We are somehow into the third and final week of the 2023 Tour de France, with still only 10 seconds separating race leader Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) and second-placed Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates). Just six stages remain in this Grand Tour, one of the most entertaining in recent memory, and quite a few of those stages should feature plenty of intrigue, both for the GC hopefuls and for everyone else.
Let’s take a closer look at what’s on tap for the last week of the 2023 Tour de France!
We come out of the rest day with what could be the decisive stage of the race (although the very next day may also vie for that title). Tuesday’s stage 16 is an individual time trial, the only one in this race.
At 22.4 km it’s not an especially long TT, but the gaps are so small at the top of the leaderboard that it has the potential to be extremely important. What’s more, it features a very challenging climb. Officially it’s 2.5 km at a vicious 9.4%, but the climbing continues after the KOM point to the finish. In other words, this will be a very complicated test, and small changes to approach – like pacing, or whether riders switch to a road bike for the climb – could make a big difference. Given that Vingegaard and Pogačar seem so tightly matched in general and against the clock, this should be about as thrilling as time trials can be. There’s just 1:17 separating spots 3-5 as well.
The action should continue on the next day, which features probably the hardest climbing challenge of the Tour. For starters, the 165.7 km stage from Saint-Gervais Mont-Blanc to Corchevel starts with two first-category climbs and then a smaller second category climb in the run-up to the uniquely brutal, hors categorie Col de la Loze.
The top of the climb is the highest point in the Tour at 2,304 meters, and the journey to the top is a tough one. The metrics of the climb don’t tell the whole story; officially it’s 28.1 km at 6%, which is grueling enough, but it’s really a stairstep journey to the top: one steep section from the start of the official climb to Méribel, a brief respite, and then an extra steep second stretch to the top. The final few kilometers are mostly in the double digits.
The only other time the Tour has done this climb was in 2020, and unlike that year, the stage doesn’t conclude on the Col de la Loze. Instead, riders must negotiate a technical descent and then a very short but very steep climb (1 km at 18%) on the Courchevel altiport runway to the finish line. All told, riders could lose heaps of time on this stage, and even small differences in form could make a big difference on time. The non-Vingegaard, non-Pogačar GC hopefuls could end up battling for third pretty far down the mountain behind the two yellow jersey favorites, but the battle among the likes of Carlos Rodríguez (Ineos Grenadiers), Adam Yates (UAE Team Emirates), Jai Hindley (Bora-Hansgrohe) et al. should be fierce either way.
This will also be a big day for mountains points with so many major climbs. Giulio Ciccone (Lidl-Trek) and Neilson Powless (EF Education-EasyPost) will certainly try to be active.
The peloton will then get a breather the next day as stage 18 from Moûtiers to Bourg-en-Bresse has the appearance of a classic sprint stage with mostly flat roads into a flat finale, which should give Jasper Philipsen (Alpecin-Deceuninck) to flex his sprinting chops yet again.
Stage 19 will be a bit trickier to predict from a stagehunting perspective with a bunch of uncategorized lumps on the day and then a late-ish third-category ascent. It still looks like a sprinters day but it could go to a break. In any case, the yellow jersey hopefuls will keep the powder dry ahead of the final GC-oriented day, stage 20.
The penultimate day of the Tour will tackle several tricky climbs in Alsace across a very short (133. km) day of racing. It’s a lot of accrued climbing and has two very steep ascents, the Petit Ballon and the Col du Platzerwasel, towards the end of the profile before flattening out for the finish. There may not be a Col de la Loze on the menu in this stage but there will be plenty of opportunities for attacks.
Whoever comes out of that stage in the lead will, barring catastrophe, win the Tour de France, as the race will conclude the following day with the classic sprinters’ showdown in Paris, where Philipsen will almost certainly be the favorite as he gets one last chance to add to what has already been an impressive haul of stage wins at this Tour.
Long story not very short, there’s a ton to look forward to even with the Tour coming to a close soon. Enjoy!
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