Tour de France Stage 14 Preview
It was a dramatic day in Pau that seen crashes, surprises both in the negative and positive and a big win from Julian Alaphillipe. The French was the fastest in the time-trial, a surprise by taking it in front of Thomas and long-standing hotseat Thomas de Gendt. The day was marked by the crashes of Wout van Aert and Max Schachmann in the same corner in quick succession, the previous abandoned in what seemed like a serious injury after hitting the barriers. In the meantime de Gendt took the lead and resisted the time of the overall contenders until Thomas took the lead, only to be topped by the last rider in course.
Positive: Alaphillipe keeps the jersey for another day and extends his lead another day, as his teammate Mas did very well. Thomas perhaps the big winner of the day with a big gain on his most direct rivals, Uran, Porte and Pinot with great times defending themselves perfectly.
Negative: On the rough side is Jumbo loosing van Aert, Nairo Quintana and Adam Yates were perhaps the riders below the expected, with Bardet and Dan Martin also taking a big hit, but those more expectedly.
Stage 14 sees a very short stage, the shortest one of the race in fact, and it sees the return of the Tourmalet in the finish after the last one in 2010 saw a great battle between Andy Schleck and Alberto Contador. And like 2010, the Tourmalet comes after the Col du Soulor, a very tough climb that will set the rhythm in the stage. It is surely a stage for the GC riders as the final climb will be decisive.
A climb of around 50 minutes, it's the most used climb in the race and for good reason, always one where there's a good spectacle and it's one the Tour's symbols. And with the summit finish this year it will likely come to it's big expectations, it's 19Km long and is a very constant climb, but having it's rougher section right until the end with ramps reaching 10% in the final meters.
There won't be wind bothering the riders at least, but the sky will be cloudy and there's a small chance of rain towards the final section of the race, thunders at least.
As it's a very short stage and INEOS will likely turn on the gas to tempo up the climbs the chances are it's a stage for the GC riders to fight for. More so as the start is relatively flat so it won't be easy for pure climbers to join the break, and as the finish is in the Tourmalet there won't be any energy savings, the final climb will be ridden very quickly by the men in the peloton.
There are two sides of the coin, there are the riders who will want to take the Tourmalet by pace and can rely on their teammates to do so adding to those who will want the same and will race on the wheel and race more conservatively. In first place is Geraint Thomas who is definetely in the pole position to take the yellow jersey at some point, supported by a very strong INEOS and above all Bernal who himself can easily be in the fight for the win, there is no escaping them pretty much. The riders who will be on their wheel and will want that conservative constant pace are the Deceuninck riders, can Alaphillipe keep yellow another day? The climb doesn't suit him at all but he has surprised so far and we can't take anything for sure, also Enric Mas who is taking a very constant but flawless race so far. Both won't have support pretty much so they'll rely on the pace of others. Kruisjwijk will also want it, he's a diesel engine who profits from that type of racing and he'll be looking to keep his current third place, and if he has anything in the last week there he will make his move. I can also include Buchmann in that list, so essentially it's the riders that ocupy the Top 6.
On the side of the riders who will definetely want to attack to begin with there's Thibaut Pinot, there's not a single doubt about his form and his climbing is on spot. To take the win, it's looking hard but in reality it is for anyone who isn't Geraint Thomas, but FDJ have the firepower to help the Frenchman and the agressive racing he needs, on the other hand is Movistar with Nairo Quintana and Mikel Landa mainly, who will like the long climb to the finish as it suits them and will be looking to make some time back.
Somewhere along the road are riders like Jakob Fuglsang, Adam Yates, Richie Porte and Rigoberto Uran whose role at this point is hard to guess. Of those Fuglsang is the one who would in theory be on the offensive and he does have the team for it, Astana often switch their race tactics into unpredicable scenarios so it isn't to discount them setting something up for the Dane. There's Dan Martin too, he's stuck on my head as he was the only rider I've seen claiming he'd be agressive in the Pyrinees but it's hard to see what he can do besides going in the wheel of the strongest, besides his team is more focused on stage wins it seems ever since the begining.
For this stage I'm not counting on a breakaway being successful, nonetheless there are names that need to be mentioned and they are essentially the same as they've been on the climbing stages. Somewhere through Bahrain with Nibali/Caruso/Teuns, teams like Sunweb, UAE and Katusha are almost purely in for stage wins at this point so we can be sure to see them giving their best to achieve it.
⭐ Fugslang, A.Yates, Kruisjwijk, Mas, Alaphillipe, Buchmann, Uran, Porte
Going with Geraint Thomas for the win, he is looking sharp and the pacing and likely support given even by Bernal as the gaps really formed today are going to be a big plus. Pinot in my opinion is the strongest climber but it will be hard even for a team like FDJ to do what they want in a climb like the Tourmalet. I expect an INEOS train all the way and Thomas can definetely win the same way he did last year.
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