Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Tour Preview - Stage 16

We are going into the last week of this year’s Tour de France and that with four famous and feared climbs on the menu. Col d'Aubisque (Cat HC, 16,4km - 7,1%), Col du Tourmalet (Cat HC, 19km - 7,4%), Col d'Aspin (Cat 1, 12,4km - 4,8%) and Col de Peyresourde (Cat 1, 9,5km - 6,7%) show that the peloton now plays in the Pyrenees  and hopefully this stage will be everything we expect it to be!

I’m a fan of the favorites winning on the big mountains but since also this Tour stage ends with a descent, I’m fine with leaving the victory to the escapees. That’s how I think it will go anyway. Team Sky won’t be interesting in pulling back any breakaways with guys more than 20 minutes behind in the overall classification and for Liquigas (Nibali) and BMC (Evans) the only thing that matters is the overall win. Therefore I’m pretty sure that a strong break of 10-15 riders will get away on Col d'Aubisque (if not earlier, then at least here) so let’s try to take a look at who might be in that break.

The first two riders I thought of looking at the profile were Alejandro Valverde and Michele Scarponi. Valverde has been trying very hard to hit the right breakaway the last couple of days with climbs on the menu and he seems very determined not to leave this Tour without putting his mark on it. He’s far out of the classification (32:59 minutes after Bradley Wiggins) so I think that Team Sky finally will be okay with him getting in the break. Had Valverde still been near the podium I would probably have picked him as well. This stage is perfect for him since he can stay with the very best both on the climbs and on the descents. Plus he is very fast on the line. For me there isn’t a bigger favorite for this stage than Alejandro Valverde being at 100%.

Col de Peyresourde - 9,5km / 6,7%
Click for larger view!
Michele Scarponi has very much the same qualities as Alejandro Valverde. He may not be as fast as Valverde in the final sprint but he is definitely not slow either. He’s a real climber and will be difficult to drop if he hits the right breakaway, plus he is good on the downhill sections as well. The main goal for Michele Scarponi will be the stage win, but with 70 KOM points to fight for he could easily try to go for the polka dot jersey as well, having already 33 points.

Other solid breakaway candidates to the win in Bagnères-de-Luchon are riders like Rein Taaramae (out of the GC and strong uphill and downhill), Dan Martin (pure climber and feeling great these days) and Rui Costa (if Valverde doesn’t hit the right break, Rui Costa is very likely to do so and he already knows how to win in the Tour).

Among the favorites Vincenzo Nibali is the best pick. The Italian is excellent on the descents where he has been trying to drop Wiggins and co. numerous times in this Tour already. If the break gets caught, I can’t see anyone other than Nibali winning this stage…

Winner pick: Alejandro Valverde or Michele Scarponi
Joker: Vincenzo Nibali


  1. I made a pretty penny following your tips the last few stages so thank you. Just wondering who you think will take the polkadot jersey?

  2. My pleasure. The polka dot jersey is a tricky call. I think Kessiakoff has a very good chance of keeping it, but honestly everything could change tomorrow. Dan Martin, Michele Scarponi and other could sweep the points and get back in the fight. I think Chris Anker Sørensen will hit the right break again and if so, he has a good chance too. It's a crap shoot to be honest...

  3. It would be interesting if Liquigas or BMC would try to find out just how tough Sky and Wiggins really are. They can't afford to wait too long.

  4. Think you can look for Kessiakoff going with the break tomorrow to max out his points yield. He's not gonna give up the Polka Dots without a strong fight!