Stage 10: Perigueux – Bergerac
178km – Suited to bunch sprint
Stage 9 will live long in the memory as one of the most memorable of recent Tours as Rigoberto Uran won a very reduced sprint on what was essentially a fixie! Uran managed to bend his rear derailleur in the closing 13km and needed the assistance of the Mavic service vehicle to pick one gear to use to the finish. The fact that he won the race with only one gear is remarkable. The stage was chaotic from start to finish with plenty of incidents to talk about, and the Wolf is struggling to know where to begin. Firstly the crashes, Porte, Thomas, Majka, Martin – all names that suffered from crashes along the route with former 3 all having to withdraw from the race completely. Porte’s was the most sickening of the lot as he came down on the descent of Mont du Chat, skidding across the road and smashing into a wall at 70kmph. There has been plenty of talk around this particular descent and how dangerous it is, but the Wolf isn’t buying it. As a professional cyclist, descending is as big a skill as climbing and it adds another, exciting, element to racing. It’s true that the descent was very technical but it was only as dangerous as you wanted to make it. Porte made a mistake and unfortunately paid for it, whilst for someone like Bardet, that descent almost brought him a stage victory. Elsewhere, 13 withdrawals from the stage showed just how difficult a day it was, with 7 of those missing the time limit, including Arnaud Demare. AG2R had a superb day at the front of both the peloton and the break with some really attacking racing. They almost blew the race apart. Aru attacked Froome on the final climb when Froome appeared to suffer from a mechanical which is a bit of a no-no, however the attacking group did neutralize further up the climb, allowing Froome and his merry band of men to get back on. As a result of all this, we now have a very clear picture of the top 10, with Froome leading the race by 18 seconds from Fabio Aru.
A nice simple stage awaits the peloton after the first rest day with only two CAT 4 climbs to tackle along the 178km route. The first climb is hardly even worth categorising as it’s only a slight hill and neither will challenge anyone in the race. On paper this stage has Kittel written all over it but the finish might throw a spanner in the works for the Quick Step team. There are a couple of roundabouts towards the finish but they shouldn’t cause too much trouble, it’s the two left handers in the closing moments that might just disrupt the sprint tactics. The first should narrow the peloton out as the road narrows and the left is a tight corner that riders will have targeted to accelerate straight out of. Does a break stand a chance? A small chance yes. Given how dominant Kittel has been so far, temas might be reluctant to chase the break, leaving it up to Quick Step to do all the chasing. If Quick Step fancy a day off then the break survives. It’s unlikely but it could happen and from time to time, stages after rest days do throw up strange results.
Marcel Kittel – $1.57
The dominant sprinter up to this point, Kittel’s price is just way too short. Sprinting is almost an art form and prior to Mark Cavendish appearing on the scene, the idea of pricing a sprinter at $1.57 would’ve been ridiculous as nobody could ever dominate to that extent. Whilst Kittel is very good and is clearly the best sprinter in the race, he is not Mark Cavendish in his pomp and he is very beatable. Let’s remember that he only beat Boasson Hagen by 6mm on Stage 7 and you could hardly class Boasson Hagen amongst the best sprinters in the world. Kittel has lost Trentin from his lead out train and this stage looks to be one where the main hopes will need their trains firing on all cylinders. The Wolf is happy to leave Kittel out for this stage.
Andre Greipel – $5.50
The Gorilla should come into this stage as one the freshest riders, having dropped into the ‘Grupetto’ on stages 8 & 9. He was poor on stage 7 and will be looking to make amends here. His Grand Tour record is remarkable with wins in his last 12 Tours, stretching back to 2008, and you discount him at your peril. If he can take the right wheel he has the power to accelerate out of that last corner for the win. It’ll be another close finish but the motivation is there for Greipel and he’ll be fighting hard.
Dylan Groenewegen – $17.00
Two 5th place finishes are a poor return for the yound Dutch sprinter. He rode well in the Tour of Torkshire and showed that his top line speed was enough to mix it with the big boys, winning a stage from Ewan & Bouhanni. The finish suits him well and if his train can put him in with a shot he certainly has the speed to fly for the line.