• Rúben Silva

Tour de France Stage 12 Preview

Caleb Ewan took a maiden win in the Tour with a powerful sprint decided in a photo-finish with Dylan Groenewegen, the duo fought for the win after Jumbo's great leadout with Viviani coming in third. It was an uneventful day until the final 30 kilometers where a crash took out Quintana, Porte and Ciccone, with the latter loosing minutes and thus a chance to fight for the GC. After that the break was caught and it was a fast aproach to the line where the Australian completed his set of Grand Tour stage wins.

Positive: Lotto Soudal keep up their great Tour so far, above all it takes away the pressure, Ewan came with a great team behind him but the victory has been elusive, this will allow the team to function well and more relaxed in the rest of the race.

Negative: Trek lost Ciccone who didn't look good at all crossing the line, Porte was affected too but seems ok, nonetheless this is another big hit after Albi's stage causing mayhem in the team's overall hopes. Also Matthews seems to have given up on the points classification as he missed the intermediate sprint and then helped his teammate Bol for the sprint.

The Route

Stage 12 marks the entrance in the Pyrinees. With some hard stages before I can't say it's the entrance in the mountains, but it's a warm-up for the first set of vital stages. This is a breakaway stage, it's written all over. First, the day following is a time-trial, the only one in the race, second it's a long stage, mostly flat until the climbs. And finally, the climbs aren't hard enough to make serious gaps, specially as the final one comes with 30Km to go to the line. Adding to all of that, of course, as the following 3 days will be crucial, so the GC contenders will be looking to save their legs.

The first 130 kilometers of the stage are flat with little to spot, and from Bagnères-De-Luchon it changes.

First comes the Col de Peyresourde via it's hardest side, the summit comes with 63Km to go so it may not see the vital moves come but some important fatigue and separating the waters, weaknesses will be exposed, but not in the peloton likely. The Horquette d'Ancizan in the peloton should be ridden at pace aswell, but in front the climbers will give it their all to distance their break companions, winning moves may come there, or at least we'll see who will be in contention for the win.

The Weather

With a storm passing through the Pyrinees the night before the riders will be lucky to avoid the rain but the chances are there will be some wet roads that can make the descents nervous. There will only be a breeze tomorrow, mainly from the west and then northwest once the riders hit the valleys, it won't be important as it won't be strong.

Breakaway Bingo!

This is a breakaway day without a shadow of a doubt. The only rider I've seen commenting on how they'll attack the Pyrinees is Dan Martin but you can't really think alone he can do damage here. I don't expect any of the big riders to put on serious attacks for the reasons I've mentioned before, it will be a day of saving the legs for the time-trial ahead, and consequently the following two days.

Perhaps FDJ is the only team that could eventually have interest in attacking the climbs as Pinot should want to try to recover as much time as possible, but that would go against the dynamics of the peloton and in reality if he is now focusing on being on the podium and isn't totally focused on the win he shouldn't be attacking anyhow. Astana also have some agressive behaviour sometimes but there isn't any place except the climbs where teams can be surprised.

The real guess is to know who will be in a breakaway and who can win from it, I've made it before so I'll make up a list of the riders I think can be present in the day's break and win.

Bora - Muhlberger, Schachmann

Bahrain - Nibali, Caruso, Teuns

FDJ - Molard, Reichenbach

Astana - Bilbao, Fraile, G.Izagirre

Jumbo - G.Bennett

EF - Woods

Mitchelton - Haig

CCC - Pauwels

UAE - R.Costa, Aru

Trek - Mollema

Sunweb - Roche, Kelderman

Lotto Soudal - Wellens, Benoot

Katusha - Zakarin

Wanty - G.Martin, Meurisse

Dimension Data - Kreuziger

Deceuninck, they don't want to loose the lead of the race so riders like Kreuziger, Meurisse and Mollema may be kept on a leash if they're in front, as they aren't far from stealing the lead if they manage to go in front.

For other riders such as Guillaume Martin or Zakarin the real struggle can come from actually getting in the break as the start is flat and they are far from power riders. As for others there may be domestique responsabilities that won't see them try, Haig/Woods/Bennett likely as they are their leader's main men at the moment, I could say the same of Mollema but Trek's dynamics will be uncertain after a blow was taken on Ciccone.

How the race will play then for the win? Well in the break there will be some rouleurs and some faster riders that will likely be under attack in the climbs. In the peloton I don't consider but in a small group as it's normal in front there's definetely room to distance each other. The stronger climbers will go all out in front obviously and I believe the main moves will come in the Peyresourde. Whoever is left in front for the final climb will be balanced but they will attack each other as the smaller the group (or solo rider) the bigger chances there are to win, as in the descent and run-up to the line the riders' sprint will become the main factor and will dictate how the riders will collaborate. In case there's a strong break in front there's a reaosn to look out at some riders who have a strong sprint between those who climb well, if it's a small one (less than 15) than it's totally up to the climbs to decide the stage.

Prediction Time

Benoot, Mollema, R.Costa

Muhlberger, Nibali, Teuns, Woods

Caruso, Molard, Bilbao, G.Bennett, Aru, Wellens, Roche, Pinot, Thomas, Alaphillipe

I'll go for Tiesj Benoot, he's shown his intentions in Brioude and he fits perfectly the stage, he has total freedom and support from his team to get a win and his form is on spot. Lot of riders to consider for tomorrow but he ticks all the boxes.

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