Stage 16: Bring On The Crucial Time Trial

It may be short, and the only one in this year's Tour, but Tuesday's time trial could well decide who wears the Yellow Jersey into Paris.

By Whit Yost |

Stage 16 – Passy to Combloux (22.4km Individual Time Trial) – Tuesday, July 18

After another rest day, the race resumes on Tuesday with the Tour’s only individual time trial, a 22.4km race against the clock from Passy to Combloux that–thanks to a Category 2 climb near the end of the course–should favor the Tour’s GC contenders over the Tour’s time trial specialists.

The stage begins in Passy, which isn’t far from the base of the climb to Saint-Gervais, which hosted the summit finish to Stage 15. From the start the riders will race north toward the day’s first obstacle: the uncategorized Côte de la Cascade de Cœur, which they’ll summit after just 4.1km.

Once over the summit they’ll race down toward the first time check, 7.1km into the stage, and then on to Sallanches. This is the fastest section of the course as the riders speed downhill from the top of the Côte de la Cascade de Cœur and toward the town that hosted the world road championships in 1964 and 1980, the latter of which was won by French legend Bernard Hinault.

tour de france stage 16 ttAfter looping through Sallanches, the riders head south toward Domancy on a long, straight false flat that ends with the day’s second time check, 16.1km into the stage. This is the power portion of the course, where riders will need to push a big gear at a high cadence, while still saving their legs for the sting in this course’s tail: the Category 2 Côte de Domancy (2.5km at 9.4%).

The road goes up immediately after the second time check and the riders will have to adjust from pushing a big gear on the road from Sallanches to spinning a lighter gear on the climb’s steep slopes. Managing that shift–and pacing their efforts so as to have something left for the climb itself–will determine which riders set the fastest times.

The riders “summit” the Côte de Domancy 3.5km from the finish line, but that’s a bit deceiving as the road–despite easing out for a kilometer after the KOM banner and the day’s final time check–continues to climb all the way to the finish line in Combloux.


Riders to watch

This stage should favor the Tour’s top-2 riders, Denmark’s Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) and Slovenia’s Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), who also happen to be two of the race’s best time trialists. Both can push big gears on the stage’s flat and downhill sections and up their cadences–and their wattage outputs–on the final climb to the finish line. Vingegaard has a slight mental edge given the fact that–as the race leader–he’ll start after Pogačar and therefore have the benefit of knowing all of the Slovenian’s times as he passes through the course’s three checks. But at the end of the day, we won’t be surprised if the gaps between the two of them aren’t enormous.

If one of these two doesn’t win the stage, our money’s on Belgium’s Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma). Desperate for a stage victory, he came close to winning Stage 15 on Sunday and is one of the world’s best when it comes to racing against the clock. His team will let him go all-out–his splits will help them plan Vingegaard’s own effort–and he can probably hold his own on the final climb.

We’re also keeping an eye on Spain’s Carlos Rodríguez (INEOS-Grenadiers) who currently sits third overall. The 22-year-old’s not a bad time trialist, and a good ride Tuesday will go a long way toward giving him the gap he needs to hold-off Great Britain’s Adam Yates (UAE Team Emirates) and Australia’s Jai Hindley (BORA-hansgrohe) for the Tour’s final podium spot.

When to Watch

Beginning around 13h00, the riders will start the stage in reverse order of the Tour’s GC standings, with the majority of the racers hitting the course at 1-minute intervals. A second group will start at 90-second intervals, and the Tour’s best riders will start the stage at 2-minute intervals. The fastest riders should cover the course in about 32 minutes.

The list of starting times hadn’t been finalised by the time we went to press, but we’ll probably tune-in around 16h30 to watch the final hour of the stage. We know that Rodríguez begins at 16h56, Pogačar begins at 16h58, and Vingegaard, the last rider to hit the course, rolls down the start ramp at 17h00.

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