The Tour Take | Tour de France Stage 16
1st – Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors)
2nd – Gorka Izagirre (Bahrain-Merida) @ 0:15
3rd – Adam Yates (Mitchelton-SCOTT) @ 0:15
Stage 15 was a long one at 217km, and it featured five categorized climbs as the race moved into the Pyrenees. After the start in Carcassonne, the first two small climbs came in a flattish opening 130km. After that, the route got far harder, starting with the Category 2 Col de Portet d’Aspet (5.4km at 7.1%). It wasn’t a brutally hard climb, with the technical descent on the other side presenting more of a challenge. Next was the Category 1 Col de Mente (6.9km at 8.1%), and after another tricky descent and 20km valley, the peloton tackled the final climb.
The final climb was the Col du Portillon. Category 1 and 8.3km at 7.1%, the toughest section came at the top, with gradients at 10% in the final kilometre. Another twisty descent led down to the finish in Bagneres-de-Luchon, with a flat final kilometre.
Yellow – Geraint Thomas (Team Sky)
Green – Peter Sagan (Bora – hansgrohe)
Polka Dot – Julian Alaphilippe (Quick-Step Floors
White – Pierre Latour (AG2R La Mondiale)
It was an eventful start to the stage; after 20km there was still no breakaway established, and the race had to be neutralized thanks to a farmers’ protest on the route. Local farmers had decided to stage a protest that included placing hay bales on the road. Police then decided to use a chemical spray on the protesters, shortly before the peloton passed through, at which point several riders complained of getting the chemical in their eyes. The race was then neutralised so that nearly a quarter of the peloton could wash out their eyes.
When the racing started again, we still didn’t see a breakaway form; it took nearly 100km for the race to see it’s first proper break. When it did go, it was huge, with 44 riders making it in. Riders that made it included Thomas De Gendt, Pierre Latour, Jelle Vanendert, Julian Alaphilippe, Philippe Gilbert, Marc Soler, Damiano Caruso, Adam Yates, Robert Gesink and Ion Izagirre. They built an advantage of 12 minutes as the peloton finally relaxed, so were left to fight for the stage on their own.
Over the Aspet, Philippe Gilbert attacked, possibly laying the foundation for Alaphilippe to bridge up to him. By the top of the climb he had a minute, but on the technical descent afterwards, his brakes locked on a corner and he crashed over a ledge by the roadside. It was high enough for him to be shaken and bruised, but he soldiered on anyway, returning to the peloton.
Onto the Portillon, and the lead group quickly thinned down to less than 10. Robert Gesink was the first to try and break away, taking Domenico Pozzovivo with him but those two were brought back quickly. Adam Yates was the next to go and he quickly built a 25 second lead over the top of the climb with 10km to go.
The next man on the road was Julian Alaphilippe though, who’s built a reputation as the best descender in the peloton right now. With Alaphilippe hunting him down, Yates was brave, but he became a little too brave into one corner with 5km to go. Heading into a left-hand hairpin, the front wheel slipped out, and by the time he jumped back up, Alaphilippe had passed him.
Alaphilippe held his advantage into Bagneres-de-Luchon, winning over the chasing group that now included Adam Yates, who had given up on the chase.
Behind in the GC Group, Mikel Landa was the main aggressor, but we saw a lack of fireworks for the most part, with everybody happy to save the fun for tomorrow.
The Next Stage
Stage 17 is perhaps the biggest one in this year’s Tour thanks to some new innovations. The stage is only 65km long, with three climbs and a summit finish packed in.
The top 20 on GC will start in formation from 1-20, meaning Geraint Thomas starts at the front, with no neutralized zone. With the road immediately heading uphill, there will be no time to warm up. The first climb will be the Peyragudes (14.9km at 6.7%), next is the Col de Val Louron-Azet (7.4km at 8.3%), and lastly the Col du Portet (16km at 8.7%). All three are difficult climbs, so it’s going to be a crucial day and one of the most explosive days of the race.
Our pick is Romain Bardet. The frisky Frenchman was aggressive on the road to Alpe d’Huez and will be again tomorrow. He’s fifth on GC right now, which won’t mean a whole lot to him, having twice finished on the podium. He’ll give everything on this stage and should like the tough finish.
See you back at the social club,