Stage 15: Laissac-Sévérac l’Église to Le Puy-en-Velay (189.5km)
Bling Matthews took his first ever Tour win overnight as he sprinted away from GVA on the final ramp to the finish after a small breakaway were never given the leeway to challenge for the win. The main talking point to come out of the stage however was Froome moving back into the Maillot Jaune after clawing back 24 seconds on Aru after the Italian was caught napping at the back of the peloton on the bottom of the final climb. Whether this was an intentional move by Aru and his Astana team is up for debate. On the one hand, Aru and his decimated team now do not have the added pressure of defending the jersey. But on the flipside, shipping 24 seconds is not ideal at all. Maybe the plan was to lose up to 10 seconds but Froome rode extremely well on the climb and just kept pulling away from his rival. The onus is back on Aru to attack Froome and we should see some epic moments when the race reaches the Alps in a few days time.
If any stage screamed ‘breakaway’ then this would be it. We are yet to see a large breakaway group given the opportunity to fight for the stage win but The Wolf thinks that tonight is the night. The GC teams have had a stressful couple of days and with the rest day to follow tomorrow, they might just be looking o take the next two days relatively easy, in preparation for what is to come when the race reaches the Alps. The CAT 1 climb of Montée de Naves d’Aubrac is up first for the peloton at the 19km makr and it is here that we should see the break form. The climb avergaes 6.4% for 9km so not a walk in the park but hard enough to put some riders off. We’ll see the break consist of strong climbers and all-rounders plus anyone that had exceptional legs and fancies fighting for the stage win. The next 120km of the stage are rolling roads, punctuated by an uncategorised climb just after the Intermediate Sprint point. It won’t be until the race reaches the CAT 1 Col de Peyra Taillade that we see the action unfold. The time gap that the break has amassed to this point will be pivotal in the chances of success for the group. The climb itself is tough and only the strongest riders withing the group will survive over the top, however with just over 30km to the finish across mainly downhill roads, there is the chances that some riders can get back on.
The Wolf will be looking at riders that have been saving their legs over recent days and those that are famous for getting into breakaways on long stages just like this.
Tony Gallopin – $15
Lotto Soudal have been very active in the race so far, putting riders into almost every breakaway group and this will continue again tonight. His team are desperate to find a stage win from somewhere given Greipel’s struggles so far in the race and Gallopin is the perfect man to fight for the win tonight. He should be joined by 1 or more of his teammates but with Benoot being marked, Wellens riding will illness and De Gendt probably tired after Stage 14, Gallopin looks the most likely to have the legs needed. He might struggle to stay with the group on the climb of Taillades but he has enough power to rejoin the group on the descent and has the sprint to jump over whoever is left.
Nicolas Roche – $34
BMC have become a stage hunting team since the departure of Porte and Roche has been very quiet up to this point in the race. The Irishman is a great climber and has the sprint to trouble most in the peloton. If he has the legs and is able to get into the days break then he’ll be amongst the favourites to win the stage at good odds.
Alberto Bettiol – $51
Cannondale have a raft of options to throw into the days breakaway and Bettiol has had an impressive race up to now. He deserves his chance at a stage win and if his DS allows him to leave Uran’s side for the day, expect him to take full advantage. His performance on stage 13 impressed The Wolf as he led his team leader all the way up to the base of the final climb which shows that he has the legs to take this stage on. Along with Gallopin, he might struggle to survive the final climb but will relish the downhill finish and could easily catch the group. His price is tempting in a book that is offering little value.