Stage 16 Review
Stage winner: Michael Rogers (Tinkoff-Saxo)
Michael Rogers, coming off an overturned suspension and then two wins at Giro pulled off a mountain coup today, infiltrating the break and then winning from a group with two Europcar riders in it. Nice win and a nice job of beating Europcar in the game of tactics (not that it’s that difficult to do).
Yellow Jersey: Vincenzo Nibali (Astana)
Sit in and watch the attack. Ho hum. Nibali will be on his guard tomorrow as the short stage and massive amount of climbing in it means an ambush by a strong team is possible. AG2R La Mondiale is probably the best bet for that with two GC men if they are willing to potentially sacrifice the position of one of them for great gains later.
Green Jersey: Peter Sagan (Cannondale)
Sagan is just licking his wounds waiting for stage 19 at this point. He isn’t winning on these high mountain stages like today, tomorrow or Thursday.
King of the Mountains: Rafal Majka (Tinkoff-Saxo)
Majka took the jersey from Joaquin Rodriguez (Katusha) by stealing a point on the first climb of the day before the break got away. With big points on offer the next two days, expect both to try and get in the breakaway. A concern for both is if Nibali wins one of these two stages. If he does, he is almost certain to take the final jersey unless the other is won by Majka or Rodrgiuez.
White Jersey: Thibaut Pinot (FDJ)
Former leader Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale) was gapped on the Port de Bales and lost 2 minutes today, giving his spot to countryman Pinot. Given Bardet’s weakness in the time trial, this means this competition is likely over barring Pinot cracking and that seems unlikely as Pinot has been the clear second best climber among the GC men behind Nibali
Tactical Masterclass: Movistar
Attack as a team on the final climb and gap one of your main podium contenders because he was caught out with bad legs and you win this. Tejay Van Garderen (BMC) lost near 4 minutes today when Alejandro Valverde and his Movistar team upped the pace on the Port de Bales. That Bardet cracked as well was a bonus as Van Garderen and his superior ability in the time trial were the main target.
Tactical Blunder: Europcar
Two men out of five in the final break and no stage win. The bad tactic to day was sending Cyril Gautier up the road when they did as Thomas Voeckler was never going to be able to chase down Michael Rogers if he got a gap. When Rogers bridged to Gautier and then went by him, that was it for Europcar and the numbers advantage meant nothing as with two men they were forced to chase themselves.
Stage 17 - Saint Gaudens - Pla d’Adet
Expectations entering the stage: If there is to be a true challenge to Nibali’s rule, it must happen on this day. The break is most likely doomed with the short distance not allowing it to gain enough of a lead before the real climbing starts and the GC guys are going to be shooting it out for the stage win at the end. Expect the GC to look very different after this stage.
Jersey’s in play
- Yellow Jersey - This would be unlikely given the form Nibali continues to show, but if he doesn’t have good legs and gets dropped either early on the final climb or before the final climb, this stage could be rough. Nibali’s worst day on the way to the podium in 2012 was on the Peyresourde, the second of the three category one climbs before the HC finish.
- Polka Dot Jersey - Discussed above, Rafal Majka’s lead is not safe at all from Joaquin Rodriguez, Nibali or even a breakaway stage hunting Thomas Voeckler (Europcar).
- White Jersey - Bardet gave up a ton of time today. Given the way this Tour has been with the back and forth riding below Nibali, Pinot could easily be that victim and bring Bardet back into play on this stage.
GC items of note: With Van Garderen eliminated from podium contention on the Port de Bales and Valverde and Pinot in better positions, it is up to AG2R La Mondiale to attack for better positions. Peraud and Bardet sit 4th and 5th on GC and while Bardet needs a lot reach the podium given his limitations in the time trial, Peraud is strong and will likely make some ground up. It is possible AG2R sends Bardet up the road early to force a chase and try to blow the race apart. If that happens, there is the possibility of nearly any scenario on the road for the top 10 if Bardet gets a big lead. If not, expect another grinding stage for Nibali to crush on the final climb if he so chooses.
Stage Pick: Leopold Konig (Netapp-Endura)
Konig has been one of the better climbers in this race so far, but he is over 9 minutes behind Nibali and over 4 minutes off the podium. He also lacks a strong time trial. Given that, expect him to be given some leeway to attack on the final climb to Pla d’Adet.