A lumpy stage that gets hillier the further in to it they go. Can the break make it all the way?
<p>So as I predicted, we got our sprint finish today, even though the whole world seemed to expect a break to make it. The break was controlled from very early on and only 4 riders were let go clear. FDJ controlled things and delivered Arnaud Demare perfectly, only Demare wasn’t strong enough and was passed by Sagan and Kristoff.</p><p>It’s not exactly the Pyrenees or the Alps, but the hills in the Massif Central will challenge them, especially that last pull up to the airport in Mende.</p><p>This finish was last used in 2015 when Romain Bardet and Thibaut Pinot both escaped from the main favourites group on the final climb up towards the airport in Mende. Then suddenly, out of nowhere, Steve Cummings appeared from behind them and the two Frenchmen conspired to throw away the stage as Cummings just rode away from them to victory on Mandela Day, a great result for the South African team.</p><p><img alt src="https://images-production-753931602578.s3.amazonaws.com/5b523b8d4afd5b008dc9558f/original-tdf-stage-14" /></p><h2>The Route</h2><p>They head in an westerly direction predominantly, alternating between going north-west and south-west as they zig-zag through the Drome departement. The opening 90kms are rolling, tough roads, with a Cat 4 thrown in after 81kms (1km at 7.4%), quickly followed by the intermediate sprint.</p><p>They pass over a Cat 2 and a Cat 3 climb and lots of uncategorised climbs as the road goes higher and higher in to the Massif Central. There is a nasty finish to the day with the hill up to the airstrip in Mende, averaging 10.2% for 3kms, with a kilometre at 10.5% and 10.9%, hitting 18% in parts..</p><p>If there is a small break comes to the finish here, we could see it blown apart as the strongest man rides away to victory. Once at the top of the hill though there's a slight downhill section for 1km, then a gentle pull up to the line for the last 700m along the landing strip of Mende Airport.</p><p> </p><h2>Analysis and Picks</h2><p>I think today is a day for the break, I think the GC men will be looking forward to a day off and to save some energy for a blast up the final hill, some could lose/make time on that run in. So it’s breakaway lottery time then and I think we need some strong rouleur/climber types who can put down the big watts all day and really make it count over the last 90kms or so.</p><p>Edward Theuns tried to get in the break on Wednesday, he was one of the first on the attack but it didn’t work out for him. This is far more his sort of territory though and I think he might be eyeing this one up if he is given the green light from Sunweb to go. It might mean that Sunweb can hide away for the day then and play no part in the chasing.</p><p>Toms Skujins has won on roads like this in the Tour of California, he’ll like the rolling terrain and the finish, this is a quite similar sort of finish to the stage he won to Laguna Seca this year, that stage finished on a motor circuit, this one finishes on an airport runway!</p><p>Julian Alaphilippe and Philippe Gilbert are two more who will like this route, and I think Alaphilippe has a big chance of winning this. He will probably go in the break to pick up easy KOM points to try to stretch his lead, and not many will be able to stay with him if he kicks for home on that final hill in Mende. Gilbert also will like these rolling hills and would be suited to this finish.</p><p>Warren Barguil might go, but I think he will just save energy for the big climbs next week with all the points. Omar Fraile has been anonymous in this race, we normally see more of him, but Astana have been pretty poor all round. He tends to come good later in races though, so maybe he’ll fancy it today. Michael Valgren is another from Astana who could get up the road, but the final hill might be the undoing of him, unless he’s solo.</p><p>Peter Sagan might go in the break again, he is looking for a 4th stage win, but unless he has soloed away from his companions before they hit the hill in Mende, I think others could beat him. Simon Clark could give it a go for EF Drapac, they haven’t had a lot to cheer about in this race, and now with Uran out they can send men up the road.</p><p>What about Tomasz Marczynski? I think he will get in a race-winning break at some point, so at the price I don’t want to miss him, his big engine and experience could be very important on a stage like this.</p><p>Greg Van Avermaet seems to have come out of the Alps pretty well, he was near the front for the last 10kms and popped up to take an impressive 5th in the sprint. He too could go in the break and would have a chance on this hill.</p><p>As for the GC men, there will be a battle royale up that last hill in Mende – it’s narrow, it’s steep and nasty. I have a good feeling that Tom Dumoulin will go well here and could even gap Froome for a few seconds. Bardet should go very well again like the last time, maybe even better, he’s a stronger, smarter rider now.</p><p>Geraint Thomas might struggle a little on the really steep parts if he’s feeling the effects of a very tough week. Dan Martin should have the kick for this finish too, maybe we’ll see him and Bardet riding away together, and he’d have the sprint to beat Bardet. But he showed signs of fatigue on Alpe d’Huez when he was dropped relatively early, that’s a little concern.</p><p>Mikel Landa and Mikel Nieve could go well too, as could Egan Bernal should they give him the freedom to attack, but that’s a slim chance I think, they’ll ask him to look after the top 2 should they struggle a little. And the three LottoJumbo guys won’t be far off, Gesink, Kruijswijk and Roglic might be in the top 10 coming in to the climb, but can any of them kick on to win it? Roglic is probably the best bet from them.</p><p>Alejandro Valverde, Rafal Majka, Daryl Impey, Pierre Latour and Damiano Caruso are some more outsiders who could go well on this finish too. Nairo Quintana, Adam Yates, Jakob Fuglsang, Domenico Pozzovivo don’t seem to have it in the legs at the moment, I’m not sure they can get involved.</p><p>But it’s time for the breakaway lottery, hopefully some will get in the break for us and give us a run for our money.</p><h2> </h2><h2>Selections</h2><p>0.25pts win on Sonny Colbrelli at +$15000</p><p>0.25pts win on Toms Skujins at +$6600</p><p>0.25pts win on Stefan Kung at +$12500</p><p>0.25pts win on Omar Fraile at +$2200</p><p>2pts win on Julian Alaphilippe at +$300</p><p> </p><h2>Matchbet</h2><p>2pts win on Pierre Latour to beat Alejandro Valverde at +$175 <a href="https://www.sportsbookreview.com/Sportsbook/?v=4581&book=Bet365" title="top rated sportsbook">at Bet365</a></p>