 sends the peloton on an 187.5km through the first barrage of Alpine climbs during this year’s Tour de France, starting in Dole and finishing atop Station des Rousses. The battle to make the day’s breakaway is expected to be a fierce one, as the bunch are likely to be happy allowing a large move to vanish up the road and decide the day’s outcome. The first recognised ascent of the day is the Category 3 Col de la Joux, lasting 6.1km with an average gradient of 4.7% and providing a chance to loosen the legs ahead of what lies ahead. A relatively long descent follows, leading to the base of the Category 2 Côte de Viry, 7.6km and with an average of 5.2%.  Th terrain remains lumpy for a time after this, before dropping down once again and beginning the ascent to the final run into Station des Rousses. The Category 1 Montée de la Combe de Laisia Les Molunes is the springboard towards the day’s finish, an 11.7km rise which sustains a draining incline between 6% – 8%, though softens after the summit into rolling terrain all the way to the finish.

Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage 8 Preview

Contenders:

Diego Ulissi has always had a gift for making the cut for stages where his great turn of pace is capable of burying the majority of the peloton in a reduced sprint to the line. The Italian has stayed safe enough this far and will be fresh to battle it out amongst a highly competitive selection process to make the day’s breakaway. Typically speaking, Stage 8 is well within his capabilities to succeed upon, though it may come too early in the three week grand tour in order for him to really take it by the scruff of the neck. Regardless, if he does make the move early on, then it will be unlikely anyone faster than him will also be present amongst the escapees.

Stephen Cummings took a double win at the British Road Championships recently, arriving at Le Tour de France in unexpectedly strong form after recovering from a series of broken bones suffered earlier this year. The terrain lends itself perfectly to Cummings’ attributes and especially his gift for sustaining a high tempo throughout these rolling days which slowly jettison members of the breakaway late on. The final climb is bound to entice him to attack over the summit, before then settling into a time trial approach, soloing his way to the line in order to secure the stage win.

Nicolas Edet is partial to joining the break on stages which finish uphill, so will no doubt be interested to see how the opening kilometres unfold, potentially seizing upon the chance to smuggle himself within a move. A strong climber, Edet knows that a convincing performance here has the potential to deliver him more than a stage victory, as the yellow jersey itself is only just a little over four minutes beyond his reach.

Rigoberto Uran will be fully aware of how close he is to securing the maillot jaune right now, as a bold move to join the day’s breakaway would only need him to finish more than a minute ahead of Chris Froome in order to step into the leader’s jersey. It seems that Team Sky are willing to relinquish their grip and see another team shoulder the burden of protecting its prestigious status. Uran might struggle to find the freedom to escape from the start, so if the day proves harder than expected, he might be given permission to try and catch his rivals napping on the final ascent.

Daniel Martin should be the man to beat if the day is determined by an elite group of big name riders, though the general classification focused teams are unlikely to want the task of chasing the breakaway down with such a testing day awaiting them on Sunday. Regardless, the Irishman is clearly enjoying some brilliant form currently and would be bitterly disappointed to see it go to waste if crossing the line in Paris without a stage win to his name.

Serge Pauwels may fancy a day in the break on Stage 8, as Team Dimension-Data turn their attention away from the sprint stages to the mountains for the first time at this year’s tour. The Belgian rider has a strong record for performing well in breaks at major races, though often comes unstuck due to his lack of speed in a head to head charge for the line; something which may deter him from chancing his arm on the road to Station de Rousses. A strong climber, he will look to simply ride his rivals off his wheel during the final ascent of Montée de la Combe de Laisia Les Molunes.

Pierre Latour will need to come to terms with being the greatest hope of a French tour winner in the foreseeable future, so a stage victory and the likelihood of taking the maillot jaune would only serve to apply even greater pressure. The terrain does play to his strengths reasonably well, though may not be tough enough to truly lure him out to join the moves on Stage 8. He sits less than 70 seconds back on Chris Froome at the moment, which could prove a great temptation to try a swashbuckling move late in the day if everything comes back together on Montée de la Combe de Laisia Les Molunes.

Gianluca Brambilla should be in the minds of many for stage honours, despite not showing a great deal of form to catch the eye during the season thus form. He possesses a potent blend of climbing skill and sprinting talent, lending himself perfectly to the rigours of Stage 8 today. Should he manage to be part of a race winning move, few will wish to work him in order to arrive at Station des Rousses with the Italian firmly placed upon their wheel.

