As discussed earlier this week, this was a short mountain stage with just one big climb before the final climb up the Tourmalet. This was the first experience of the high mountains as well, reaching over 500m higher than the next highest point and racing the last 14km over 1500m.
By my tracking, Movistar took control of the peloton with about 5km left on the Col du Soulor and immediately shredded it down to an elite group of about 30-35 riders by the summit. This got rid of Romain Bardet and Adam Yates (who eventually rejoined on the downhill, but was dropped immediately on the Tourmalet and wasn’t a factor). INEOS lost Kwiatkowski and two others during this acceleration as well which would end up being a factor later on. You can see the estimated W/kg on the Soulor below, which was ridden at a high tempo (final summit climbs are around 6 W/kg or higher, when the GC group was dogging it on stage 12 those were ridden closer to 5 W/kg).
By the time they reformed down in the valley, it was a group of 50 riders which came to the Tourmalet including all the major favorites except Bardet. In the first 8km with Movistar still setting the tempo this group was shelled down to about 25 which included dropping Dan Martin and the Yates group. But in a major own goal, Movistar’s pace soon dropped Quintana who wouldn’t get back. INEOS took over pace-making next during which time Barguil attacked.
Riders left with GC group by kilometers left. Dashed lines show start of Tourmalet (19km) and summit of Soulor (57 km)
FDJ went to the front with about 7km left and they distanced INEOS’s last two helpers, Enric Mas, and Richie Porte among others. FDJ’s last man, Gaudu, rode a high tempo here which dropped a few more riders, but cracked shortly leaving Jumbo and Mikel Landa riding tempo for the next 2.5 km. This cracked Fuglsang and Uran.
There’s a flatter section of about 6% around 2km left in the climb, which immediately transitions into ramps of 12% for 500m. Thomas was dropped here when he couldn’t raise his pace to match the rest of the yellow jersey group. The final GC group of Pinot, Alaphilippe, Kruijswijk, Landa, Buchmann, and Bernal survived here and contested the last kilometer with Pinot breaking away for the stage win.
Below is a graph of time losses to Pinot based on what KM a rider was dropped from contact with the yellow jersey (eg, Thomas around 1.2 km, Richie Porte around 5.5-6km, etc). The regression line using just GC contenders (not domestiques like Gaudu/de Plus) shows each kilometer you survived today was worth about 24 seconds.
The main takeaways from today:
1). Alaphilippe survived the high mountains. Tomorrow brings three sharp category 1 climbs, but no riding over 1500m. This is a similarly difficult stage to stage 6 when he survived and attacked in the last KM. Depending on the tempo it’s raced at, the danger zone for him may be the final kilometers of the penultimate climb where it averages 12%.
We now have two stages of him surviving with the top climbers, as well as a dominant TT and two big attacks on intermediate stages. He’s been incredibly strong, but how much remains for the last week in the thin air of the Alps? He took 30 seconds on Thomas today; at this point he could lose that sum in each of the final four mountain stages and wear yellow in Paris.
2). Pinot hasn’t missed a chance to attack the entire race. Stage 6 and 14 he rode away in the final kilometer, stage 8 he escaped, and his TT was elite – distancing almost all the specialists and racing about a minute faster than you would expect by his normal time-trialing form. He hasn’t been put in trouble in the mountains in any race since March as well.
It will take another effort similar to today’s to get back the time he lost to Thomas in the crosswinds. But so far, Pinot has been about half a minute faster in stages 3, 8, 13, and 14 when he wasn’t reliant on his team, just losing time to Thomas in the TTT (12 seconds) and stage 10 crosswinds (100 seconds).
3). INEOS looks to have taken a step-back. We don’t have data on how many riders they could keep in the final group from past Tours, but in stage 6 they had just one man left with Thomas/Bernal with 5km to go and today they had lost everyone by that point. Both Wout Poels (stage 6) and Michal Kwiatkowski (stage 14) have been dropped on the penultimate climb when Movistar raised the pace.
As we showed in the climbing preview, Bernal has – statistically – been the best climber coming into the TDF. While few of the others on top of that list (Martin, Quintana, Bardet) have showed anything this year, Bernal has met expectations and coped way better with the high altitudes today which we’ll see in the final three Alpine stages. There was a lot of discussion about using him to attack and draw out the other contenders, but clearly Thomas didn’t have enough today to have survived any attacks.
1). Can INEOS put Alaphilippe in trouble either tomorrow or in the Alps? Their pace-making – for the short time they were in front – wasn’t responsible for putting many riders into trouble today. Either Movistar dropped riders on penultimate climb or lower stretches of Tourmalet, or FDJ/Jumbo dropped them later on the Tourmalet. Other teams will surely try to put Alaphilippe in trouble, but Movistar’s GC race is surely over and it’s yet to be seen that FDJ or Jumbo can control the race for more than a few kilometers at the end of a stage.
Thomas’s attacking so far across 2018 and 2019 has been limited to the last kilometer of stages, so if Alaphilippe can survive, is Thomas even able to attack him to regain time?
2). How do high mountains impact Alaphilippe? Assuming he can survive the punchier stage 15 in Pyrenees, that leaves stages 18-20 in the Alps where there are seven massive climbs with substantial climbing above 2000m. His team was reduced to just him and Enric Mas with 15km left and Mas was gone with 5km left to race. If he gets dropped, it will be tough for him to rejoin.