From a trendy 108km stage to a classic 175km Alpine stage finishing atop Alpe d’Huez. Stage 12 is the last in a triplet of mountain stages and it’s arguably the hardest.
Today we got exactly what we expected with a large break going clear early on and a high tempo set behind. Barguil kept true to his promise by getting in the early move but wasn’t able to deliver the win. Instead it was Mikel Nieve who was strongest from the break but unfortunately fireworks on the final climb meant that Geraint Thomas stormed up from behind to take the stage win on the same climb he was so impressive on earlier in the year.
Tomorrow will be equally as brutal and there will be plenty of riders starting the stage with sore legs. If you’ve ever ridden in the Alps you know that each of the Madeleine, Croix de Fer and Alpe d’Huez are difficult in isolation but to do those back to back including the beautiful Lacets du Montvernier will be leg shattering. Unlike todays stage the riders will have a bit of a warm up in that they have 27km of flat to start but once they hit the Madeleine it’s up and down all day. It is on the Madeleine that a break will go and I think the GC teams might be happy to keep it slightly more relaxed and let them get a pretty sizeable gap. Not even Sky can control the race for 175km and will be happy to take the Madeleine and the first half of the Croix de Fer at a pretty leisurely pace. Whether the break then stays away is a tough one because the GC teams are sure to be roaring up behind them on Alpe d’Huez.
If the break manages to stay away there are a fair few guys who could be in with a shout. Today the initial break included over 20 guys and there’s a good chance we see a number of those shoot up the road again. Of course Warren Barguil will be interested and he looked strong today but didn’t quite have the power to stay with Nieve on the final climb after he’d been going for mountains points all day. Speaking of Mikel Nieve I’m sure he’ll be interested again after his near miss but I doubt the legs will be there and he may be on team duties with Adam Yates. Final one from today that was paticularly impressive was Jesus Herrada but again it took a huge effort to stay in touch with the front of the race and it will be tough for him to repeat.
A couple of breakaway guys were dropped earlier than expected today which may allow them to go slightly deeper tomorrow but is also a worrying sign of their current form. I’m thinking of Pierre Rolland, Darwin Atapuma, Thomas De Gendt and Tejay van Garderen in particular.
Of course if fresh legs are what you need for tomorrow then there’s a few guys who didn’t go in the early move and may have kept something back for tomorrow’s monster stage. Rigo Uran lost nearly 26 minutes today to completely take himself out of the GC battle and could be interested tomorrow considering EF are now solely looking for stage wins. Similar can be said of FDJ and David Gaudu, their strongest climber, seemed to take a day off today. Final pick is Lilian Calmejane who has been visible so far this race and being French will have had his eye on this stage as a possible career defining victory.
Of course if it’s a GC day then it’s hard to look past Froome and Thomas as they’ve both proved themselves already to be some of the strongest climbers in the race. I’ll be interested to see how Dan Martin does as he’s often struggled in the high mountains and I’m excited to see how Movistar will attempt to disrupt Sky’s domination.
I’ve also gone with a couple of matchups which includes Kruiswijk to beat Landa and Yates to beat Jungels. Landa looked off the pace today despite not having to put his head in the wind while Kruiswijk looks to be on great form and can go really well on big mountain days. In a similar vein is Zakarin to beat Fuglsang where Zakarin appears to be growing into the race and Fuglsang already fading. I spoke earlier about Martin struggling in the high mountains so I think the price set on this is all wrong, great value if you ask me.
So my picks for tomorrow..
0.5pts on David Gaudu to win at 41 (bet365)
0.1pts on Lilian Calmejane to win at 201 (bet365)
0.2pts Rigoberto Uran to win at 101 (unibet)
2pts on Steven Kruiswijk to beat Mikel Landa and Ilnur Zakarin to beat Jakob Fuglsang at 2.5 (bet365)
2pts on Dumoulin to beat Dan Martin at 2.62 (bet265)
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