Others to watch out for include Fabio FellineAlessandro De MarchiWarren Barguil and Alexis Vuillermoz.

Outcome:

1st Pierre Latour 2nd Rigoberto Uran 3rd Gianluca Brambilla

Le Tour de France 2017

Le Tour de France 2017 – Stage 1 Preview

Course:

This year’s edition of the biggest race in cycling shall depart from the German city of Düsseldorf, with a short individual time trial to decide who gets to wear the first maillot jaune of 2017. Offering only a couple of moderate rises during its 14km entirety and minimal turns to negotiate safely, this is a course designed to produce a drag race amongst the riders blessed with an ability against the clock. The greatest challenge to the contest shall be the threat of rain, potentially favouring those who manage to race the course on entirely dry roads. Regardless, it is certain to be a great celebration of Le Tour in Germany and one bound to be afforded a thrilling contest given the potent array of time trial specialists present.

Le Tour de France 2017 - Stage 1 Preview

Contenders:

Tony Martin has long seen this day marked in his diary, the organisers doing their utmost to produce a course which will favour the native rider and ensure one of the nation’s most popular riders starts Stage 2 in yellow. His prowess in this discipline has proven astonishing at times in his career, long since securing his place amongst the greatest ever time trialists, though this opening stage distance is not quite synonymous with such performances of his. Martin favours days which allow him to utilise his diesel engine style of riding, churning over a huge gear and sustaining the grind throughout the race. With only 14km to contest on the first stage, the reigning world champion will need to be much more explosive and produce the sort of display we associate with him in time trials more than twice as long as today’s.

Primoz Roglic appears to be improving consistently against the clock and will enter Stage 1 as a real threat to the German organisers’ dreams of Tony Martin ending the day in the maillot jaune. His style of riding has subsequently changed as a result of realising his abilities in this discipline and will feel confident of challenging for the win on this short course. Though he may not have the sustained power of main rival Martin, Roglic is likely to be able to get up to pace more rapidly than the German and make this an extremely tight battle.

Jonathan Castroviejo is another rider who has seen his prowess in these contests increase in recent seasons and should be aiming for a podium finish on Stage 1 at the very least. He would have preferred something with a few more technical demands and rises in terrain, but should still turn in a strong showing despite these factors. The Movistar rider may not have been at his best during the start of the season, though now seems to be finding his best again when it matters most.

Stefan Küng arrives here after taking the Swiss TT title just last week and will be seeking to carry his blistering form onto the starting ramp in Düsseldorf. The route is hard to anticipate in terms of favourability for the talented Swiss rider, but the consensus is that it offers the minimum required for him to mount a serious charge for the yellow jersey.

Jos van Emden has truly established himself as one of the most talented prologue and short-distance time trial riders currently in the peloton, no doubt looking upon the stage profile with great delight. It will be difficult for him to reproduce his excellent form from this season’s Giro d’Italia once again, but if he can at least come close to replicating it, then he has a convincing chance of winning this first day of 2017’s Le Tour de France.

Others worth considering for top 10 placings are Stephen CummingsMichael MatthewsMichal Kwiatkowski and Maciej Bodnar.

Outcome:

1st Tony Martin 2nd Jos Van Emden 3rd Primoz Roglic

Rio Olympics Individual Time Trial 2016 Preview

Olympic Road Race 2016 – Preview

Course:

Whereas Olympic host cities often struggle to create a testing affair for the road race, 2016’s Rio Olympics have put together the toughest course in living memory to crown one of the first gold medal champions of this year’s games. The course snakes a total of 237.5km, starting and finishing at Avenida Atlantica, though much of the racing will comprise laps of the Grumari circuit and then the tougher Canoas Vista Chinesa climb which concludes the day’s racing before heading back to the coast. To emerge victorious from this gruelling affair will carry immense respect from within the peloton, one of the few races this year which can rival a monuments victory upon a rider’s palmarès.

