By Gregor Brown
The 2019 Tour de France continues with its first and only individual time trial, but out of Geraint Thomas (Ineos) and his rivals, who will come out on top?
Team Ineos sports director Nicolas Portal does not see the top climbers losing that much over stage 13, which covers a lumpy 27.2 kilometres around Pau.
"It's a time trial which can suit both the specialists and pure climbers because with this time trial they will lose less time in total than if it was totally flat," Portal explained.
"I don't know who the favourites could be from the overall classification. Maybe Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma), Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) can be good too, he has been working hard on time trials. Richie Porte, who knows? When Richie is good, he's the one who's very good, but we just have to wait and see."
Thomas is not waiting. The Welsh 2018 Tour winner went to the parcours around Pau to preview it three times. It helps that Portal comes from the area, so they knew the roads well.
"I'll do a recon of it again in the morning, but I've ridden it three times already. So yeah, I like it," Thomas said. "It's fast and it should be hard, and a good day."
Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step) leads the race overall, but Thomas sits second ahead of all the potential 2019 Tour de France winners. His team-mate Egan Bernal sits at four seconds behind, Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma) at 15 and Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) at 33.
The stage should help define the classification battle coming up in the mountains this weekend.
"I think probably for Geraint or Jakob Fuglsang (Astana), who are pretty good in the time trials, and Richie, for them it's a big opportunity for them because they are good in the time trails and also in the summit finishes," continued Portal.
Jakob Fuglsang (Team Astana) sits 2-10 minutes behind Thomas. Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) is at 2-47.
"For Egan for example, it's be good for him to try to do his best and if he does a good one, it's a super bonus. We expect him to be good anyway like Geraint in the Tourmalet. Egan is young, still good, but has never won a time trial in a Grand Tour or performed well over three weeks to the same extent G has. He's recovering well, but we are now in stage 12 and there are some tired legs," said Portal.
"In general, the TT suits G better than Egan, so you can assume that G would finish higher, but Egan has done some really good time trials, especially this year. Last year, he was really good already, but in Paris-Nice this year, on quite a specialist time trial course, he was good, as well as his last one in the Tour de Suisse.
"It doesn't matter. The goal for him is to go as quick as they can and make sure they can, if they can, take some time on the other GC guys and put themselves in the best possible position."
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