"As required in the tradition of the 'bouchons lyonnais' (typical Lyon restaurants), the menu will be dense and promises a battle between the breakaway specialists, the climbers and the sprinters."
Not our words, but Tour director Christian Prudhomme's. We rather like them. The amuse-bouche has been downed, the hors d'œuvre seen off. Onto the meaty main course.
And a tip of the casquette to Mole for picking Dani Martinez for stage 13 - top punditry and no mistake. That's 8 out of 13 wins so far between Moley and our panel - solid work, team.
Stage 14: Clermont-Ferrand - Lyon (194km)
Thomas De Gendt (Lotto Soudal) Flat? Flat? The Tour organisers are having a bubble ain't they? I still don't think this profile is perfect for him but I reckon it's as close as we're going to get and he was itching to get away the other day. Activate TDG.
Thomas de Gendt (Lotto Soudal) It sounds like this will be one where we're just hoping everyone gets in safely, which of course increases the tension in the peloton and makes it less likely that they will. I'm going to stop saying things like 'the break is nailed on today' but surely, surely, today will be a more traditional breakaway? So I'm going to go for a traditional breakaway specialist. With no more sprints until Paris, maybe the team will allow a return to his natural habitat out in front.
Greg van Avermaet (CCC Team) This is a GVA sort of day, the short hills in the finale working in his favour whether on the attack alone or from a small group sprint. A little bit the forgotten man in recent years, but his class is still there. I'd wager CCC Team deserve a stage win for all their trying too.
Marc Hirschi (Team Sunweb)
Jasper Stuyven (Trek-Segafredo) Frankly, I’m running out of ideas, certainly for this stage. How about this year’s Het Nieuwsblad winner Stuyven? Loosely based on my successful punt on Marc Hirschi for stage 12, the Belgian’s had three top-tens so far, is clearly in good shape, and has nothing to lose. Over to you, Jasper, my old fruit.
Cycling Mole says...
Who had Dani Martinez? That’s right, it was me. To correctly pick the winner of one breakaway is good, to get two is bordering on the ridiculous.
This stage is one which will interest the breakaway riders, especially those with a big engine. The early cat 2 climb is around 24km at 4%, which isn’t great news for the quick men. The battle for the break will be fierce, but I sense a certain team will be interested in closing everything down.
All the panel like the breakaway, which I find interesting. Nick and Ben fancy the breakaway King, Thomas De Gendt. No getting away from it, this is a good pick. Andy’s going with Golden Greg, again, I cannot argue with this. The man with the best tan in the peloton is a great option for this stage. Ian’s going with my good friend, Jasper Stuyven, I still cannot poke fun. Thank God for Miles, he’s going with Marc Hirschi. Now, you’ll all know that I love the wee Swiss climber, but this isn’t a stage for him, he’ll be waiting for Sunday.
How the stage plays out will depend on the attitude of Bora. I suspect they’ll sense an opportunity of dropping all the quick men and hopefully set up Peter Sagan for a stage win. The problem for Sagan is that Wout Van Aert is faster than him and the Belgian will take his third stage win.