Well there we are. The Tour de France at the foot of the mountain. This terrible third week which in fact begins before the end of the second. Hell is for now, or at least purgatory, this Friday, September 11, between Chatel-Guyon and Puy Mary, with a thirteenth stage not entirely lucky. The black cat is likely to hang around these five passages at more than 1000 meters, with a final to bristle the hair on the slopes more than 10% of the Col de Neronne, more than 15% at the end of the ascent. .
→ ANALYSIS. Tour de France, still very high and very fast
In 2004, Richard Virenque took control of the stage in this climb to win solo at Saint-Flour, seizing his seventh polka-dot jersey and becoming the 24e French rider to triumph on July 14. Suffice to say that a climber could experience the same bloats this Friday. Or just after, because it starts again and it lasts, with the fourteenth leg breaker on Saturday through the mountains of Forez and Lyonnais, and especially the fifteenth, Sunday, with very severe from the hundredth kilometer.
Let us judge: the unique Col de la Biche which is not really famous for its soft eyes, and the Grand Colombier, surveyed on two sides, which is not for nothing called the “Giant of the Jura”.
The insidious threat of Covid-19
And these are just appetizers. Question: before the rest day, will the champions want to work them? This is not sure at all, especially since they have to deal with another ordeal: the horrifying suspense concerning their Covid tests. They will again lend their noses to the swab, and wait in anguish for long hours.
With the risk of everything suddenly collapsing, exclusion striking in the event of double positivity in a team, a single sufficient in four of those who have already known a patient (Ineos-Grenadiers, Cofidis, AG2R La Mondiale and Michelton-Scott) .
Four of the first eight in the general classification – Egan Bernal (2e), Guillaume Martin (3e), Romain Bardet (4e) and Adam Yates (8e) – standing in just over a minute, so pedal on a wire. What is the point of forcing their talent if the pandemic catches up with them in extremis? “This virus is a blanket of lead over our heads”, deplores Vincent Lavenu, the boss of AG2R training. The virus in fact adds a parameter to the waiting strategies and pushes even more to preserve its flame. How many will they be, the cadors, at the rendezvous of the final bouquet?
The fireworks resumes in any case from Tuesday, September 15 with a blinding explosion expected on the peaks. Not necessarily with the first rocket at Villard-de-Lans, but most certainly with the second the next day on the Col de la Loze. “We are all very afraid of this stage with this arrival at an infernal altitude”, recognizes Cédric Vasseur, the manager of Cofidis. At more than 2,300 m, runners will seek their breath. Strategists are already retaining theirs. Certain that failures can appear there, and big gaps widen.
The ability to withstand the test
“How will the organizations react, which this year only supported workloads that were much more modest than during the usual seasons?”, asks Jacky Maillot, the doctor of Groupama FDJ. It is on this type of stage and on this terrible week that the answers to all the questions we have been asking ourselves since the start of the event will fall ”.
The Jumbo-Visma of the yellow jersey Primoz Roglic and the Ineos of Egan Bernal certainly display impressive collective power, but the list of contenders for the coronation is as long as ever. “The level this year is super high”, recently summed up Warren Barguil, the climber-teammate of the Colombian Nairo Quintana who has not given up on making powder speak. Except that nobody really knows how the favorites will hold the shock if the firecrackers ignite by then in all directions to erode their certainties.
After the Col de la Loze, there is still some left to shake up the peloton. The sawtooth of the eighteenth stage towards La Roche-sur-Foron with a grueling Glières plateau to further tear down the morale of the troops. And then this Planche des beaux filles and its last six kilometers as steep as justice, against the clock and the ultimate justice of the peace if the game has not yet been decided.
It would be the devil, after all these summits deployed, that this Tour 2020 boils down to a stroke on the clock, even though the exercise does not fascinate many people. But don’t we say that the devil is sometimes hiding in the details? So…