Tour de France Stage 16 Preview
The run in the Pyrinees came to an end and it was a dramatic one right until the finish. The stage was a brutal one, with the start tremendously fast, taking over 50 kilometers for the breakaway to be set after the rolling start saw the climbers trying to escape, they finally did in the Col de Montségur where a group of around 30 riders including the likes of Quintana, Kreuziger, Bardet, Nibali, Dan Martin and many others, including eventual stage winner Simon Yates. The Brit moved on the Mur de Péguère, catching up with Simon Geschke who he dropped on the final climb and soloed to victory.
In the peloton the pace slowed down after the breakaway went, in the Port de Lers there was no action but in the penultimate climb Mikel Landa made a strong move and with the help of Soler and Amador made it to the final climb fresh, eventually he finished third as Thibaut Pinot came flying from the peloton where he attacked and again got time back on his rivals, and put a hard stance on his ambition to win the race despite the mishap in Albi. Bernal and Buchmann were the ones that responded better to him, Alaphillipe did at first but cracked in the final kilometers of the climb, whilst Geraint Thomas and Steven Kruijswijk arrived together retaining their places in the GC.
Positive: Thibaut Pinot's confidence rises with everyday that passes, he was clearly the strong man in the Pyrinees and if he keeps it up in the Alps he is the big favourite to win the race. Buchmann keeps his very strong ride still somewhat under the radar of the other big candidates. Movistar as a whole looks very strong, Quintana is faltering but Landa took advantage of great team tactics and power whilst Valverde had a very strong ride himself.
Negative: I can't say Alaphillipe rode bad, he absolutely didn't but what he shown was the crack that was expected. By no means is his GC race over but today is a pretty solid sign of what's to come in the Alps where the climbs will suit him even less. His teammate Enric Mas was the real struggler of the day, sickness likely as he dived down the GC 31 minutes down. Uran lost some serious time dropping in the Top10, otherwise no-one really took a hit today despite some pretty decent time gaps were present everywhere.
The third week starts by the Mediterraneen, with a bit of an unusual stage, looping around Nîmes but not through some of the region's most iconic cities. It's one for the sprinters, perhaps one of the easiest stages in the race and will be the final opportunity for the fast men until they reach Paris.
Finale such as it's usual, not technical and completely flat, it's a classic Tour finish. The final kilometers take place in a straightforward road, a wide one that should lead to a regular sprint finish.
Weird conditions. The main factor to take into consideration is the heat, they will go up to 35 degrees which state the begining of a heat wave storming through France, this will not the only day it will be felt and as the stage is flat it won't make direct damage to the riders, but it will be a hard day's riding due to it and fatigue may be extra due to it.
As for the wind, early in the day it will be relatively weak around 5Km/h as they leave Nîmes but when they comeback it will be around 15Km/h, which will make life much easier for the peloton chasing as it comes in their favour.
What has changed since the last sprint? Well in a distant view nothing at all actually. But how the sprinters behaved since that stage is a little different. Since Sagan essentially has the points classification confirmed the sprinters have taken up more necessary duties in the stint in the Pyrinees. Groenewegen didn't exactly push himself to the limit but he did roll around in a breakaway and was seen active, as was both his leadout men, with van Aert having abandoned he lost an important part of his leadout and goes without the big advantage he had over some of the other sprinters.
Elia Viviani has in the meantime assisted Julian Alaphillipe, in the stage to Foix more particularly. As the Frenchman still holds the lead there may be a bigger focus on helping him aswell which may not be the best thing for Viviani's shot of winning the stage. Peter Sagan, well he's been doing what Sagan does it's simple, he's been Sagan-riding, including breakaways, pacing for leaders, doing everything the team needed. He shouldn't have the freshest of legs but he does it every year and he knows how to race this. His leadout hasn't taken any blow, Schachmann's abandon might indirectly have some more focus from his mean into protecting Emanuel Buchmann but that should be decided on the road.
The one that has been the most hidden is Caleb Ewan but that's the case as he struggled to get over the mountains. He may be the rider whose team will focus on the most in the end but his leadout hasn't been up to the task so far, but he managed to take the win the last sprint there was.
Alexander Kristoff was also in a breakaway, Michael Matthews too although there's a good chance he'll be trying to set up Cees Bol again, that won't harm their chances of a win honestly. Sonny Colbrelli, Matteo Trentin, Edvald Boasson Hagen, Jasper Stuyven, pretty much every sprinter has been involved in some breakaway action this past week.
It's hard to have outsiders in such competition, Nicolo Bonifazio is the only one who's been remotely close to the front in the vital moments, it's been a race where the sprints have been very well divided but tomorrow is set to see one of the big 4 to take their second win.
⭐ Kristoff, Bol, Trentin, Colbrelli, Matthews, Stuyven
I'm going with Dylan Groenewegen, it's became personal as I have seemed to curse the Jumbo riders but I am confident in tomorrow. It's pretty much a battle of luck at this point, Viviani, Ewan and himself are perfectly balanced so it's all about positioning and the right timing, he knows how to do it so I believe he will take the win.
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