Stage 12: Montpellier – Mont Ventoux
184km – Suited to climbers
Another stage, another value win for The Wolf as Peter Sagan ($12) took out his 2nd stage win of the race in a sprint finish with, surprisingly, Chris Froome on his wheel in 2nd place. It was another showing of versatility and different tactics from Froome & Team Sky as both he, and Geraint Thomas, attacked off the front of the peloton in the last 10km to come together with Sagan and his teammate, Bodnar, in a group of 4 that made it to the finish line.
As predicted, the stage was complete chaos with crosswinds causing havoc amongst the peloton for most of the race. There were constant splits in the group and with an average speed in excess of 47kmh, riders were finding it hard to keep up with the pace. There were early crashes within the group as riders fought for position and that set the tone for the rest of the day. A day that was high on nerves and high on speed. Team Tinkoff & Team Sky were the main destroyers of the race, using the quality in their respective trains to expose others to the vicious crosswinds in order to stretch the peloton in the hope of causing splits. It worked a treat.
On stages such as this team support plays a crucial part in survival. Froome had the backing of Stannard, Rowe & Kiryienka all day, putting him in the best place to conserve energy to minimise the risk of losing any time. It also served to enable both him & Thomas to launch a surprise attack toward the end of race. Once Sagan and Bodnar had stretched the group and pulled out a slight lead, the Sky riders saw their opportunity to bridge the gap and went for it. In an unprecedented finish, we had the Green jersey outsprinting the Yellow jersey for the stage win!
Although the time gap to Froome’s rivals was only small, it was enough to show that he is clearly the strongest rider in the race, with the strongest team, and isn’t afraid to mix up the tactics to eke out whatever advantage he can.
The Wolf was looking forward to writing a long, in depth, preview about the iconic Mont Ventoux and some of the famous finishes on its almost lunar landscape. Unfortunately race organisers have had to cancel the summit finish due to strong winds, with the finish line now at Chalet Reynard some 6km from the summit. As a visual spectacle this is obviously disappointing, however the safety of the riders is the priority and it’s the correct decision.
The riders will still face a fearsome climb, in the region of 10km in length and with an average gradient of around 9%. Crosswinds could also play their part on the stage which could lead to a similar scenario to Stage 11, with lots of splits in the peloton. There is a chance that we might even see a more aggressive approach on the shortened stage as riders will not have to ride into a headwind on the exposed part of the mountain, instead sheltering from crosswinds in the forest. The Wolf expects to see another fast stage, with riders fighting to be at the pointy end of the race, and with the expected crosswinds, we could see more splits in the group.
Once we get to the climb, it’ll be a day for the GC contenders to fight out the win. Froome won here in 2013, on his way to his first title and is the favourite to win here. He has proven that he is the strongest man in the race to this point and will be looking to exert his dominance further today. We should see some big time gaps open up on the overall list and with the first time trial coming up tomorrow, the overall picture of the race will be much clearer in the next 48hours.
Froome – $3.25
The Wolf has given up trying to predict what the defending champion will do next. His race tactics are coming from left-field this year but what is clear is that he is clearly the strongest rider in the race. He may choose to ride defensively, with one eye on tomorrow’s time trial, or maybe he’ll revert to his strengths and try to put time into Quintana on Mont Ventoux. Either way, it’s his stage to do whatever he wishes and is favourite for the win.
Quintana – $3.50
The Colombian has been happy to take Froome’s wheel for the whole race up to this point and has no expended any energy in doing so. He is yet to fully attack the champion and today could see him testing out Froome’s legs. He is having a great year and generally gets stronger as the race goes on. He could make his big attack today and win the stage.
Porte – $17
Stage 9 proved that the Australian is climbing well. He is far enough back in the GC to be allowed freedom to attack the big two if they are locked in a tactical battle on the final climb. His previous performances this year have proven that he can match Froome and he could spring a surprise at big odds here.
Majka – $15
Second in the KOM classification, Majka will be trying his utmost to make the breakaway succeed today. He’ll need Team Sky to ride at a conservative pace but he is probably the most talented climber in the race and if given the opportunity, he can ride to a famous victory.
Henao – $34
The Wolf likes Sergio Henao a lot. Froome’s key mountain domestique is constantly overlooked in the betting but he has the ability to win this stage. Sky have adopted 2 tactics with Henao, the first involves sending him up the road in the hope that other teams are forced to chase him down, relieving the pressure on the team to chase. The second is keeping him by Froome’s side, pacing him up the mountain. If his teammate & Quintana are locked in a tactical battle, Henao can push for the stage win.
Mollema – $101
The Dutchman is having a great race and is riding on a consistent level. His attack on Stage 9 showed that he has the legs to compete with the best at this level. His is strong on the flat, meaning that he should reach the bottom of the climb in the leading group. He is at big odds here and is a danger man for the stage win.