So close yet so far, as Stage 17 of the Tour played out exactly as we expected with selection Richard Carapaz duking it out for victory with Tadej Pogacar and Jonas Vingegaard. Ultimately Pogacar sealed the win and yellow jersey with a late dash that none could match leaving Carapaz to pick up the place money.
Moving on to today and the Tour encounters its final day in the Mountains on Stage 18 as the peloton traverse the magnificent Col du Tourmalet which awaits 77km into a stage that covers just 130km in total.
The iconic 17km climb at 7.4% gradient will ensure considerable time gaps among the weary riders, but the stage reserves another Mountain Top challenge and stage finish in the form of Luz De Ardiden at 13.4km and 7.5% once they have descended the Tourmalet. A truly gruelling end to the day which should provide more fireworks.
It is hard to know how the stage will play out but with Carapaz and Vingegaard all but vanquished it is hard to see their teams work hard at keeping a breakaway in check. Will Pogacar try and claim his third stage win? Again difficult to see after his team put in such a gargantuan effort yesterday.
Yesterday it was a weak break that got up the road on flat terrain however today offers the climbers a chance at getting involved in the move with two small bumps early in the stage. With several guys still challenging for King of the Mountains and numerous teams reluctant to end the tour empty handed we expect to see a sizable bunch go up the road.
A strong bunch with good climbers may well have enough to stay away and claim the stage win. With Michael Woods, Wout Poels and Nairo Quintana desperate for points expect them to battle for the win up the first climb. However there are a couple of climbers who we see as tailor made for todays challenge.
Esteban Chaves was extremely unlucky yesterday as he punctured at the base of the last climb while travelling smoothly and he will surely be active and aggressive today. Will Sergio Higuita be allowed go for individual glory having done a supreme job in getting team leader Rigoberto Uran to the top yesterday and limiting his losses? It is hard to know with Uran still in the podium shake up.
Miguel Angel Lopez looks primed for this and he was coasting yesterday only to be pulled back from the action with team leader Enrico Mas struggling badly. Movistar need to show something today and Lopez is the ideal candidate.
A potential wildcard play could be Alpecin Fenix Belgian rider Xandro Meurisse. He has climbed comfortably with the main groups and given this is the last stage for potential glory he could be someone from left field who ends up challenging.
However the man we most like the look of is FDJ’s David Gaudu who has gone from strength to strength in the last few days and got close to bridging a considerable gap riding solo toward the front yesterday. His racing legs are there, he’s not a threat to the GC and he has shown what all the hype was about with some powerful climbing unassisted the last few days.
The Frenchman is our lead pick to claim a momentous win and wrap up the Tours ride through the Pyrenees.
David Gaudu to win Stage 18 of the TdF, 1pt win, 8/1
Xandro Meurisse to win Stage 18 of the TdF, 0.5pts e/w, 150/1
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