Tour de France 2022, stage 11
Start location: Albertville
Finish location: Col du Granon Serre Chevalier
Start time: 11.15 BST
Finish time (approx): 15.40 BST
When Hannibal made his daring attack on the Roman Republic in 218 BC, leading the forces of Carthage, including 60 elephants, over the Alps, he overnighted in what is now Albertville. From there, he headed east, successfully traversing the mountains, though historians argue about his precise route. Whichever col he crossed, whether it was the Petit Saint-Bernard, the Montgenèvre or another pass, getting the heavier members of his entourage over such mighty climbs was a triumph of logistics and willpower. It may be much the same for some of the riders of the 2022 Tour de France on stage 11, who will head south, rather than east from Albertville.
The riders of the Tour will be more sure of their route than Hannibal, though given the challenges ahead, knowing their destination won’t make the journey any easier. Halfway into the 2022 event, the Tour will tackle its first hors-catégorie climbs. This may be the hardest stage of the Tour, though its demands are so similar to those of stage 12 that to try to give one the edge over the other seems like nitpicking.
The challenges of the stage become increasingly difficult as the day goes on. The peloton will tackle the category-two Lacets de Montvernier climb, a televisual stack of hairpins that takes the riders almost up a cliff face and out of the Maurienne valley. (That the race will then descend immediately back down to the same valley, less than three kilometres further on as the crow flies, but at the cost of several hundred metres of vertical gain and loss, spread over 15km seems sadistic on the part of the organisers, but the television companies must have their overhead shots of the climb.)
The more serious climbing starts at 70km, with the 12km Col du Télégraphe which in itself is a tough climb, but also acts as a stepping stone to the first HC-ranked climb of the 2022 Tour, the Col du Galibier, which is also the high point of the race at 2,642m. A long descent brings the riders to the hardest climb of the day, the Col du Granon, which is the highest summit finish of the 2022 Tour at 2,413m. The Granon has a fearsome reputation - it has only appeared once in the Tour before, during the 1986 race and it was where five-times winner Bernard Hinault wore the yellow jersey for the last time. Its gradients are severe, and continuous: it is 11km long, and the shallowest kilometre is the first, at 8.2 per cent.
Students of the history of this region will know that Hannibal was initially triumphant in his sortie across the Alps, winning many battles but that he was ultimately defeated, as the Romans calculated that a slow war attrition would favour them over the invaders. Whichever of the GC favourites gains time on today’s stage will have to be cognisant that though a single battle has been won, the Tour is only halfway done. There is plenty of time yet for a GC lead to be ground down.
Tour de France 2022 stage 11 map and profile
The Tour de France rides onto some classic climbs on stage 11 including the Col du Télégraph and Col du Galibier combo. These are just two of the four classified climbs on the route preceded by the Lacets de Montvernier; a spectacular looking climb but unlikely to cause any gaps.
The bunch will really start to split after the category one Télégraph, when they hit the beyond category Galbier.
A long descent will give the chance for regrouping, and potentially an opportunity for the breakaway to gain back some time, before the fearsome Col du Granon rears its head. The final climb makes only its second ever Tour appearance, having debuted in 1986.
By this time the riders would have cross the highest point of the Tour, but will need to ride back to over 2,400m. Over 11km long and averaging over 9%, this is going to be a gruesome test for every rider.
Col du Granon profile
Tour de France 2022 predictions and contenders
If stage 10's lower gradient Alpine day was one for the breakaway, stage 11 is surely one for the GC contenders.
There is a chance for a small group or a lone climber to make an escape if they time it right and have the strength, but really the savage difficulty of the climbing should draw the overall contenders to top of the pile.
You'd be hard pressed to look past Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) for his third stage win of the race, however he maybe hampered by his shrinking team; now only five riders. The severity and length of the climb is potentially not his strongest suit (although he's still exceptional on these kind of climbs) and we've seen in the past him show glimpses of weakness on longer, high gradient climbs. Think Col de la Loze in 2020 when he lost 15 seconds to Primož Roglič, or last year on Mont Ventoux when he was briefly dropped by Jonas Vingegaard. On both these occasions though he fought back to close the gap, and in the latter example, make it back to Vingegaard.
Speaking of Vingegaard, the Dane looks even stronger than he did last year and is potentially a favourite for this stage. He enjoys the longer climbs much more than the ascents we've had so far this Tour and the Col du Granon will provide his first real opportunity to prove he can put Pogačar under pressure.
Geraint Thomas and Adam Yates of Ineos Grenadiers may likewise prefer the more consistent difficulty of this final climb, though neither has yet shown they have what it takes to shake either of the top-two on GC.
There are a number of other pure climbers hanging around the GC that could spring a surprise if Pogačar and Vingegaard focus too much on each other. Frenchman David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) has looked in great form so far and will come more into his own on this kind of incline. His compatriot Romain Bardet (Team DSM) has been flying under the radar so far, and he too could fare well on the final climb.
Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) has previous on the Galibier, having won over this climb in 2019, but the Colombian is still looking far from his previous best and would be a real wildcard shout to grab a victory here.
Likewise Primož Roglič is, unusually, a bit of an unknown having had a difficult Tour so far. The Slovenian may be used a foil for his team-mate Vingegaard, but of course has the pedigree to win here.
Prediction: We're predicting the stage will be fought out amongst the GC contenders and Jonas Vingegaard will take his maiden Tour de France stage win while Pogačar will maintain his overall lead.