Stage 12: Pau – Peyragudes
214.5km – Suited to breakaway
Apparently there was a stage in the Tour de France overnight. The Wolf tuned in and saw 190 riders commuting from point A to point B, but couldn’t see a race anywhere! What a huge disappointment to cycling lovers everywhere, not because Kittel won his 5th stage of the Tour, but because of the complete lack of courage by a number of teams to at least try to make the race interesting. Katusha & Lotto again helped to chase down the awful, 3 man break, and were rewarded with 12th & 7th place; their sponsors will be thrilled. The Wolf has had a gutful of sprint finishes and is looking forward to some high octane racing in the Pyrenees. Onto Stage 12……
After 3 rest days for the GC contenders, the next 2 days could prove to be decisive in deciding who will be wearing yellow on the street of Paris next weekend. Stage 13 looks set for some very attacking racing but before that, the riders face a 214.5km slog from Pau to Peyragudes on a route that includes 6 categorised climbs and some very fast descending. We saw on stage 9 how much the big climbs and steep descents can shake up the standings and we can expect more of the same tonight. The riders face a very similar route to what was in front of them on stage 8, a stage won by Lilian Calmejane from a breakaway group. The first 50km of the stage will be raced at a furious pace and the break should start to materialise towards the summit of the first CAT 4 climb of the Cote de Capvern. We should see a good mix of sprinters, rouleurs & mountain goats in the group but it’ll be the rouleurs that will want to split the group down even further on the flat roads leading up to the CAT 2 Col des Ares and then again on the infamous Col de Mente, a CAT 1 climb that averages 8.1%. Whether the break is successful is dependant on two things; firstly, who is the the group & secondly, what approach Team Sky take on the day. It would probably be in Sky’s interests to allow the break to win as the bonus seconds for the win will be mopped up by non-GC riders. The Wolf can see the break succeeding today as the racing will be incredible tomorrow and the main teams will not want to risk completely burning out before then. The back end of the stage is where it really starts to get difficult. THe HC ramps of Port de Bales will be the most difficult of the race so far and will really test the legs, expect to see a couple of GC riders going pop on the slopes here. From there, the descent leads straight into the climb of the Col de Peyresourde, an 11.7km climb at 7.7%. Whilst the Port de Bales has an irregular climb to it, the Peyresourde is more consistent in it’s ramps. We should see attacks on both climbs with riders hoping to isolate Froome & his support team. AG2R showed on stage 9 that it’s possible to put Team Sky under pressure and The Wolf is expecting more of the same tonight. Chapeau the break 2.0!
Tiesj Benoot – $21
The versatile Belgian finished an impressive 13th on the brutal stage 9 and was probably the strongest rider in the huge breakaway group. He’ll enjoy the long distance and will be more comfortable on the regular climbs. Lotto Soudal have had a poor race so far but will look to put the like of Benoot, De Gendt, Wellens & Gallopin into the break. If they work together, dropping weaker riders along the way thenwe could well see Benoot first to the finish line.
Primoz Roglic – $26
A strong climber with the power to push the pace on the flat, Roglic should find it easy enough to join the breakaway group tonight. Hi was very animated on stage 9 and was actually the first rider to summit the HC slopes of the Col de la Biche before fading as the race developed. The regular climbs will suit his style and being a TT beast, he is able to suffer like none other in the peloton. He is well out of GC contention now and this stage is perfect for him to hunt for the win.
Pierre Rolland – $34
The Frenchman has been very quiet so far in the Tour, only animating stage 9 with his appearance in the early break. He fell away pretty early on in that break, maybe he knew the peloton were always going to catch them and he was saving his legs. If Rolland can make the break then he’ll be one of the strongest, if the not the strongest, climbers in the group. He has the form after his huge win in the Giro in May and has the history after his win on Alpe d’Huez back in 2011. His experience will count for a lot here and the stage looks perfect for a long range attack – something that Rolland is known to love.
Serge Pauwels – $34
With a good nose for a breakaway, Pauwels looks to be at the level he was at in 2015 with his win in the Tour of Yorkshire evidence of that. He finished in the top 20 on Stage 5 and was aggressive with his approach on stage 8, only failing on the final climb as Calmejane went off on a late attack. He has kept himself very quiet since then with a view to saving his legs and maybe tonight is when he goes on the attack again.