Not quite a summit finish, but this is a massive day in the Alps. After a flat opening 10kms the road rises more or less for the next 80kms to the top of the Col de L’Iseran before plunging down a descent for 36kms and pass through Val d’Isere and on to the Montee de Tignes, a tough little climb that tops out 1200m or so from the line.
So we’ve had one day in the big Alps, and Alaphilippe is still in the leader’s jersey.. he’s proving a very tough nut to crack. But, that’s his rivals’ fault. Why did they wait so long to attack him? They attacked so late in the stage that he was only 18′ down at the top and he easily caught them on the descent. At least Bernal tried, and Thomas tried, the rest seemed unable to.
Where does that leave us for tomorrow’s stage then? Well, it’s a similar sort of stage in that there’s a big climb in the middle of the stage, but it’s a very different kind of stage in that it’s a summit finish (or as good as, the last 1500m are flat). Alaphilippe’s rivals will have to attack him hard now, but to me, it looks like Bernal is the only one who looks like putting serious time into him and the others.
Thomas doesn’t seem to have the kick to get away, he was caught pretty quickly today. But he keeps saying he has good legs. I think Thomas needs to bury a few rivals tomorrow by attacking on the Iseran and take only a handful of rivals with him. He needs to attack hard on the 9.3% section 6kms from the top and really hammer it. Bernal will be with him, maybe Pinot, SK, Landa, Buchmann, and Porte – they need to have shaken off Alaphilippe. If they can crack him in the last 6kms here he could lose 3 mins or more by the finish.
If they see that the others are struggling and G doesn’t have the legs, then Bernal should go next – the Iseran is tailor-made for him, a very long climb that climbs to the highest altitude in the race.. he needs to try and see what happens.
Then it’s a fast 36km descent and on to the final climb to Tignes. If it’s still together, Bernal should then attack 6kms from the top of the climb and really go for it – he could ride into the yellow jersey tomorrow and seal the race. Ineos can then ride defensively on the final stage, with Bernal aided by Thomas fighting back all attacks.
Pinot seemed to struggle in the heat today, but the temperatures seem to be a lot more to his liking tomorrow, a max of 23 degrees around Val d’Isere and 17 in Tignes, with rain forecast all afternoon. He might well have been just managing his resources today, he was struggling as we saw, but he did make one strong surge to close Thomas down.
I think he’s playing the long game and is waiting for the next two stages, but he’s running out of time. He’s 1’50’ down on Alap now and 20′ down on Bernal, it’ll be hard to make that back with the form Bernal is in. This stage should suit him a lot better though, it’s shorter and the final climb has a gradient he likes, plus, if it comes to a GC men’s sprint, he’ll probably win.
Simon Yates has been made +400 joint favorite with Bernal though, and that’s probably because he basically had a day off today as Adam went off in search of glory. In hindsight, maybe Simon should have gone today, he may have been able to stay with Quintana, but maybe he wouldn’t have been able to and was right to save his legs.
He could well get in the break again tomorrow now that he’s had a day off, and the break’s chances all depends on how hard the Iseran is raced by the GC men. If the GC men race the Iseran hard though, then the break might not make it. It’s a short stage, the pace will be high as they are going uphill more or less from the start, and they will really ramp it up on the Iseran.
So for that reason, I’m leaving Simon and the breakers tomorrow.
What about the other GC men? Well, Steven Kruijswijk has been very patient. It seems he’s been playing a great stealth game and that the Iseran and Val Thorens is where he will make his move… well, he’s been knocked off a podium spot by Bernal now, if he wants to finish on the podium he will have to help to try to drop Alap and try to make it a battle between him and the Ineos boys.
He is just 12′ off of Thomas and 17′ from Bernal, so anything is possible yet, but he hasn’t shown the ambition or ability to do anything yet, he has followed rather than attacked. And for once, his team looked under pressure today, with George Bennett injured and worn out from his crash and chase back, and De Plus pulling over sooner maybe than he would have liked. Those two guys need to be at the top of their game tomorrow for SK though in order to try to get rid of Alaphilippe, and maybe even Thomas.
Mikel Landa was looking like he meant business today when Movistar went to the front on the Izoard and started to shred the Peloton, but in the end, there was nothing out of him. Yes, he had Nairo going for the stage win ahead and a summit finish would have suited him a lot better, but he was only able to follow wheels when Bernal and Thomas attacked, you’d have thought he’d have been one of the first to try to chase them down.
Quintana had his fun today though and it might be that he settles back into team duties tomorrow and works for a Landa attack on the Iseran – this could be another ally for the ‘drop Alaphilppe’ brigade, if Movistar does what they did today again, we could see Alap in trouble.
Landa is a likely candidate for an Iseran attack, with maybe a team-mate or two up the road to help him in the section from Val d’Isere until the final climb. Movistar will be buzzing after that today, the team competition is wrapped up, so why not go hunting for more stages. He looks an ok e/w bet at +800.
Emanuel Buchmann, Richie Porte, and Rigo Uran were just only able to follow today, with Porte and Uran struggling at times, I can’t see either of them improving much tomorrow… Although…. I saw one of the EF riders (can’t remember now which one) say before today’s stage that today was just about hanging in there for Uran and that he was going to try to do something in the next two stages…
Warren Barguil, Guillaume Martin, Alejandro Valverde, and Fabio Aru are a level below, it’s hard to see them making big moves tomorrow, although Barguil probably has one big flourish in him.
This could be yet another brilliant stage in a brilliant Tour, and I think tomorrow we see Ineos come out to play and Bernal take the stage on his way to taking the yellow off of Alaphilippe.
3pts win on Egan Bernal at +450 with Bet365
1pt e/w on Mikel Landa at +800 with Betway