Start location: Vulcania
Finish location: Issoire
Start time: 13:05 CEST
Finish time (approx): 17:19 CEST
The Puy de Dôme might be the highest and most prominent landmark of the Massif Central, but it is actually just one of almost 500 volcanoes found in this region. Formed 60 million years ago when the tectonic plates of Europe and Africa collided, the theory goes that when the European plate slipped beneath the African plate, fault lines were created that led to the formation of these volcanoes. Most of them are found within the Auvergne Volcanoes regional national park, including the Chaîne des Puys volcanic field, which has been listed as a UNESCO world heritage site for being an emblematic — not to mention beautiful — example of how the geological process of continental rifting affects the earth’s surface. Any riders interested in the geological background as to why they’ll spend so much of today climbing can pay a visit to the Vulcania educational amusement park, where this stage sets off from.
From the point of view of the Tour de France organisers, the Massif Central is a handily located range of hills in southeastern France that allows them to spice up the transitional stages between the Pyrenees and Alps with some climbing stages; which is exactly what they've done today, as they begin the second week travelling eastwards towards the Alps via some tough hills
Stage 10 profile sourced via ASO
Pitched perfectly between being too hard for the sprinters but not hard enough for the GC men, this stage has breakaway victory written all over it. Teams and riders dissatisfied with how their first week went, whether through a failure to win a stage or the ending of their GC hopes, will have spent yesterday’s rest day devising a plan for how to resuscitate their Tour, many of which will involve getting into the breakaway today. With five climbs in total, but none exceeding either 8km in length or an average gradient of 6.5%, this is ideal territory for puncheurs and classics specialists to vie for the win.
The climbing starts pretty much right away with the ascent of the category three Col de la Moréno, so the all-important fight to get into the break and thereby give yourself a chance for a stage win will begin immediately. It’s unlikely to stop any time soon, either, given how much the road continues to undulate after; stages like this have been known in recent years to not settle down until after a few hours, which would make for grim racing for GC riders and sprinters hoping for a a simple day in the saddle.
A break will surely have been established by the time the riders reach the final climb of Côte de La Chapelle-Marcousse which is where those in it are likely to stop working together and start attacking each other. But with the last 28km from its peak to the finish in Issoire mostly spent going downhill, a rider’s descending skills may be just as important as their climbing in determining who comes out on top.
A stage so suited the breakaway can often be difficult to predict. There's a wealth of riders who will fancy their chances, with the punchy climbers and fast finishers both suited to the parcours in the Massif Central.
Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal-Quick-Step) will almost certainly be keen to feature in the breakaway having already done so on most of the mountain stages so far in this Tour. A late attack on one of the final ramps of this undulating course is an almost certainty if he's able to make it into the lead group.
Another breakaway regular has been Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma), who has cut a frustrated figure so far having missed out on victory. He's got more than enough quality to survive over these climbs, but he'll face an immense amount of pressure from his breakaway companions who won't want to take him to the finish.
The same could be said for Mathieu van der Poel, who has yet to have a proper stab at victory having shepherded his Alpecin-Deceuninck teammate Jasper Philipsen to three sprint wins so far. He could thrive on this stage, as could his teammate Søren Kragh.
British champion Fred Wright (Bahrain-Victorious) has been in superb form so far this year and will desperately want to open his Grand Tour account. Matej Mohorič is another standout name from Bahrain for a stage of this ilk too.
Ineos Grenadiers, in significant contrast to the last decade, are regular features in the Tour breakaways, and this tough stage would suit the likes of Omar Fraile or Michał Kwiatkowski.
There's a number of teams whose GC or sprint aspirations have been severely dented by the loss of a leader, so we should certainly expect riders from EF Education-EasyPost (Alberto Bettiol and Magnus Cort look well suited to this stage), Movistar (Matteo Jorgenson or Gregor Mühlberger), and Astana-Qazaqstan (David de la Cruz, Alexey Lutsenko) to make their way into a large escape.
Dylan Teuns (Israel-Premier Tech), Anthony Turgis (TotalEnergies), Mads Pedersen and Jasper Stuyven (Lidl-Trek), Oliver Naesen and Benoît Cosnefroy (Ag2r Citroën Team), Stefan Küng and Valentin Madouas (Groupama-FDJ), Kasper Asgreen and Rémi Cavagna (Soudal-Quick-Step), and Bob Jungels and Nils Politt (Bora-Hansgrohe), are other possible contenders for the tough up and down course of this nature.
We think Mathieu van der Poel will get off the mark at the Tour de France and secure the stage win.
Cover image by James Startt