Stage 18: Sallanches – Megeve
17km – Individual Time Trial
A superb attack on the final climb saw Ilnur Zakarin, The Wolf’s best bet, pull away from Majka & Pantano to record his first TDF stage win. Majka & Pantano were looking good for another battle to the finish after they pulled away from the breakaway grup on the final descent, only for Zakarin to bridge the gap with a great burst of speed. He didn’t hang around long on the final climb, putting in a blistering attack to leave his rivals in his wake, with only Pantano showing any form of resistance. He eventually won the stage by just under a minute.
The riders set a searing pace for the first 60km, covering the ground in an average speed of 52kmh, which made it difficult for the breakaway to stick despite numerous attempts. Once it did form, the breakaway was made up of 11 riders, none of which were any threat in the GC standings. As predicted, the peloton allowed the group to stay clear and The Wolf was happy to see both Zakarin & Durasek in there. Zakarin proved how good he is at climbing and timing his attacks and if the race was 200m further, Durasek would’ve overhauled Majka for 3rd.
The Wolf declared Chris Froome as the winner of the race about a week ago and nothing has changed after this stage. His rivals just don’t have the legs to test him or his team and you have to wonder how depressed they all must be watchin Team Sky set their relentless pace on the climbs, dropping rider after rider with ease. Froom looked comfortable all day and put further time into his main rivals as he pulled away on the final climb to finish just outside the top 10, on Porte’s wheel.
This is now a race for podium places as Froome leads the race by over two minutes to Bauke Mollema, with a host of riders in contention for 2nd & 3rd. Rafal Majka took another big step to the Polka Dot jersey with his performance and has been one of the stand out riders this year.
The equation is simple today; ride as fast as possible up a hill. The last time trial of the race takes the riders on a 17km journey from Sallanches to Megeve in what should be an awesome visual spectacle. Race organisers haven’t included a mountain time trial in the race since Alpe d’Huez in 2014, which turned into a dangerous affair due to the number of crowds on the road. This stage shouldn’t see the same crowd numbers as it’s not a true mountain time trial, more of a hilly parcours. This doesn’t mean it’ll be easy though, far from it. The first 4km are pretty flat but then the race ramps up, with the riders climbing around 700m in a 10km stretch. The final 2.5km is downhill, allowing some time gaps to be decreased slightly. One interesting note is whether any riders choose to change their machine after the flat section. It’s a tactic that has been employed before to good effect.
Tom Dumoulin won the first TT by over a minute, however this TT is a different kettle of fish. The flat & downhill sections will appeal to the pure TT specialist but the climbers will be targeting the 10km uphill sections to really push the time gaps. This will put both Froome & Dumoulin on a more level playing field and they are rightly the top 2 in the betting.
Froome – $1.80
A worthy favourite, Froome was 2nd to Dumoulin in the first TT and this stage suits the defending champion more. He looks to be managing his efforts but The Wolf expects him to put in a dominant performance here and really put the race to bed. Load up as Froome will not be losing this.
Dumoulin – $3.20
The Dutchman was unstoppable on the first TT but this stage should be too difficult for him to match Froome. Although he has shown good climbing legs and will probably gain some time on the flat section, Froome is just too strong. He enjoys hilly TT’s but the profile here is much more than hilly, it’s verging on a pure mountain course. The only way he can win is if Froome makes a mistake
Porte – $5
The Australian has shown that he is in good form and is probably the 2nd best climber in the race this year. He’ll be eyeing off a podium finish and today represents a good opportunity to put time into those riders in front of him. He might lose time on the flat but should go well on the uphill.
Poels – $41
One of Team Sky’s key mountain domestiques, Poels has been one of the strongest men in the field in the tougher stages. Team Sky are currently 2nd in the team classification and today offers them a chance to close the gap on Movistar at the top. If Poels is given the all clear to go full gas he could spring a surprise a big odds.
Oliveira – $51
For the same reason as Poels, Movistar are leading the team classification and will be pushing their riders to go at full pelt in order to maintain the gap to Team Sky. The Portuguese time trial champion finished 3rd on Stage 13, putting in a huge effort on the flat and he seems to have been missed in the betting here. He is climbing well and will take great confidence into this race given his performance on Stage 13.