When Friday July 8
To Lac de Payolle
Impact on GC 4/5
L’Isle-Jourdain is in rugby-mad Gers. Two famous players come from the town, Jean-Claude Skrela and Patrick Tobacco. It’s another Tour first-timer, but a very pretty place set in rolling hills, which provide today’s first obstacles as the race heads into the Pyrenees.
They could provide plenty of springboards for attacks, as the peloton heads west then south to enter the Aure valley. This is the prelude to the Col d’Aspin, and is a steady drag rather than the undulations faced so far. It should give the teams chance to gain control of the race.
After 21 kilometres in the valley, the riders reach the tall grey houses of Arreau and do a sharp right turn, then they are on the Aspin. Now the gloves will be off, so to speak, this part of the stage should be fascinating.
Over the summit of the climb you might just catch sight of a giant quarry. This is where the green marble used to build the Palace of Versailles and l’Opera in Paris was extracted. It’s not far from here to the finish at Lac de Payolle, which is another first timer in the Tour de France.
The early part of this stage is conducive to a breakaway move getting clear. Depending on how much lead it has by the time it enters the Aure valley, the break could stay away until the end. It’s a good day then for a climber to infiltrate a break and go for the King of the Mountains points on top of the Aspin, then keep going to the finish.
There could well be two separate races today, one for the stage and one behind between the overall favourites. Although you would consider the stage not to suit overall leader Greg Van Avermaet, the BMC man has five minutes’ advantage over second-placed Julian Alaphilippe (Etixx-QuickStep).
Will it be enough of a margin for Van Avermaet to cling onto the lead? Or will he gladly concede the yellow jersey, and support his team-mates Tejay Van Garderen and Richie Porte in their GC fight against Alaphilippe, Chris Froome (Sky), Alejandro Valverde (Movistar), Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Fabio Aru (Astana), Warren Barguil (Giant-Alpecin) and Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange)?