The Tour Take | Tour de France Stage 11

 Photo: Twila Federica Muzzi

Photo: Twila Federica Muzzi

The Steps

1st – Geraint Thomas (Team Sky)

2nd – Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) @ 0:20

3rd – Chris Froome (Team Sky) @ 0:20

The Parcours

A short, sharp 108km stage was on the menu for stage 11, with the peloton cresting four major climbs. The opening climb, the HC Montee de Bisanne, was 12.4km at 8.2%. A long descent led down to the HC Col du Pre, 12.6km at 7.7%. There was only a short descent before the peloton was climbing again, this time up the Cormet de Roselend, a category 2 climb averaging 6.5% for 5.7km.

A long pedalling descent led back down into the valley proper for the final climb to the Ski Village at La Rosiere. The climb to La Rosiere was long, at 17km. However, it wasn’t overly steep, averaging only 5.8%. The steepest sections came in the middle, meaning those riders looking for huge time gaps needed to go early.

All in all, there was nearly 4000m of climbing in only 110km, making this another huge day.

The Jerseys

Yellow – Greg Van Avermaet (BMC Racing)

Polka Dot – Toms Skujins (Trek - Segafredo)

Green – Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe)

White – Pierre Latour (AG2R La Mondiale)

The GC Men

1st Overall- Geraint Thomas 

2nd - Chris Froome @ 1:25

3rd - Tom Dumoulin @ 1:44

4th - Vincenzo NIbali @ 2:14

5th - Primoz Roglic @ 2:23

6th - Steven Kruiswijk @ 2:40

7th - Mikel Landa @ 2:56

8th - Romain Bardet @ 2:58

9th - Nairo Quintana @ 3:16

10th - Dan Martin @ 3:16

 

The Break

Another day in the mountains, another huge breakaway. This time the 25-strong group included Peter Sagan; the KOM Leader and winner of yesterday’s stage, Julian Alaphilippe; BMCCCC Duo of Tejay Van Garderen and Damiano Caruso; Frenchman Warren Barguil (who was on a mission to lose more time); hardman Thomas De Gendt; Anthony Pauwels, who was the highest placed rider overall at 5:12 in 19th place; and others.

Alaphilippe took the KOM Points over the Montee de Bisanne, as a select few tried to get away, but the group reformed on the descent – Alaphilippe chose to keep it in first gear, rather than blow everyone away on the downhills like he did yesterday.

Warren Barguil had good support in the break, with Fortuneo-Samsic sending 5 riders into the break at the start of the day. Those men set a furious pace on the Col du Pre, with Warren Barguil making his intentions clear. Behind in the peloton, Movistar was doing the same, as Alejandro Valverde attacked halfway up the HC climb, with nearly 55km remaining in the stage.

By the top of the climb, the break had only 4:00 over Valverde, who had bridged to his teammate Soler. Soler had sat up from the breakaway to wait for his captain (well, one of them) and the two were gaining time quickly on the peloton. Sky suddenly didn’t look so dominant and trailed Valverde by a minute at the top of the climb.

Up the Roseland, Valverde continued to make up a group on the leaders, closing the gap to 2:00. Bahrain Merida was also chipping in with the pacesetting in the peloton and maintained a minute’s gap to Valverde.

 

The Finish

When the front group started the main climb up to La Rosiere, they were down to four; Warren Barguil, Mikel Nieve, Michael Valgren and Damiano Caruso. They still had a 2:00 gap, and worked well in the first half of the climb until the halfway point, when Mikel Nieve hit out.

Behind the front, groups were coming together, as Tom Dumoulin caught and dropped Alejandro Valverde. Dumoulin had attacked the descent and easily bridged up to the Spaniard who was on his last legs.

The peloton was ramping up the pace too; Michal Kwiatkowski’s pace finding out several Tier 3 favourites like Adam Yates and Ilnur Zakarin.  Mikel Landa was dropped too, suffering from the pace that Sky had set.

As the Team Sky train was down to two carriages with 5km to go, Geraint Thomas chose to attack. The move saw him bridge up to Dumoulin seamlessly, while Froome marked attacks behind.  The group behind didn’t have a lot of meat on the bones either; only Bardet, Roglic, Kruiswijk, Martin, Nibali and Quintana remained.

In the final Kilometre, Mikel Nieve looked to have done enough to win the stage. But Thomas had one more bullet in the chamber, attacking again, to pass Nieve with only 300m to go in the stage and ride into the Yellow Jersey. Froome bridged up to Dumoulin in the closing kilometres too, taking third place as the Dutchman sprinted to second.

The Movers And Shakers

This was a hugely decisive day for the GC. Starting with Sky, Geraint Thomas showed exactly how good his form is, with two searing attacks to break open the GC and then to win the stage. Behind, Chris Froome looked super uncomfortable with his teammate being up the road and marked every move he could to try and catch him. It’s an interesting dynamic with the top two favourites being on the same team.

Tommy D showed no post-Giro fatigue today. He was superb again and showed off his racing nous by attacking on the descent. I also liked the ride of Primoz Roglic, rolling home in 11th with Nibali and Quintana at signal he’s a top 5 threat; that would have been unbelievable a year ago.

Movistar went a little bit Hollywood today – Valverde looked strong initially, but faded and didn't seem to have great legs, so why did he attack 70km from home? That’s the sort of move you do on stage 19 when you’re pushing your chips into the middle of the table, not on the second mountain stage on the tour, when your legs are half-cooked. Mikel Landa was disappointing too; for all the noise he’s making, you would have hoped he could stay with Quintana at least.

We saw who are the real pretenders too; Jakob Fuglsang, who I had podium hopes for, was dropped early on the final climb. Adam Yates was also dropped early on the final climb.

 

The Next Stage

Stage 12 could be the queen stage, with three huge Alpine climbs coming. The Col de la Madeline is 25.3km long and averages 6%, and the Col de la Croix de Fer is even longer at 5.2% for 29km. Those are incredible long climbs, and amongst the hardest in the Alps. In between, they’ll go up the picturesque Lacets de Montvernier, but the riders won’t get a chance to enjoy the scenery, thanks to the 8.2% average.

The day finishes with Alpe d’Huez, a true monument of cycling and hopefully a playground for another epic GC battle. 13.8km at 8.1%, the steepest section is at the very bottom, but the gradient doesn’t really let up whilst going around the 21 hairpins that make up the famous climb.

 

The Pick

Dave Brailsford won’t let Froome play second fiddle two days in a row. Expect the Sky one-two punch to be reversed here, and Froome to take a big win atop the mighty Alpe.

See you back at the social club,

Josh

 


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