Tour de France Stage 16 Preview: The Last Chance for a Breakaway
Stage 16 – Pas de la Case to Saint Gaudens – 169km – Tuesday, July 13
The third and final week of the Tour de France begins with Stage 16 – another roll through the Pyrenees, featuring four categorised climbs. But coming out of the race’s second rest day and ahead of two much more challenging days in the high mountains, it’s safe to say the Tour’s GC contenders will be happy to take things easy and let another large breakaway ride away to fight for the stage win.
The stage begins in Andorra with nearly 20km of neutralised roads down the Port d’Envalira—which the riders climbed near the end of Stage 15. The descending continues for another 35km, which will make it hard for a breakaway to get away early.
But the first of the climbs comes soon enough—the Category 1 Col de Port (11.4km at 5.1%). The attacks should come thick and fast here, with riders hoping to win the stage or score more points in the Tour’s King of the Mountains competition going up the road. The break could be quite large, with some teams putting multiple riders in the move to maximise their chances. And it’s going to be a wet day, with showers expected throughout the afternoon. This also benefits the breakaway, as the Tour’s GC contenders won’t want to take any risks this late in the race.
The day’s intermediate sprint comes after the first climb—in Vic d’Oust—so don’t be surprised to see Australia’s Michael Matthews (Team Bike Exchange) in the breakaway to try and win maximum points. Matthews is 72 points behind Mark Cavendish (Deceuninck –Quick-Step) in the battle for the Tour’s green jersey, but if Cav fails to make the time cut on the next two mountain stages, Matthews could find himself leading the competition. So the more distance Matthews can put between himself and the riders behind him (Belgium’s Jasper Philipsen and Italy’s Sonny Colbrelli), the better.
After the sprint comes the Category 1 Col de la Core (13.1km at 6.6%) followed by the Category 2 Col de Portet-Aspet (5.4km at 7.1%), two climbs that should winnow the breakaway down to only its strongest riders. A long descent off the Portet-Aspet might give a few distanced riders a chance to get back to the front, which could set-up an exciting finale on the day’s smallest, but most strategically-placed climb: the Category 4 Côte d’Aspret-Sarrat (800m at 8.4%).
While far from the toughest climb of the day, the hill comes only 7km from the finish line in Saint Gaudens, making it the perfect ramp for one of the break’s puncheurs to try and escape. The descent isn’t long and a few kilometers of flat roads before the finish should make for an exciting duel between any escapees and the riders chasing them. The final 500 meters rise uphill, offering one last chance for a rider with a little bit left in his legs to make one more acceleration for the sake of the stage victory.
Riders to Watch
With two days in the high mountains, two stages expected to end with field sprints, and one individual time trial, this might be the last chance for riders and teams looking to avoid heading home empty-handed.
One such team is Astana, a team that made waves right before the race for firing its General Manager, Alexander Vinokourov. “Vino” was no angel, but his dismissal seems to have left the team searching for an identity in this year’s Tour. They have several riders who could do well on a course such as this, with Spain’s Alex Aranburu and Omar Fraile and Denmark’s Jakob Fuglsang the team’s best bets to win the stage.
It’s also been a terrible year for French riders and teams, with Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quick Step) taking the home nation’s only victory in this year’s Tour—way back on Stage 1. Alaphilippe’s been doing his best to win another stage, and the world champion will likely try again on Stage 16. His compatriots Pierre Latour (Team TotalEnergies), Pierre Rolland (B&B Hotels p/b KTM), and Benoit Cosnefroy (AG2R Citroën Team) should join him off the front Tuesday.
It’s also been a quiet Tour for Lotto-Soudal’s Thomas de Gendt, a long-range breakaway specialist who might have highlighted this stage when the Tour began. De Gendt made the breakaway on Stage 15, but didn’t make the final selection. This stage might be better suited to his strengths. We could also see his countrymen Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) and Greg Van Avermaet (AG2R Citroën Team) go on the attack. This stage has a finish much like a one-day Classic, and van Aert and Van Avermaet are two of the best Classics riders in the sport.
On the other hand, Bahrain-Victorious has been one of the Tour’s most consistently aggressive teams, and we expect to see the team put Slovenia’s Matej Mohorič and Belgium’s Dylan Teuns in a position to win the stage and Wout Poels in position to defend the polka dot jersey by scoring points on the three categorised climbs in the middle of the stage.
When to Watch Stage 16
With two dramatic mountain stages on tap for Wednesday and Thursday, you might want to use this stage as a chance to get some work done by watching a replay or highlights later in the day. If you are able to watch it live, tune-in around 5pm to see the final climb and the 7km run-in to the finish line in Saint Gaudens.