Tour de France Stage 20 Preview
Honestly guys, you all know what happened today there is even no point of mentioning it, but I'll try to draw some conclusions. Pinot abandons from a muscle leg tear, the stage is brutal until the foot of the l'Iseran with Barguil/Uran/Valverde in the break, mega pace in the peloton, the climb was pushed hard, Thomas attacked causing Alaphillipe to finally crack, Bernal attacked over him in a perfect strategy. And then the times, they were taken on the top of the l'Iseran, Bernal was the first one up the finishing spot but officially no-one took the stage, he was ahead of Simon Yates and Warren Barguil, he won 1:03 minutes to Thomas, Kruijsijk and Buchmann, whilst Alaphillipe summited 2:10 later. Bernal is now leading with 48 seconds over Alaphillipe, 1:16 over Thomas, 1:28 over Kruijsijk and 1:55 over Buchmann.
Obviously, as you all know by now the stage was shortened, the begining of the descent seems totally fine, even in Val d'Isere the weather was manageable but below there was a landslide and a serious snowstorm, serious snowmelt in there too, it would've been impossible for the race to go on.
Positive: INEOS ended up winning the day big time. With Bernal taking yellow it'll virtually be impossible for the team to loose the race now as they seem in control, and the two strongest climbers at this point. Some minor rises in the GC due to Pinot's abandon, Landa and Uran most noticeably.
Negative: Pinot obviously. A very, very tough hit to take after similar circumstances taking his podium place in the Giro last year. It's very hard and I feel sorry for him and the team, both looked perfect this year and he had legitimate chances of still winning the race.
At long last what can be called the queen stage, or, what would in theory be considered it. After landslides on the Cormet de Roseland too the stage was shortened, both climbs on the menu before the final one were removed and the stage is now 59 kilometers long. As for Val Thorens, It's another climb that isn't often used in the Tour, it's only been a stage finish once in 1994 (where it has to be said that the gaps were very big). The favourites will give it their all in what is the last chance to gain time in the race and the stage hunters will do the same, it's pretty much last chance for tons of riders in the race for their respective goal and (almost) everything will be decided.
It's 33 kilometers long which in itself is already an absurd, but it's quite hard all the way. There are several descents/flat sections, so for the average gradient to be 5.4% means there are lots of kilometers where the gradient really bites. It's the final challenge of the race for the overall and it's a proper one.
There is northwestern by the end of the afternoon which would eventually result in a tailwind for the final climb. That wind is expected less than 5Km/h but gusts of up to 45Km/h, so there is definetely something to consider, the rain happening won't affect the riders anyhow as there won't be descents.
Well with the new route implemented I can confortably say it will be a day for the GC men, but truly for the climbers not only the riders fighting to win the race. There's only 25 kilometers of flat terrain, not only is it not appropriate for the climbers to go in front but there's barely terrain for them to win time before the final climb, so it's pretty much an affair to the riders that save themselves to climb in the end.
INEOS are in the lead of the race, I don't doubt at this point that they'll win the race, despite that neither Thomas and Bernal won a stage, I think they want it, Bernal especially, extremely motivated as he is in yellow and in a climb like this no energies will be saved and he has a chance of still taking the mountain jersey home aswell, it's all-in for everyone and Bernal seems the strongest, like today.
Directly, I don't think anyone can take the win from them. Kruijswijk and Buchmann are strong but they don't have the edge the Colombian has right now. I think the main threat for the stage win will come from the other riders, only in the eventuality that some riders attack early in the climb.
Quintana won a stage like that last year, Landa has a similar skillset to do so, Warren Barguil is also a rider who could try that, they have the freedom and the quality to attack, but to take that gap to the finish is something different.
The other threats I would see coming are from other riders who, in this case more obviously, have nothing to loose. Simon Yates, Astana with Lutsenko/Bilbao for example, I would expect to see David Gaudu trying something aswell, maybe motivated as he may have actual support from his team to succeed, and also Romain Bardet. The latter one is in the polka dots, he will want to defend his lead, but it's hard to guess which strategy is best for him to be able to do so.
⭐ Quintana, Uran, Bardet, S.Yates, Bilbao, Gaudu
The man who owns the Alps! At only 22 you'd expect a rider to not yet have the consistency needed for a Grant Tour, but as we've seen so far Bernal is far from any ordinary rider, not only is he surviving, he has shone in the Alps as no other rider did, he was the only rider above all other both on the Galibier and the l'Iseran, and tomorrow Val Thorens is is.
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