115km to go: The scenery is that of some tree-laden gorges. The breakaway group is at 38km per hour, while the peloton is going a similar lick. Jumbo-Visma, protecting Primoz Roglic, are sat behind Alaphilippe’s Quick-Step team on the front of the main bunch, who have been taking in some fuel. Egan Bernal, 17 seconds back on Alaphilppe, looks comfortable enough. A sprint is in the offing, 51.6km into the stage, so there’s a bit of jockeying for space going on ahead of that.
125km to go: Jon Hosain asks: “Just wondering what the wind is doing today with the peloton looking lined out. Is there any chance of echelons today?”
It looks breezy but perhaps not so breezy as create that kind of variable. It’s usually those stages out on an open plain or by the sea where such things occur, from my memories of Tours past. And a bit of climbing slows the peloton down so that the wind becomes less of a factor when compared to actual juice in the tank.
130km to go: Now the field is on a flat and they are flying along, with the gap dropping a tad below four minutes. Up in the breakaway, all is similarly calm.
150km to go: Krists Neilands and Nils Politt (Israel Start-Up Nation), Tiesj Benoot (Team Sunweb), Alexis Vuillermoz (AG2R La Mondiale), Quentin Pacher (B&B Hotels-Vital Concept) and Mathieu Burgaudeau (Total Direct Energie) are in that breakaway group. It’s a not untalented bunch but they a long way to go to stay away.
160km to go: Away they go in Sisteron with a masked Christian Prudhomme waving his flag. Now who fancies the breakaway? A group of six or seven plucky riders have had a go.
On this finish to Orcières-Merlette in 1971, Luis Ocaña put eight minutes into Eddy Mercxx. He still didn’t win, having to abandon on the 14th stage as The Cannibal eventually triumphed. Ocaña did win the 1973 however.
After Monday’s sprint finish, so expertly executed in Caleb Ewan’s object lesson in how to deal with a headwind, the Tour has its first mountain-top finish. As these things go, it’s a gentle one on the fringes of the Alps but a stage where the field of GC contenders may still thin out. It will also be a test of the the favourites’ form, most of which is decidedly unknown in this year of great uncertainty. Egan Bernal looks comfortable enough so far but what of Primoz Roglic? Or Tom Dumoulin and Ricardo Carapaz? Thibaut Pinot took that heavy fall on Saturday. This may be the day to see it. Though it may also be a day when Julian Alaphilippe can reassert his superiority at these kind of stages. Adam Yates, after another near-miss on Sunday, has to fancy his chances, too.