Rio Olympics Road Race 2016 Preview

Contenders:

Alexis Vuillermoz and Romain Bardet finished first and third in this year’s test event, no doubt entering today’s race with a great amount of confidence to repeat their success when it matters most. The possibility of a long-range attack making it to the line will appeal greatly to Vuillermoz, the AG2R rider well experienced in performing upon rolling terrain such as this. Bardet on the other hand is more likely to bide his time, poised to make a move on the final laps of the race with a focus upon the steepest gradients of the race. Julian Alaphilippe continually performs beyond expectation and will look to cause another upset today by striking out late to take the win as part of a small move or solo breakaway.

Alejandro Valverde and Joaquim Rodriguez have experienced a fractious relationship since their combined failing to win 2013’s World Championship Road Race for Spain; resolving such issues today could deliver gold for their nation. Valverde is the favourite for many here, renowned for his ability to stick with the strongest climbers and then descend like a stone, making him a clear favourite to attack over the top of the final climb in an attempt to steal the win during the downhill run to the line. Rodriguez concluded this year’s Tour de France in good condition, though it will be uncertain as to whether or not he will have managed to retain this form heading into the Olympic road race.

Chris Froome is taking much of the attention in regards to Great Britain’s chances of taking a medal here, but it will take a very hard race on the steepest sections to bring the Sky captain to the fore today. Instead, attention might well be better placed upon Adam Yates, arriving here in the scintillating form which secured him the first ever white jersey for a British rider at Le Tour de France. While Yates will be looking to follow the wheels of the day’s big names, teammates Stephen Cummings and Geraint Thomas might well choose to attack late on the climbs in pursuit of a medal placing.

Esteban ChavesSergio Henao, Rigoberto Uran and Jarlinson Pantano provide an embarrassment of riches for Colombia during 2016’s Olympic road race. Chaves may not have raced competitively for sometime, though shall be extremely motivated to perform on terrain which plays to his love of attritional days featuring plenty of steep gradients. Henao has looked strong throughout 2016 and will be eager to cash in on a year of great condition, though of little success. Uran and Pantano offer great alternatives in the shape of two talented riders who know how best to contest a breakaway move in order to make it to the line first.

Wout Poels has enjoyed a spectacular season thus far, emerging as an indomitable lieutenant in the highest of mountains for Chris Froome, while also collecting a monuments victory in the shape of Liége-Bastogne-Liége during the spring. He will be the strongest card to play for a Dutch team also featuring Bauke MollemaSteven Kruijswijk and Tom Dumoulin, providing Poels with a greater degree of protection than other big names here. Poels’ aggression is often disguised by his duties within Team Sky, but when offered the chance, he is an incredibly strong rider who could prove impossible to reel back in once the peloton has been reduced to its bare bones here.

Vincenzo Nibali still has what it takes to win gold despite a disappointing Tour de France last month, though one which did finish with a stronger third week for the Italian rider. Nibali often performs well on attritional courses such as these and the final downhill run to the line will have caught his eye as the ideal opportunity to attack over the final summit, then descend aggressively to the line in an attempt to arrive solo. Teammate Fabio Aru will be a strong auxiliary option if Nibali finds himself too tightly marked to attack successfully, Aru favours these inclines and will appreciate an aggressive race on the harder sections.

Dan Martin has established a strong reputation for peaking specifically for one-day races and will be eager to perform upon a course which plays to his strengths. This year’s Tour de France demonstrated a greater level of consistency throughout the mountains than we had ever seen before from the Irishman, something he achieved without lessening his attacking style. He tried on several occasions to secure a stage win at Le Tour, but with Team Sky’s chokehold on the general classification diminishing any freedom, Martin never succeed in maintaining a gap. With no general classification or finishing times to worry about today, the race for gold will be a much more open affair and this will suit Martin well.

For those riding as part of small teams or even on their own, there shall be no other option than to ride aggressively and attack the race, as attempting to control the day’s proceedings will be impossible. Tim Wellens, Rafal MajkaJakob FuglsangRui CostaRamunas Navardauskas and Andrey Amador are all expected to animate affairs at some point; riders lacking teammates who will be happy to cooperate in order to improve their chances of winning.

