Primoz Roglic deserves a perfect scorecard for his victory in stage 17, especially for his ski-jump landing pose on the podium—it certainly beats bottom pinching. Stage 18 gives him another opportunity for take off, and looking at the profile we can spy plenty of ramps he can use as a launchpad.
OK, now that we’ve done the whole ex-ski-jumper bit, we can move on to consider what greets the peloton on Thursday. Rolling terrain for the first 55km or so before the first climb of the day, the Côte des Demoiselles Coiffées, has to be tackled. This is a minor hump compared to the rest of the stage as, once the riders get to the bottom of this descent, they will be climbing for the next 60 or so kilometres.
This is toward the summit of the Col de Vars whose climb doesn’t actually start until kilometre 120. At 9.2km in length and with a 7.5% average, this makes a wonderful amuse-bouche before the mighty Col d’Izoard finishes the stage. This climb contains the third and final summit finish of this year’s Tour and so carries with it double KOM points. 14.1km long and 7.3% average gradient, this hors catégorie climb will be the last chance for anyone to put some serious time into Chris Froome’s lead.
Having said that, it is also the last stage a breakaway has any real chance of staying out ahead and grabbing a stage win so expect many many riders from all times to be attacking from the gun. Michael Matthews will probably not be present in there after Marcel Kittel’s unfortunate abandonment following a crash on stage 17 means that he has little to do now that the green jersey is on his shoulders.
Following some barbed comments from Bardet about a lack of work in the group, Uran might just take this chance to show his true strength on the final slopes and attempt to distance everyone else, although when asked if he was going to attack, his answer of ‘Ask Bardet’ probably means those two will be watching each other very carefully as they fight over podium places.
If AG2R can muster enough teammates for Bardet on the final climb then we could be in with a real show, but it’s likely that Froome will be the only rider with numbers not against him, and this will throttle any one’s attacks until the final 5km or so. With that in mind, we think Froome will be wanting his first (and maybe only) stage win of this year’s tour.
1. Chris Froome
2. Romain Bardet
3. Rigoberto Uran Uran