Stage 13: Saint-Girons – Foix
214.5km – Suited to breakaway & GC Contenders
Well it wasn’t much but we finally saw a little bit of life in the Tour overnight as Aru took over the Maillot Jaune from Chris Froome after both he & Bardet attacked the defending champion with about 200m left on the stage. Bardet took the stage win but it was Aru that had enough seconds in the bank to take a 6 second lead on the race. Froome completely died on the final steep ascent and was literally all over the road. He looked like a kid that was learning how to ride. The Wolf tipped that this Tour will see the end of Froome’s dominance and maybe last night we saw the first chinks in his armour.
The break went away early, probably too early in fact, with only 12 riders in there. Whilst the likes of Ulissi & Cummings were present, Team Sky rode tempo for the whole race, ensuring that the break never really stood a chance of taking the stage win. At some point during this race, the break will get away and The Wolf will be sticking to his guns with it. Cummings did his very best to attack for the win but he was caught on the final climb of the Peyresourde by a rampaging peloton and that group was whittle down to around 10 towards the summit of the climb with only the final moments animated by an initial attack from Bennett and the final attack from Aru & Bardet. There were a couple of talking points to come out of the stage involving time penalties, as Uran & Bennett were both docked 20 seconds for taking on late drinks whilst Bardet, who also took on a drink, was not penalised. There were shades of 2012 for Froome as his teammate and super-domestique, Mikel Landa rode away from him at the final summit which probably didn’t go down too well with his bosses at Team Sky. Let’s not forget that this was the scene in 2012 when Froome rode away from his leader, Bradley Wiggins, in one of the most controversial moments of the past few years. Anything could happen from here on in and The Wolf is excited by what is in store for the riders on Stage 13.
Stage 13 – Bastille Day
A stage that on paper doesn’t look like much, until you see the distance and the date. Let’s spell it out – Just 100km of riding, with three CAT 1 climbs on Bastille Day. It doesn’t get much better than that. race organisers have clearly taken a leaf out of the book of both the Giro & the Vuelta with the design of this stage. Those tours have proven that this type of stage provides excitement and they are usually full of action. The pace of the race will be furious from the flag with the likes of Kittel & Matthews aiming for the points on offer at the intermediate Sprint point around 14km into the stage. From there we should see a strong breakaway form on the first climb, the makeup of which will determine the tactics of the GC teams for the rest of the stage. From there, there are a further 2 CAT 1 climbs to scale before a fast descent into Foix to the finish line. The Wolf is concentrating on the Mur de Peguere as the pivotal point of the race. The first 6km of the climb is quite gentle, averaging out at 5.5% but have a close look at the final 3.5km and you’ll see ramps of 18% and 16% – real mountain goat territory. There will be no towing of riders here and we will definitely see a few of the GC hopes popping as they snake across the road looking for respite. Expect the likes of Aru, Bardet and maybe even Landa to attack Froome at this point. The descent into Foix will be another pivotal moment on the stage as we have seen before that certain riders are able to put decent time gaps into their rivals on the slalom runs and depending on the weather, we may also see a few hairy moments for a few in the bunch.
The Wolf is torn with how this stage is going to pan out. It should be a day for the GC men to shine but with the descent to Foix as the finish point, the break does stand a chance if it includes a couple of strong climbers.. The route is short enough for their teams to control without too much fuss and the slopes are so steep, especially the Mur de Peguere, that they should be able to catch the break riders with relative ease. The main teams will all look to place riders into the break so that they can help later in the day and Team Sky will be the team that have to get their tactics spot on more than the rest. As it’s July 14th, there will be plenty of French riders attacking early on in the hope of becoming the first French winner on Bastille Day since David Moncoutie way back in 2005.
Mikel Landa – $23
The Spaniard looked unbelievably strong overnight and would probably have won the stage were it not for protecting his leader, Chris Froome, in the dying moments. His perforamcne in the recent Giro was excellent and he doesn’t seem to be suffering any ill effects from his excursions there, unlike Quintana and Pinot. If Team Sky decide that they need to protect Froome with a rider in the break, then Landa is the perfect man to put there. He can climb with the best, has excellent descending skills and the ramps of the Mur look ideal for him to launch a late attack. Sky might be playing the numbers game with Landa currently in 7th on GC. Having 2 riders in the top 5 will only help them to keep hold of the maillot jaune through to Paris and what a win it’d be for Landa. Sky might just ask him to stay close to Froome all day but The Wolf douts he’d listen too much.
Pierre Latour – $71
The young Frenchman is the perfect rider to send up the road for AG2R. The French team have tried to animate the race where possible and tonight will be no different. In fact, there’ll be extra incentive given Bardet’s position and the fact that it’s Bastille Day. Latour can climb well and possesses a great descending technique. He can also TT well which will come in useful on the flattish section towards the finish. The Wolf thinks that AG2R will be doing everything they can to take this stage by the scruff of the neck and Latour can take advantage.
Chris Froome – $26
If this was a summit finish, The Wolf wouldn’t be throwing Froome’s name into the hat but he has shown that he is amongst the best descenders in the world and if the breakaway is caught, Froome might just be able to ride away from his rivals at huge odds. The key to this is whether he has the legs to crest the final climb within reach of his rivals. The likes of Bardet, Aru & Uran will be looking to put huge pressure on the defending champion on the Mur but if he can stay with them, he possesses enough speed and daring to open up a gap on the descent to Foix. From there he can utilise his TT skills to power to the finish.