Stage 7 Preview: A Long Day Out With a Wicked Finish
Stage 7 – Vierzon to le Creusot– 249.1km – Friday, July 2
Aside from crashes, the Tour de France’s opening week has been notable for the distance traveled between the Grand Depart in Brittany and its first mountain stages this weekend, in the Alps. To get riders from one spot in the country to the major set pieces of the race like the Alps and Pyrenees requires long transitional stages, but Stage 7 is unusual even by those standards.
It’s 249.1km long, a distance typically seen in one-day Monuments like Liege-Bastogne-Liege, not at the end of a week of exhausting racing. And while it opens without major difficulty, there are five climbs in the back half of the course that will absolutely heat up the action. The weather looks to be partly cloudy with little wind or chance of rain, so it’s up to the riders to create the excitement.
After 161km of racing—which, it’s worth noting, is already longer than two of the stages done so far—things get spicy with a short Category 3 climb, the Côte de Château-Chinon. Four more climbs follow, most notably a Category 2 ascent, the Signal d’Uchon, at 231km in. It doesn’t look that bad on paper, at 5.7km long with a 5.7-percent average gradient. But after a relatively gentle start and short downhill in the middle, the final two kilometers are 9.4 and 13.1 percent grades, respectively, and it pitches to 18 percent at one point. Coming relatively close to the finish, that’s where we’d expect the winning move to launch.
Here’s how that’s likely to play out: we will probably see an early breakaway go clear, and this one, in contrast to recent days, may be sizeable. We’ll also likely see a split peloton develop on the climbs. If the time gap is around five minutes or less at that point, there will be a second breakaway that forms late in the race, as riders try to bridge to the early move and use it as a springboard for a stage win. A slight downhill from the last climb gives way to an up-down final 5km and one sharp switchback corner at 1.5km to go.
Even as the action goes off upfront, keep an eye on the main group of contenders on the Signal d’Uchon climb. Normally we wouldn’t expect gaps to develop among the GC contenders on short climbs, but the steepest part of the Uchon ascent—coming so late in the stage and after a stressful week of racing that has left numerous riders nursing injuries from crashes—could produce splits. If that does happen, expect zero mercy from any rivals. Strange things happen when races go past 225km long; riders who normally go well find their legs empty, while others find another gear. We don’t know exactly who will come out on top, but it should be an exciting day on Tour.
Riders to Watch
This is a day tailor-made for Lotto-Soudal’s Thomas de Gendt. He’s a long-range breakaway specialist and tried to get clear today but was caught. Lotto’s had a tough week, losing sprinter Caleb Ewan to a crash and with Brent van Moer’s heartbreaking catch with just 250 meters to go in Stage 4. A stage win here would be just what they need, so expect him to have plenty of company.
The legs are good, I’ve been saving them for breakaway days, Friday maybe 🤔
A later-race move may come from riders who excel at the Ardennes Classics: Israel Start-Up Nation’s Dan Martin and Michael Woods are two to watch. Trek-Segafredo’s Vincenzo Nibali and Toms Skujins and BikeExchange’s Simon Yates are other possible attackers. Among the overall contenders, watch for any signs of weakness in riders battling injuries, like Jumbo-Visma’s Primož Roglič or Geraint Thomas of INEOS Grenadiers.
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When to Tune In
Friday should be a slow build, but the final third or so promises to be riveting viewing. The last 50km from Autun should be the bomb – it includes the last three climbs. But absolutely-definitely get your stream rolling to catch the Signal d’Uchon ascent and the final 20 kilometres.