Stage 15: Bourg-en-Bresse – Culoz
160km – Suited to climbers or breakaway
That’s back to back winners for The Wolf as Mark Cavendish outsprinted Kittel for his 4th stage win of the year and his 30th in his career, just 4 shy of the legendary Eddy Merckx. The stage panned out exactly as previewed, with a sall breakaway not able to make much time on the peloton due to the strong headwind. This allowed the sprint teams to easily chase them down when they gave it a little gas.
Going into the race, Cavendish was unsure how his Olympic geared preparation would affect his performances in this race, well he can wonder no more because he is flying. He hasn’t had sch a successful Tour since 2011 and Marckx’s record of 34 stage wins is now in sight. He is thriving in a smaller team as the pressure is off him and seems to be rediscovering some of the form that made him unbeatbale in sprint finishes.
This year, however, he doesn’t have the ability the call on his lead out train to help him in the final moments of stage like he has in the past, instead calling on his vast experience and knowledge to surf wheels and put him in the best position to win the stage. It’s superb to watch him flying again. There was a question mark about the way he cut across Kittel in the final metres of the stage, but the race panel didn’t see anything wrong so the result stood.
The sprinters now go back into survival mode as the next chance of a stage win will probably be In Paris on the final day. It was a very quiet day for the GC contenders, as they came home in the peloton with their legs rested in preparation for some key battles in the Alps over the next few days, starting tonight.
The riders now move into the Jura mountains for an unusual stage on paper. It is relatively short at 160km, but consists of 6 categorised climbs, including 2 Category ones and a HC. There is hardly a flat bit of road across the course, up until the final moments, and we should see plenty of action with attacks coming from all angles. Put simply, it is a brutal stage and anyone that is suffering prior to the stage will not be feeling great at the end of it.
Time is running out for the GC contenders to put pressure on Froome and today we should see the likes of Aru, Porte, Bardet & Martin pushing to gain some time back. Froome has shown his vulnerability in the past in the final wek of Le Grand Boucle, and whilst he looks pretty solid this year, his rival will have to test him out on stages like this in the hope that they can crack him.
Whilst the GC contenders are battling it out on the climbs, the final 2 descents of the stage increase the possibility of the stage being won by a breakaway. The descent off the Grand Colombier is quite technical and the riders face it twice on the stage. The first hour of the race will be hectic, as different breakaways form and dissolve, looking for the right mixture of rider, until it is allowed to ride clear of the peloton. The Wolf thinks that the breakaway will succeed today, the GC teams comfortable to battle out the climbs, trying to break Froom. For Team Sky, they will sit at the front of the peloton, sheltering Froome, happy in the knowledge that it’ll take something special to dislodge their man from the Maillot Jaune.
The Tinkoff rider will need to have a big day today with plenty of points available for the KOM classification. He’ll be aggressive on the climbs but the descents and the final flat section may be his downfall. He is the favourite in the betting but at just $6, The Wolf is happy to leave him out.
Second in the betting, the Spaniard will be banking on the breakaway being caught if he is to win here. If the final moments come down to a sprint finish he’ll be hard to beat, however The Wolf is tipping that the breakaway will be successful.
Freed from his domestique dites, the Portuguese rider is well known for his ability to win stages such as this. He can climb with the best in the race and has good descending skills. He finished 2nd on the Arcalis earlier in the race and he seems to have been saving energy in preparation for a go at the stage win today at good odds.
The Russian’s form seem sto be peaking just in time for a tilt at the stage win today. He performed well in the ITT and has been aggressive on most stages, attempting to get into the right breakaways. He will attack early and, being one of the strongest riders in the race, will fancy his chances of winning the stage.
The French rider has legendary descending skills and this stage is set up perfectly for him to win from the breakaway. He has dropped back in the GC standings after his poor time trial and this could be his only opportunity for a stage win this year. He is at big odds and must be fancied for the stage win.
The BMC rider has shown good form thus far and he should be allowed to attack early to try and get in the breakaway. He can climb well and could spring a surprise at big odds.