Stage 7: L’Isle-Jourdain – Lac de Payolle
162.5km – Mountain Stage – Suited to climbers
The Manx Missile is back! The Wolf’s best bet beat Kittel and Mclay to the line in a thrilling textbook finish. Coming into the race, Cavendish was unsure of his condition as his preparation had been altered due to his participation in the Olympics. It is clearly paying dividends as he looks to be back to his very best. The man who took sprinting to another level and was the dominant force in sprint finishes up until a few years ago has taken the fight back to Kittel & Greipel so far and is coming out on top. He now sits proudly, 2nd on the all time list of TDF stage wins, with 29. He is still 5 wins behind the legendary Eddy Merckx, but, at 31, Cavendish has the chance to top that list over the next couple of years.
As predicted, Cavendish is now using his vast experience and knowledge of sprinting to rely on his ability to take the right wheel at the right time to win stages. In the past he relied upon his lead out trains, particularly during his time with HTC Highroad, to position him perfectly for the win. His Dimension Data team of 2016 doesn’t have the talent to replicate that for Mark, so he is relying more and more on his raw talent to surf wheels and use his explosive speed to launch for stage wins. It’s fantastic to see the Manx missile back to his best.
Questions have to be asked about Kittel & Greipel and why they are not challenging more. Whether it is due to Cavendish lifting his game or the Germans losing some of their strength, The Wolf isn’t sure. One thing is for certain, The Wolf will continue to lay both Kittel and Greipel as the confidence Cav now has going into any sprint finish gives him a huge mental edge over the pair. It’ll be interesting to see whether Cavendish now decides to abandon the race in favour of his Olympic Gold dream, or whether he fancies hanging on for a week to see if he can add to his, already impressive, 3 stage wins.
The sprinters now go into survival mode as the race enters The Pyrenees for 3 days, before the first rest day. The first day of which, Stage 7, sees the riders tackle a relatively short stage, at 162.5km, from L’Isle-Jourdain to Lac de Payolle. The parcours is fairly flat until the first, Category 4, climb and from there the riders face a daunting climb of Col d’Aspin before a fast descent and slight uphill finish.
This will be the first chance to see the main GC contenders attacking each other and whilst Stage 7 shouldn’t see too many time gaps opening up, we’ll definitely have a clearer picture of who will be challenging for the race win over the next few days. There is rain forecast in the area which will make the final descent very interesting, especially as there are a number of riders that excel on fast descents in tricky conditions, notably Romain Bardet.
The Wolf doesn’t expect to see the main GC contenders fighting it out for the stage win as it isn’t a summit finish, they’ll be looking to test each other out mainly in preparation for the huge summit finish on Stage 9.
Given the parcours, there is a strong chance of a breakaway succeeding on the stage as there will be no real reason for the likes of Team Sky & Movistar to push too hard on the flat. They will be concentrating on controlling the peloton on the final climb and testing each other out with small attacks. It’ll depend on who manages to get into the early breakaway group and whether they have ambitions of overall GC but the breakaway is a chance of taking home the stage win.
The Wolf expects to see both Froome & Quintana riding cautiously on the climb, hoping to test each other out with Froome attacking and Quintana following the moves. Where we could see some action is with the riders that had early race ambitions but who have lost time up to this point, notably Richie Porte & Alberto Contador. They might view the stage as an opportunity to attack early to see if they can pull back some of the lost time. It’ll be tense battle but a fantastic watch after some of the previous flat stages.
In terms of betting, the stage is wide open, with most of the main contenders at double digit odds. There are a number of ways that the stage can pan out and predicting a winner is difficult but after Cavendish’s win this morning, The Wolf is up & about and is confident of finding a couple of gems!
Bardet – $15
One of the most aggressive riders in the peloton, the young Frenchman has been climbing well all year and is in great form. One of his key attributes is his descending ability, which is almost legendary. If there is any hesitation amongst the group on the final climb, he’ll look to attack and if he tops the climb in front he’ll be impossible to catch on the downhill finish.
Costa – $12
The parcours of the stage suits the Portuguese rider perfectly. Strong on the flat and one of the best climbers on tour, Costa is a master at winning in the breakaway. He has 2 stage wins to his name and, despite having a bad day on Stage 5, he will be relishing the opportunity of a win here.
Valverde – $9
If the race comes together towards the finish into a sprint then Valverde has to be favourite for the win. His main rival in an uphill sprint would be Alaphilippe but The Wolf doubts that the French rider will be able to survive the climb of the Col d’Aspin.
Cummings – $21
The Briton proved with his stage win last year that he is one of the best breakaway riders in the world. He has won stages in all of the WorldTour races he has raced in this year & he claims that he is in the best form of his life. He is not one of the best climbers but his win at the Dauphine last month on a much harder race has The Wolf excited by his chances at decent odds.
Porte – $34
Richie has had a forgettable week so far as he is languishing in 27th place overall, over 7minutes behind the main GC contenders. Today might give him an opportunity to attack on the climb to see if he can claw back some of that time. He’ll be hoping that both Froome & Contador are too busy concentrating on themselves, leaving him free to counterattack and solo to victory.
Dumoulin – $34
Despite concentrating on the Olympics Time Trial event, the Dutch rider has ambitions of a stage victory and today’s route could play to his strengths. He has dropped out of overall GC contention and has admitted that he will target a stage win in the Pyrenees. If he manages to join the breakaway he can follow up his Giro form with a win here.
The Katusha rider has been quiet since his crash in the Giro and the attention has been off him. If he can join the breakaway he’ll have free reign to attack from his team and he has the climbing legs to attack for the stage win.
A fantastic climber, Winner Anacona is the type of rider that could excel on this stage. It’ll depend on whether he can join the breakaway and also who else forms the breakaway but he has a chance at big odds.
The winner of stages at both the Tour & the Vuelta, the rider from Orica-BikeExchange has been riding towards the back of the peloton up to this point. Whether he is struggling or he is saving is energy for a big push at a stage win is uncertain, however he has proven pedigree at this level and would have the freedom from his team to join the breakaway if formed.
The IAM rider will be keen to get into the breakaway and given his activity on Twitter, he could be targeting this stage for a win. He is a time trial specialist that can climb well. If he is able to attack from a breakaway he could solo to victory at big odds.
GC Winner – Bardet @ $41 (cash out option)
Although The Wolf doesn’t think he can win the overall General Classification a huge showing on tonight’s stage will see him take plenty of time out of the GC contenders. His price is likely to be halved tomorrow which would allow for a potential CASH OUT.
KOM Winner – De Gendt @ $17
De Gendt will be one of the most aggressive riders tonight and will rack up a heap of points in the King Of The Mountain race. Another man who’s price is sure to tumble.