Take It From Carol: Tour de France Stage 8
Just another day for a breakaway and Stage win glory or.......
After a long, steady day in the saddle (a welcome respite in the relentlessly tough first week of the Tour and a rare gift for the sprinters) , the Tour comes to yet another day suited for the breakaway specialists. Stage 8 includes 7 categorized climbs with 3,700 feet of elevation gain. None of the climbs in this Stage are long or steep enough to cause any really problems for the riders (5-8 km in length, a few reach 8% gradient). This kind of undulating, technical profile is perfect for those looking to snag a Stage win. However, as we have consistently seen this year, the organizers approach to the finish is designed to pull the GC men into the mix. The final climb of Cote de la Jailliere (short, punchy at 7.6% with much steeper bits along the way) sits just 10 km from the line and hold 8-5-2 point-bonus at the top (seconds taken off total time, valuable indeed in a race typically won and lost by mere seconds).
What to expect today? Look, just 8 days in with horrific climbing days looming in the Pyrenees today is yet another day in the saddle that is “clear as mud”. The first week was craftily designed to upset the norm and, to a degree, it has. Although it has not inspired the early yellow jersey battles amongst the major contenders as hoped, the route has required a more “heads up racing” awareness. There are many unknowns leading into today’s Stage. Riders who are never considered a threat to wear yellow in Paris are suddenly not so easily dismissed. Teams that typically control the race with precision seem a bit on their heels...or are they? What all of this sets up is more tension for the top riders. In years past, a Stage like this one would consist of an early breakaway of 10-15 riders. The riders most likely to go on this type of Stage: strong rouleurs, KOM contenders, Ardennes classic specialists, French riders motivated by the Bastille Day weekend, and lesser team members who seek a bit glory, but also want to take pressure off their GC man. Normally, the breakaway would be allowed to survive as the GC men spare their legs and not want to take any risks on the day’s very narrow roads. But, this year is not normal.
In the final hour, the safe bet: we see the 5-6 breakaway men with the best form and deepest desire to race for the stage win with the GC coming in together (just behind) with no shake up in time gaps.
But, given all that has occurred in the first week, we have to ask two important questions:
Is the GC at peace with riders like Alaphilippe in the breakaway?
With valuable time lost in the first week, will GC hopefuls use today to ambush and steal time back?
What we do know....today is a much more exciting day then yesterday!