Stage 20: Megeve – Morzine
146.5km – Suited to climbers & a breakaway
In a day of high drama, Romain Bardet soloed to victory after an opportunistic attack on the final descent of the stage, with Rodriguez & Valverde in the podium places. The young Frenchman escaped amid the chaos when a number of riders, including Chris Froome, crashed in the wet conditions and opened up a gap on the final climb to claim his first stage win of the year and his second overall. The Wolf had earmarked Bardet for a win on Stage 20 however it is a mark of his ability that he was able to seize his chance here in what, on paper, wasn’t his best chance of a stage win.
As predicted, the breakaway formed early in the stage and contained 21 riders, including 2 Wolf value selections. However, it was clear on the descent of the first climb that Astana would be working hard to bring back the group to give their men a chance at the stage win. Apart from Team Sky, only Astana seems to have the power to bring back breakaway groups this year and with Sky happy to let other teams do the work, it will always take a fair amount of effort to bring any group back into the peloton’s grasps.
Chris Froome will look back on the stage in relief as, despite his heavy crash, he got away with it pretty unscathed. In stark contrast to another faller, Bauke Mollema, Froome had teammates around him and was able to jump on Geraint Thomas’ machine to get him up the final climb. Mollema was completely isolated when he crashed and finished the stage almost 4 minutes behind Froome, putting him in 10th place overall and destroying his chance at a podium finish. With his win, Bardet now moves into 2nd place overall and tonight’s stage should see an exciting battle between the podium contenders.
The penultimate stage of this year’s race sees another brutal course with 4 Categorised climbs and a fast, technical descent into the finish. Rain is again forecast which could lead to some interesting developments, especially if some of the key riders happen to crash at any point. Froome will be very wary after last night and will have to ensure that he always has a couple of riders by his side.
The stage is short at 146.5kms and The Wolf expects a breakaway to form on the first climb of the Col des Aravis. The weather conditions may actually help the breakaway to succeed today as the peloton will be nervous in the conditions, however The Wolf is expecting the battle to come down to the main GC rivals, given the fact that the fight for the podium places is now red hot. There is only 2 minutes separating 2nd – 7th and riders will see today as a huge opportunity to bridge some of the time gaps, especially given the conditions. Astana did a great job chasing down the breakaway last night and should be at the front again tonight, in the hope that Aru can improve his position in the race. Another factor with Astana is that they are yet to win a stage this year and for a team like them, with their budget, this will not sit well. They have to attack today.
The stage finishes with a huge climb of the difficult Col de Joux Plane, one of the more famous in Tour history and then descends into Morzine on what seems to be quite a technical descent.
The Wolf is again getting behind ‘The Shark’ tonight. He rode well last night in support of Aru and his team and rolled easily into the finish, saving his legs. The stage is perfect for Nibali to test out his legs in preparation for a tilt at Olympic Gold in the road race and as mentioned previously, Astana need a stage win.
The Spaniard was the strongest rider last night and tonight’s stage suits him perfectly. He climbs well, is a great descender and also possesses a good sprint finish. He will sit on the wheel of Aru & Quintana and hope to launch an attack on the final descent. If the race comesa down to a GC battle, he’ll be hard to beat.
‘Purito’ is retiring at the end of this season and what a story it would be if he could take out the stage win here. He is still amongst the best riders in the peloton, as proven by his ride last night and will be going all out for the stage win.
The rider from Dimension Data didn’t attempt to join the breakaway on last night’s stage, which means that he’ll probably be targeting this stage for a tilt at the win. His performance in the 2nd half of the race has been impressive and he could spring a surprise here at big odds.
The Frenchman has had a fantastic tour and you would be surprised to learn that since the first rest day, Clement sits 2nd to Froome in the GC. He fully deserves a stage win & has the ability to ride for glory here.