Stage 8: Pau – Bagneres-de-Luchon
183km – Mountain Stage – Suited to climbers
The Wolf’s value tip, Steve Cummings ($21), last night confirmed himself as the best stage hunter in the race as he rode a fantastic race to solo away from the breakaway group to stage victory. As predicted, he attacked at the base of the Col d’Aspin and was too strong for the rest of the breakaway. Dimension Data now have 4 stage wins this year, which is a fantastic result for them. British riders have also won 4 of the 7 Stages so far in a coup for British cycling. Cummings will now hope that this result will force the British Olympic team to reconsider his involvement at Rio as he has proven, without doubt, that he would be a genuine medal contender.
Elsewhere in the race, it was a quiet day for the main GC contenders as they opted to test each other in small attacks and wait until Stage 9 before really testing the legs. The big loser on the day was Thibaut Pinot as he cracked on the final climb to lose a big chunk of time and probably now says goodbye to any chance of a podium finish. Greg van Avermaet rode an impressive stage and stays in yellow for at least another day. In a bizarre turn of events, Adam Yates was collected by a collapsing inflatable 1km from the finish but seems to have avoiding any srious damage. Race organisers have adjusted his time and he now sits in 2nd place overall with a chance to be leading the race after Stage 8.
The race now enters the mountains in a big way with 4 huge climbs, including the fearsome Col du Tourmalet. It is a brutal stage on paper, but The Wolf expects the main GC contenders to ride with similar tactics to yesterday as the finish is downhill & they face a huge summit finish on Stage 9. Tomorrow should see Chris Froome make a big move on the GC, therefore opening today up to maybe another breakaway or a late attack on the final climb.
Just like yesterday, we should see a frantic start with lots of riders trying to join the breakaway and The Wolf is expecting to see a number of breakaways forming and disbanding before the right group comes together.
Whilst the tour will not be won today, it can definitely be lost. There will be a few tired legs in the peloton and the race organisers haven’t gone lightly with the parcours, testing the riders with an early climb of the fearsome Col du Tourmalet, followed by a category 2 climb and two Cat 1 climbs, the final climb being the famous Peyresourde. This stage will be a hug part in creating fatigue amongst some of the riders and we will have a much clearer picture of who will be contesting the race win at the end of the day.
Costa – $11
The Wolf liked Rui Costa yesterday and he was unlucky in joining a breakaway group that contained both Sagan and Cavendish. The Etixx-QuickStep didn’t allow that group to get away and it was reeled in fairly quickly. The former World Champion then took it easy, losing around 18 minutes at the finish. He will definitely try again for the stage win today as that is now his main target in the race. He has the pedigree to win, he just needs a slice of luck in getting into the right breakaway group.
Plaza – $26
The Spanish rider didn’t manage to get into a breakaway yesterday but he’ll be trying again today for sure. His team have tasked him with a stage win and today provides a perfect opportunity to do so. His form is uncertain, however he crossed the line yesterday with Yates so he must be keeping something up his sleeve in preparation for an attack.
Valverde – $11
If the breakaway doesn’t succeed, the Spanish rider has to be one of the favourites for the stage win. With Froome & Quintana concentrating on each, Valverde will look to launch a surprise attack and if he manages to pull out a bit of a gap towards the end, he’ll be hard to catch.
Bardet – $15
Today’s stage suits him perfectly and the young Frenchman will be keen to exploit nay tactical hesitation within the peloton. As mentioned previously, Bardet’s descending skills are legendary and if he is able to get over the top of one of the climbs in front, he’ll be very hard to catch. His ride and descent in last year’s Dauphine is exactly the type of ride he’ll need for stage victory.
Pozzovivo – $34
His attack on last night’s stage was probably in aid of Bardet but he might target this stage for an earlier attack and stage victory. He’ll need a bit of luck in getting into a good breakaway group but if he does, this stage suits him very well and he is one of the best climbers in the race.
Pantano – $26
The Colombian rider proved yesterday that he is prepared to attack and has ambitions on a stage victory and he was in the Costa breakaway group. He has had a nexcellent year, with a great showing in the Tour de Suisse. He has a strong sprint, is fast on the flat and his climbing has vastly improved. A breakaway win could be on the cards here.
Bennett – $151
A pure climber, the Kiwi will be free to target today for stage victory by his team. His performance in California and the Dauphine were impressive and if he can match those, get himself into a decent breakaway group, he could take out the stage win at big odds.
The young jersey classification is wide open as Barguil showed signs of weakness yesterday and has drifted out to $4.50. There are a number of potential winners of the jersey, Alaphilippe (Wolf tipped at @$17) is value at $8. Meintjes is also worth taking at $4.50. He should get stronger and stronger as the race unfolds.