Tour de France 2023 stage 11 preview - sprint or break?

The flat finish will likely end in a bunch sprint, but the lumpy terrain will mean the sprinters will have to keep a close eye on any breakaway artists looking to take the chance

Distance: 179.8km
Start location: Clermont-Ferrand
Finish location: Moulins
Start time: 13:05 CEST
Finish time (approx): 17:19 CEST

The strikingly black colours of many of the buildings in Clermont-Ferrand — most prominently the gothic cathedral that towers over the town — will have become a familiar sight to the riders by stage 11. Not only did they spend the rest day here, they’ve also spent the past few days riding amid the volcanic rocks that were used to build them, and give them such a distinctive look. Today, the peloton will finally depart from Clermont-Ferrand and head northwards through Bourbonnais to Moulins, which before now was the only metropolitan prefecture in mainland France never to have hosted a stage of the Tour de France

The Tour’s history of overlooking this region of Bourbonnais emphasises just how depopulated it is, but it is of considerable historical significance as being the eponymous origin of the royal Bourbon line that ruled France from the late 16th century to the French revolution. These kings epitomised the idea of absolute monarchy that took hold in the late medieval period, as those like the Bourbon’s ‘Sun King’ Louis XIV centralised the state and exercised absolute power on the pretence that the collective was better off with a strong head of state. While there’s no room for such autocracy in modern democracy, the logic still prevails at the Tour de France, where the most successful teams are often those fully united around and working for a single leader. 

Stage 11 profile sourced via ASO

The parcours is mostly flat, meaning this is likely to be the only bunch sprint of the second week, and possibly the last one until stage 18. The terrain is also quite useful for the breakaway, though, with lumpy terrain and a couple of early category four climbs giving them a chance to build a decent advantage and put the peloton under some pressure. Given the paucity of other opportunities, the sprinters’ teams must be careful to keep the race controlled early on and prevent the break from being either too big, or featuring too high calibre a rider; local riders like Rémi Cavagna, who’s from Clermont-Ferrand, and Julian Alaphilippe, who passes near his old hometown Saint-Amand-Montrond, are exactly the type they need to keep an eye on.

Moulins may never have hosted a Tour de France stage, but it has for Paris-Nice. In 2019, Sam Bennett got the better of Caleb Ewan and Fabio Jakobsen, after Dylan Groenewegen faded despite leading from the front. A similar finish, with similar names, appears the most likely scenario today. 


We think stage 11 will conclude on a bunch sprint after yesterday's gruelling breakaway stage in the Massif Central. With little opportunity for wins in the second week for the sprinters, it will be vital for those teams carrying fastmen to keep the race together here. 

Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) has been a dominant force in the fast finishes, securing three stage wins this Tour de France. Working in perfect harmony with his teammate Mathieu van der Poel, Philipsen appeared unbeatable until stage eight, where Mads Pedersen (Lidl-Trek) put an end to his winning streak with a victory in the uphill sprint. Nevertheless, Philipsen showcased his strength by claiming second place in the challenging finish.

Pedersen is another strong contender for this stage. He finally clinched a stage win on stage eight, where the final metres were more technical. However, when it comes down to the flat, bunch sprints, Pedersen’s highest placing has been ninth. With this stage being the latter, the question remains whether he'll be able to match the speed of the purer sprinters.

Caleb Ewan (Lotto Dstny) showcased great form in the initial two sprint stages, securing second and third place. However, he experienced disappointment in the following two sprint stages, finishing 45th and 49th. Ewan claimed to have been boxed in during stage seven, hindering his chance to be in contention for the stage win. He’s determined to end his stage-winning drought, and if he can bring back some of his form from earlier on in the race, he’ll be a rider to watch.

Jayco-Alula could have a chance with Dylan Groenewegen, who has been in the mix in the previous sprint stages. So could Bahrain-Victorious with Phil Bauhaus, who came close to a stage win on stage three, fighting against Philipsen and Ewan for the glory. 

Fabio Jakobsen (Soudal-Quick-Step) would have been hoping for better results so far this Tour, but a crash on stage four has put the 26-year-old rider at a disadvantage. Hopefully, after a week with a rest day included, we will see Jakobsen back to full strength, sprinting for his team's first stage win. Bryan Coquard (Cofidis) and Jordi Meeus (Bora-Hansgrohe) will also be in the mix for the sprint, but perhaps not quite on strong enough form to content for victory. 


He's looked almost unstoppable so far this Tour with his lead-out man Van der Poel, so we think Jasper Philipsen will add another stage win to his growing palmarès. 

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