Tour de France 2024 stage 11 preview - a punishing day in the Massif Central

Will the breakaway make it all the way to the line, or will the GC favourites have other ideas?

Date: Wednesday July 10, 2024
Distance: 211km
Start location: Évaux-les-Bains
Finish location: Le Lioran
Start time: 11:20 CET
Finish time (approx): 16:54 CET

Continuing in a southern direction from the spa town of Évaux-les-Bains in Creuse to the Cantal region in Auvergne, stage 11 sees the riders travel through the Massif Central. Formed during the Variscan orogeny during the Paleozoic several hundred million years ago, these highlands are characterised by dark volcanic cones and granites and metamorphic rocks. Though not as high in the heavens as the Alps and the Pyrenees, the altitude is high enough for the region to have its own winter sports destinations and ski resorts, including one of the region’s biggest in Le Lioran, where stage 11 finishes. Local politician and future president Georges Pompidou played a role in its development, and attended the inauguration of the impressive Téléphérique du Plomb du Cantal cable car in 1967.

In terms of the Tour de France, the Massif Central presents a useful geographic feature to throw in a climbing stage in between the Alps and the Pyrenees, and for stage 11, the organisers have designed a classic second week through the mountain range. It’s set to be a gruelling, punishing day — at 211km, it’s longer than any other stage of this year’s race, and, with a total of 4,350 elevation gain, contains more climbing than any stage so far. 

Most of that climbing is concentrated in the final quarter of the stage, making this a backloaded day that should see some serious fireworks, both in the race for the stage win and potentially the GC. The final 50km is in fact identical to stage five of the 2016 edition, which should therefore be a useful template for determining what might happen. That day, Greg Van Avermaet won solo by dropping Thomas De Gent on the penultimate climb of Col de Pertus, having already ridden clear of the rest of the day’s nine-break, even before the day’s official climbs, showing just how testing the undulating terrain is in this region. This was when Van Avermaet was at the peak of his powers as a puncheur, and he went on to win the Olympics road race the following month — an incentive for hopefuls for gold next month in Paris to get up the road and test their legs. 

The third-to-last climb of Pas de Peyrol is the hardest of the stage, averaging 8.1% for 5.4km, and in 2016, Nairo Quintana’s Movistar team used it to drop to major GC rivals, Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali. Neither of the following Col de Pertus or Col de Font de Cère climbs are as demanding, and Contador and other dropped riders were able to rejoin the group of favourites, but an attack from Romain Bardet towards the summit of the latter saw Contador dropped again finish 22 seconds behind a peloton with only about 20 riders left in it. These climbs are, therefore, hard enough to cause GC gaps among the favourites, if anyone is willing to attack. 

Tour de France 2024 stage 11 profile preview

Route profile sourced via ASO

Contenders

Looking at the stage’s parcours, it seems likely that a rider from the breakaway will celebrate success in Le Lioran. The first half of the stage seems relatively rolling, however, it is in the second half of the stage where the pitches steepen – similar terrain to Liège-Bastogne-Liège – making it perfect for the breakaway to gain some time on the peloton in the run in to the finish. EF Education-EasyPost has been a very active team so far when it has come to being in the breakaway, and we don’t expect the American team to hold back on stage 11, especially when Ben HealyNeilson Powless, and Alberto Bettiol all suit this type of terrain. EF Education come to the race looking for stage wins, and this seems a good opportunity for the team dressed in pink. 

Maxim Van Gils (Lotto-Dstny) has performed well throughout the opening week, with his best placing being fifth on the first stage from Florence to Rimini. He suits this type of terrain and its similarities to the Ardennes, where he placed fourth this year, will only benefit the 24-year-old. Now the team’s sprinter is out of the race, Lidl-Trek will be targeting more than just the sprint opportunities. They could look to send Tom Skujinš into the break, or even Jasper Stuyven, who just fell short of a stage victory on stage nine. 

Other riders who could be in with a chance of winning the stage if they can get into the break will be Alexey Lutsenko (Astana Qazaqstan), who is strong on a day like this, as is Tom Pidcock (Ineos Grenadiers), winner of this year’s Amstel Gold Race, and Michael Matthews (Jayco Alula), a rider who boasts a strong sprint but also the ability to climb when things get punchy. 

This stage is also a prime opportunity for Wout van Aert (Visma-Lease a Bike), however, it seems that the Belgian rider is all in for his support for GC teammate Jonas Vingegaard. It is a different story for his long-time rival Mathieu van der Poel (Alpecin-Deceuninck), who is at this Tour in support of Jasper Philipsen, but has the opportunity to go for his own success having helped his sprinter to a stage win this week. The world champion is one of the world's best Classics riders, so he’ll be one to watch on this stage. 

Despite it looking like a breakaway day, there are three riders sitting in the top four positions on the GC that thrive on this type of terrain – Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), Remco Evenepoel (Soudal–Quick-Step), and Primož Roglič (Red Bull-Bora-Hansgrohe). All three have won races like this and have demonstrated that they are here to race (something Pogačar and Evenepoel showcased on the race’s gravel stage, attacking at multiple points). Out of the three of them, Pogačar would be the favourite to come out on top. 

Stage 11 winner prediction 

We think Ben Healy will take that win for EF Education-EasyPost. He has looked strong so far and could look to launch a stage-winning attack on the stage's last few climbs. 

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