Stage 16 Carcassonne – Bagneres de Luchon 237.5km
Welcome to the Pyrenees!
The race enters the final week and the riders face the longest stage of the tour. This is a long and demanding stage with 5 categorised climbs and a fairly technical descent to the finish.
The opening climb, Côte de Fanjeaux is 2.4km at 4.9%. We then have Côte de Pamiers, which is 2.5km at 5.4%. It might take until this point for the break to properly form. After the sprint point we have Col de Portet-d’Aspet, 5.4km at 6.9%. This climb will start to hurt the legs, especially as the road rises for just under 30km, before the climb starts. The penultimate climb, Col des Ares, is 6km at 5.2%. All of these climbs are tough for amateurs but easy for the professional peloton, this race will be won on the final climb, Port de Balès.
This is a proper climb and who can forget the last time we were here? “Chaingate”
Back then we had a brilliant GC battle between Contador and Schleck, but this year the climb won’t see much change on GC, as these riders will have one eye on stage 17. This stage is all about the break.
A lot of riders would have marked this page in the road book, with a large cross. The nature of the profile is perfect for the break and Astana will be happy to save energy for the final climb and the other Pyrenees stages. The other GC teams won’t fancy chasing hard and will look to place riders in the break, this means we could have a large break of around 30 riders.
The size of the break will start to decrease as we head through the day, until a smaller group establish themselves on the final climb. The climb crests with 21.5km remaining, all but 2km of this is descending, so even a small gap can be maintained until the finish.
Getting into the break is an art form! Some riders are tactical astute and sense when to move, but others are stupid and make the wrong move. At this stage in a grand tour it is good to look at riders who have already featured in breaks, as they have shown good form. A number of familiar faces will be in the break, but will the polka dot jersey be there?
Stage 17 features a huge amount of KOM points and it will be hard for any rider to perform well in consecutive breaks, but that might not stop Rodriguez and Majka from trying! The alternative is to get teammates in the break and get them to take top points.
Time to look at the teams and their options:-
Team Sky – 2 men down and both Porte and Nieve are ill. They will look to place more than 1 rider in the break, and this will be from Kiryienka, Lopez and Thomas. Lopez took it easy on stage 15 and I think he might be their man for this stage. He’s a great climber and well suited to the stage. Kiryienka won a stage in the 2013 Vuelta from a break and can put many riders to the sword on the final climb. Thomas has worked hard in the race and lacks a bit of top end climbing ability.
Movistar – They need to keep some riders back to help Valverde on the final climb, so look for Erviti, Herrada and Intxausti to attack.
Team Katusha – Their options are Rodriguez, Spilak and Trofimov. Will Rodriguez go in the break again? Probably!
Tinkoff-Saxo – After the success of Majka, it looks like the turn of Roche and Rogers. The Aussie is a very dangerous rider, especially with the final climb and descent.
Astana – They will keep most riders back for Nibali, but I expect Westra to be given a free pass. If he gets in the break, he’s a strong contender.
Cannondale – Some might laugh at this, but the stage looks good for Peter Sagan. In fact, this is his best chance of a win, in the final week. He won a similar stage in the 2013 Tour de Suisse, beating Rui Costa in a sprint. He’s been in plenty of breaks but I have my doubts about the final climb, as it might be just outside his capabilities. Although, he would be able to take back a lot of time on the descent.
Belkin – 2nd in the team classification, so they have to put a rider in the break. Their only option is Kruijswijk.
OPQS – Bakelants has been very active and still has good legs. The finish looks good for Kwiatkowski but is he cooked? His friend, Golas, has loyally stood by him but this stage also suits him. Will he be allowed some freedom?
AG2R – Leaders of the team classification, so will look to put 2 riders in the break. Cherel, Gastauer, Kadri and Riblon are all strong options.
Garmin Sharp – Slagter.
Giant – I expect to see Dumoulin in the break. He was 4th when Tony Martin won.
Lampre – 2 options, Durasek or Serpa. Both have been in breaks and climb well.
FDJ – They’ll need all their men in case Pinot falters on the final descent.
Lotto – Gallopin or Hansen. The final descent looks great for the Frenchman.
BMC – Will need men for Van Garderen but Moinard or Oss might be given a free pass.
Europcar – Still without a stage win, this is a day for Tommy Voeckler. A great climber and demon descender. As previously seen, the team will put multiple riders in the break to help.
Trek – Irizar, Busche or Rast. The American can climb very well, but has been surprisingly quiet in the race. Saving himself for a big day?
Cofidis – Lots of options….Edet, Mate or Taaramae.
Orica – Clarke or Albasini.
IAM – Reichenbach or Wyss.
NetApp – Will look to protect Konig, so maybe only Huzarski.
Bretagne – Brice Feillu.
These are the best options for the teams, but you don’t always get the best rider in the break!
This stage looks perfect for Voeckler. I expect him to have at least 2 teammates in the break, so he won’t have to work until the final climb. He is explosive enough to cope with most climbers and better than most on the downhill. That being said, I expect Westra and Bakelants to push him all the way.
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