This is the day that’s been in many diaries for months and while we don’t have the epic between Froome, Contador and Nibali that the route and form at one time promised, we do have the fantastic spectacle of three riders, including two Frenchmen, aiming for two podium places with each one in with a realistic chance.
This is the only time trial of the Tour but it’s an extremely demanding one. The profile says it’s anything but flat – and that is correct – but this is still one for the powerhouses. The climbs the profile has are drags and false flats rather than actual climbs and riders will stay in the saddle to take these. A mix of open roads and rural sections makes for a demanding route.
It’s 54km long, which is a marathon for any grand tour but this one coming as the last stage of the Tour that means recovery will be as important as pacing and power today. The first 11km go through Perigord and then reach the first uphill section, which lasts 4km, but only at 2%. There’s a descent of equal length, and then the first time check at Belymas, midway through another drop. At Villamablard, we star “climbing” but this is noticing noticeable and the descent from Sargaillou is fast and technical and needs watching. At 34km we have 400 of uphill, and then we have mixed false flat and downhill before the approach to Font-De-Meaux and the second time check, and a big downhill section for big geared cycling specialists.
Les Coracheux – coming after the highway crossover that signals the end of the descent from Font-De-Meaux is the only proper ascent of the day, which is 1.4km at an average of 6.4% – and then we have the decent before a technical last 2km.
This stage is Tony Martin’s to lose. Frustrated at having only one time trial, he turned stage 9 into Besanceux into one to compensate and was at one point, 7 kilometres clear of the peloton – thanks again Inner Ring for that snippet – before taking arguably the race’s most dominant non Nibali stage win. As if he had to prove anything more, he was then the launching pad for Michael Kiwakowski the next day, driving his challenge for A top 10 challenge then. He has rested for this as much as possible but his power should still win out.
It’s the battle for the podium today – from a betting perspective – and the final podium in Paris that will make today really worth watching. If he’s willing to go all out – debateable with a seven minute lead – then this course is good for Vincenzo Nibali, who would make great appeal for a top 3 finish, but he’s seven minutes clear and it’s a matter of national pride as to whether he really needs to push all out. He wants to prove himself to be the best but he has 4 stage wins already and may just see it home.
Of the main contenders, I’d have Tejay Van Garderen as the best of them – he has the power to be doing so – although a lack of time trial racing this season is a worry and so is his pacing – he hit the first timecheck far too hard in both long distance time trials 2 years ago although he is older and wiser; It would be nice if he still had a podium shot for motivation.
Geraint Thomas would have to be up there but he’s done so much this tour that recovery must be a worry for him here over this long trek; The same goes for Richie Porte, a fine time trialist when on his best form. An interesting chance for the top 3 is Tom Doumolin, the Dutch time trial champion who has finished runner up to Tony Martin in his last three time trials. He was only sixth in the Pais Vasco time trial but this plays to his strengths far more, the distance will be no value, and he looks to be value for a top three finish at 4/1. Another rider who could put in a big show is Michal Kwiatkowski, who hasn’t gone with the best in the mountains but is a fine time trialist and will relish this route.
The battle for the stage will be no contest but the battle of the podium is likely to go right down to the wire. 15 seconds separates Alejandro Valverde, Jean-Cristophe Peraud and Thibaut Pinot, and all three of them have reason to hope that they can stand on the Champs Elysees in Paris.
Jean-Cristophe Peeaud is favourite of the three to claim the second podium spot and that seems fair for a man who has been strong against the clock in his road career and the only time he’s been against the clock this year he’s showed up well, a fifth in the undulating Pais Vasco affair when just ahead of Dumoulin.
He’s favourite to beat Thibaut Pinot to the podium but the white jersey has made plenty of gains in the time trial this season, including a ninth in the Tour of Swizterland’s very undulating affair and filling the same position at Romandie. The only worry is that he’s yet to face a course this long since striving to make those improvements and that while today has plenty of lumps to aid him, it is far more of a power effort.
My each/way bet for the yellow jersey, Alejandro Valverde, has struggled in the Pyrenees finally got the better of him on the last mountain-top finish to Hautacam but a strong team and plenty of pacing means he’s just 15 seconds off a runner up spot and today’s test is a golden chance for the Spaniard on paper, as his is an able time trialist – he is the national champion in this discipline, having taken the title just before the tour started.
Look back to last year and you’ll see he took plenty of time out of Pinot at the Vuelta and was just ahead of Cristophe-Peraud in the 33km test to Mont-St Michael, so there’s plenty of hope for him to take second today – but this is as much about recovery as it is about power and he’s been suffering badly these past dew days.
1 pt Tom Dumoilin – Top 3 finish (4/1 Ladbrokes)