It could be a day that Geraint Thomas puts the nail in the coffin of the likes of Romain Bardet, Thibaut Pinot, Daniel Martin and Rigo Uran, none of which are renowned time triallists.
It’s a rolling course with three or four climbs, but they are small and not too difficult. The first one is around 3kms long and starts after 4.5kms, then it kicks up a little bit again to 2kms later for 2kms to the highest point of the day. They then descend a little before kicking up to the Cote d’Esquillot for the second time check and from there it’s downhill or flat for the next 10kms, before one last climb to the line for the last kilometre.
Well I was going to write all about Rohan Dennis and his chances of winning this stage, but seeing as he pulled out of the race today in mysterious circumstances there’s no need to do that.
A rider who doesn’t appear anywhere near the top of the stats lists for best TTers at the Tour is Wout Van Aert, but that’s not because of his lack of ability, more because he is so young and has done so few time trials! He’s only 24, in his first season in the World Tour, but what a season he’s had so far. His performance in the TT at the Criterium du Dauphine was incredible, winning by 31′ to Tejay Van Garderen, with Tom Dumoulin 47′ down and most of his rivals at the Tour around a minute or more back.
And he’s had a spectacular Tour so far too, and has shown no signs of stopping.. He beasted it in the Team Time Trial on the second stage, taking huge turns to help them to the win, then beasted it on some of the sprint stages to help set up Groenewegen for the sprints. And then he goes and wins a stage himself on stage 10 from a sprint, beating most of the best sprinters in the race.
This is a very similar distance and profile to the TT in the Dauphine, so he will be licking his lips and has to go off as one of the top favourites. I wasn’t expecting the -162 he is with Bet365, that’s very short, the -120 he is with Betway is a lot better although I was hoping for a little odds against, maybe +125 or something like that.
He is way down on GC, so will start just after half way and he might well be sitting in the hot seat as leader for a long time. He has the fastest bike under him and Jumbo seem to have done a lot of work to improve their riders in time trials.
Michal Kwiatkowski is, according to the stats, the best TT rider here now that Dennis has pulled out. But what does Kwiato do in this TT? He could well be pushing for a win here if he was allowed go full gas for it, but will the team let him? He will be needed in the days to come in the mountains, starting the very next day on the Tourmalet, but on the flip side if he goes hard he can relay information back to Thomas as he starts an hour before him, this TT should only last about 33 minutes.
Geraint Thomas is also one of the strongest TT riders in the race, and his motivation goes way beyond winning the stage. This is a chance for him to kill off a lot of his opponents, there might be only a few within two minutes of him by the end of this stage. He’s got 1’12’ to make up on Alaphilippe, and although he might not take the jersey off him today, he should come within 30′ or so of doing it.
He is a former British TT champion of course, and multiple world champion on the track, and although his TT results this year are pretty mediocre, this is going to be a very different situation, and you would think, result. He was absolutely flying don’t forget in that final 31km TT in the Tour last year, before Sky started playing games and tried to let Froome win, but they were both mugged by Dumoulin.
As for the other TT specialists in the race, well you have the likes of Yves Lampaert of Deceuninck, one of the strongest TT’ers in the peloton and who won the 19km TT in the Tour de Suisse a few weeks back. He also finished 1st in two of the three Hammer Series TT races in Holland and was 5th in the TT in Tirreno. He was miles off the pace in the second TT in the Tour last year though, if he rides like that he won’t be winning here.
You also have Stefan Kung, who I had forgotten was even in this race he’s been so anonymous. Like Dennis was, he has been hiding away waiting for this TT. The three time Swiss TT champion started the season well with a win in the 20km TT in the Tour of the Algarve, but since then he’s had a number of top tens, but nothing close to a win.
He was expected to go well in the TT in Romandie, but only finished 6th, 22′ down on Roglic, and similarly in the Tour de Suisse TT over 19kms he was only 7th.
Kasper Asgreen is the reigning Danish TT champ, and has said that this is his big target in this race. He didn’t have a great start to the race, crashing in the 3rd stage, but by the looks of how he has been driving the peloton in the last few days, he seems to be over it. He was 2nd and 5th in the two TTs in the Tour de Suisse, the longer 19km TT obviously suiting him better. He was 10th in the second TT in the Vuelta last year, I think he can top 10 again here, but a win is probably out of the question.
A rider who beat him in the TDS and finished 2′ behind him in the Algarve is Sunweb’s Soren Kragh Andersen. The young Dane finished 3rd and 4th in the two TTs in the Tour de Suisse, but in Tirreno he was a poor 33rd, 31′ behind Campanaerts. He should go well, but I’m not sure he’ll be on the podium.
Tony Martin of a few years ago would be the one who was odds-on for this stage, not his 24 year old team-mate, but Martin is still one of the fastest TTers in the peloton and has shown how strong he is at the moment by helping the team win the TTT on the second stage and by towing the peloton for mile after mile in helping trying to set up a sprint win for Groenewegen. If he really fires, the +1400 on him might look like the bet of the year.
Thomas de Gendt, Damiano Caruso, Patrick Bevin, Joey Rosskopf, Wilko Kelderman – other guys who should be pushing for a top 10 placing here, but I can’t see them breaking in to the top 3. Chad Haga is an outsider I like though, he won the final TT in the Giro d’Italia in stunning fashion in May, it was a super-impressive performance from him. He has been allowed just drift through this race by the team, saving his legs and preparing for this stage. At 28/1, he could go close to landing a podium spot for us.
But it does look like a two-horse race to me, Van Aert Vs Thomas, and although he’s very short in price, Van Aert looks like the bet to me. He’s so, so strong at the moment, and the way he destroyed his rivals in the Dauphine, if he is anywhere close to that level he could win this by 20′ or more.
Haga to beat Scully and Andersen to beat Schachmann – 3pts on the double at -125 with Bet365