Stage 9: Vielha Val d’Aran – Andorre Arcalis
184.5km – Mountain Stage – Suited to climbers
Chris Froome, WOW. In a remarkable show of domination, the defending champion launched an extraordinary attack at the top of the Col du Peyresourde and won the stage by 13 seconds from his main rivals. In doing so he also took hold of the Maillot Jaune and leads the race by 16 seconds, from fellow Brit, Adam Yates.
Team Sky set a gruelling pace up the final climb but nobody would have thought that Froome would have attacked on the descent like he did. It was a snap decision based on a whim that he had was riding a bigger gear than his rivals and just thought he would give it a go. His technique leaves a bit to be desired but he’ll not care one jot as his rivals must be fearing the worst for the rest of the race. This was the first time he had won a stage in the Tour on a descent and it has taken everybody by surprise.
It is a huge statement of intent by the defending champion and his team, the only downside being that Sky now have to defend the Maillot Jaune and control the race for 14 stages until the finish in Paris. This will increase the pressure on the team to perform to their optimum level as attacks will come on a daily basis.
The Wolf is rueing the quality of the breakaway groups as only one group managed to pull clear, a group that included Pinot & Majka, which was never going to left alone to succeed. Valverde was in a decent position for victory at the top of the final climb but nobody could have predicted Froome’s attack, leaving his main rivals stranded behind.
Today we see the first summit finish of the race, a traditional stomping ground for Chris Froome to show that he is the strongest rider in the peloton. In the 2 years that he has won the race, 2013 & 2015, Team Sky have finished 1st & 2nd on the first summit finish, something that they’ll be trying to replicate today. The stage itself takes the riders from Spain, into Andorra, not actually stepping foot in France for the whole day. The riders face 5 Categorised climbs, on a brutal day that finishes at 2240m with the summit finish of Andorre Arcalis.
The Wolf expects to see Team Sky at the front of peloton virtually all day, controlling the race and trying to protect Froome from any attacks. Yesterday they confirmed that they are, by far, the strongest team in the race this year and have a number of key domestiques available to support Froome in his bid for a 3rd race win.
There will be breakaway attempts, especially with an early Category 1 climb, but I highly doubt that any group will succeed today given the parcours and the pace that Team Sky will be riding, at the front of the peloton. Froom has traditionally been at his strongest during the first week of the Tour and has always targeted the first summit finish to make a mark on the race and put himself in yellow. Although he won yesterday, The Wolf thinks he’ll still target today for the victory.
Froome – $3.20
An amazing piece of tactics yesterday saw the defending champion move into yellow and make a huge statement of intent. As mentioned, Froome is usually at his strongest during the first week of the race and has always targeted the first summit finish for a stage win. As long as he didn’t burn too much energy yesterday, he has to be the favourite for the race.
Quintana – $4.50
The diminutive Colombian has had a very quiet start to the race and would have thought he today would be a chance to attack Froome on numerous occasions, hoping to break him. He must have been dismayed as he saw his rival power down the Peyresourde yesterday to stage victory. He will be fearing not only Froome but also Team Sky as he now has it all to do. He has the talent, but he’ll need to step up if he wants the stage win here.
Porte – $17
The Australian is amongst the best climbers in the world and he’ll have to be at his best today if he wants to taste victory. When he was with Team Sky, Porte and Froome worked well togther on these summit finishes, indeed they finished 1st & 2nd in both 2013 & 2015 on the first summit finishes. He has shown in the Dauphine that he is not afraid to take Froome’s wheel to try to use some of his knowledge of Team Sky’s tactics and he clais that is climbing better than ever. If Froome & Quintana are locked in a tactical battle on the Arcalis climb, he could tae advantage of his race position to climb to victory.
Martin – $12
The Irish rider lives in Andorra and he will be very comfortable on these types of climbs. A podium finish at the Dauphine, along with his 2nd place finish yesterday will give him huge confidence in targeting a stage win today. He possesses great uphill acceleration, and in a similar vein to Richie Porte, he could use a Froome/Quintana tactical battle to his advantage.
Pinot – $41
The Frenchman rode aggressively yesterday and tried very hard for the stage win. Unfortunately for him, Team Sky deemed him to be too much of a GC threat and reeled him in. He now sits almost 20mins behind the race lead so will be allowed more freedom if he decides to attack again today. He seems to be getting stronger as the race goes on and the early climb to be used to his advantage. He is a master at winning from breakaways and a win here would go a long way in achieving the Polka Dot jersey that he covets.
Bennett – $151
Bennett managed to get into an early breakaway yesterday but unfortunately for him, and The Wolf, it didn’t stick. His team are targeting a stage win and he’ll be given freedom to go on the attack here. The early climb suits him and he could spring a surprise at big odds.
Henao – $151
The Colombian is turning into one of Froome’s key mountain climbing domestiques, as proven by his huge ride yesterday. Henao is a fantastic climber and given that Team Sky have finished 1st & 2nd on the first summit finish for both of Froome’s title wins, The Wolf cannot believe he is at such big odds. He’ll be pacing Froome up the Arcalis but he also has the talent to ride for victory if Froome allows him to push on towards the summit. His each ways odds of $38 are huge overs!