Outcome:

1st Romain Bardet 2nd Vincenzo Nibali 3rd Dan Martin

Le Tour de France 2016 Preview

LE TOUR DE FRANCE – STAGE 13 PREVIEW

Course:

Yesterday’s baffling finale will still have people scratching their heads while Stage 13’s crucial time trial kicks off, this race against the clock poised as ever to have a say in who will walk away with 2016’s yellow jersey in Paris. Starting in Bourg-Saint-Andéol and finishing at La Caverne du Pont-d’Arc, the 37.5km individual time trial takes in an uphill start and finish, while a large plateau and sharp downhill section forms the rest of this course which appears to be an open affair. There are no sustained climbs of serious gradients, so the general classification frontrunners shall not be able to utilise such climbing skills, whereas those who are comfortable grinding away big gears will fancy this. However, this is not drag race from one end to the other, much of the course requires changes of cadence and gearing; a testing demand that many struggle with.

Tour de France Stage 13 Preview 2016

Contenders:

Tom Dumoulin has grown immeasurably in the last couple of years to become one of the best time trial riders in the world, a fact made even more amazing by his parallel rise as a competitive name in the mountains too. The Dutchman has already picked up a stage victory at 2016’s Le Tour de France against the odds, but it is today’s offering which will truly catch his eye and it is Dumoulin who might prove to be toughest time of all to beat on Stage 13.

Fabian Cancellara is sailing ever closer to his retirement and is yet to really grab the marquee win which would seal his career satisfyingly. The Swiss legend has proven to be quite anonymous up until now, though the expectation is that he shall break cover on Stage 13 in an attempt to add one further Tour de France stage victory to his tally. The course suits him well enough, likely to offer him the terrain to gain sufficient time during the mid-point, before then rising to the finish with enough in hand so as to avoid burying himself.

Chris Froome will be pleased to return to his saddle after yesterday culminated with him sprinting up Mont Ventoux as the result of a moto stopping unexpectedly, sending him crashing into the back of former teammate Richie Porte. The profile is not ideal territory for Froome to truly dominate, but there is no doubt that he will be fired up to compensate for such a farcical display and will give it everything as a result.

Tony Martin continually progresses in the mountains, but many worry that such gains uphill have resulted in losses of his prowess against the clock. Admittedly, Martin has changed his career goals since being a World Champion time trialist, though you can never truly discard a rider who has achieved such a plethora of successes in this discipline.

Thibaut Pinot was long marked as being unable to realistically challenge for a grand tour due to his inability to compete in these time trials. This notion is no longer relevant though, as the Frenchman has not simply just improved his riding in this respect, but has now even won time trials. The course suits him reasonably well, if not perfectly and his goals at Le Tour now lean strongly towards stage wins. Given how much time he has now lost on the general classification, a good showing here will do little in regards to the yellow jersey, so he may decide to save his efforts and pursue a mountaintop stage win instead.

Richie Porte will be extremely frustrated after yesterday’s unexpected turn of events and will seek to deliver justice in a discipline which he normally excels at. Despite his amazing form right now, two bouts of misfortune have disguised this fact and he enters Stage 13 surprisingly underestimated. The rolling terrain plays into his hands nicely, while an uphill finish should really allow the BMC captain to make gains ahead of the finish line.

Tejay Van Garderen has continued to climb up the general classification with little fuss, now finding himself within a couple of minutes of the yellow jersey without having produced any flashy displays of riding. The American has fallen short of expectation in the recent years at the major grand tours, but 2016 sees a more assured Van Garderen, one who will fancy the odds of producing a convincing time trial on Stage 13 to climb yet further up the general classification.

Vasil Kiryienka is the reigning World Champion in this discipline and would no doubt like to secure a stage win at the world’s biggest race while wearing the rainbow stripes. However, Sky are ruthless in their meticulous planning of how to win a three week grand tour and it is hard to have seen them scheduling in a stage win for Kiryienka; a huge effort they are unwilling to allow of a man crucial to Froome’s success in the mountains.

Stephen Cummings has already demonstrated his immense form at this year’s Tour de France by taking a stage win and often placing himself in the battle for the day’s breakaway. These displays do make it easy to forget though that the British rider is somewhat of a time trial specialist and deserves a credible mention as a rider who could certainly find his way onto the podium. The downside of course, is that the consequence of his earlier efforts may have drained him and thus makes putting in a fully committed performance tougher than expected.

Outcome:

1st Tom Dumoulin 2nd Richie Porte 3rd Chris Froome