PREVIEW | Tour de France 2024 stage 11 - Breakaway bonanza or will Pogacar and Evenepoel test Vingegaard again?

A tricky and difficult stage. The race goes into the mountains once again but on stage 11 they are short and explosive. We preview the race's main day on the Massif Central where it can be expected that the GC riders will be in action but a breakaway is likely to succeed on the day.

Into the Massif Central, the race is now heading south towards the Pyrenees. The beginning of the 211-kilometer stage is flat but the finale is rather hilly with four categorized climbs. The GC riders could have an interesting battle, but most likely we will have a breakaway contest for the triumph.

PREVIEW | Tour de France 2024 stage 11 - Breakaway bonanza or will Pogacar and Evenepoel test Vingegaard again?
Stage 11: Évaux-les-Bains - Le Lioran, 211 kilometers

It is a transition day, well suited to a breakaway however with a flat start that certainly won't make it easy. 211 kilometers on the bike will make it a long one, with a difficult finale where the climbers and classics riders will come to the front. If the GC men find an opening, the fight could easily explode in such terrain.

The Massif Central presents treacherous roads and a different challenge to that of the high mountains, which some may want to take advantage of. The final 50 kilometers of the stage has four difficult ascents. The first of which is the Col de Neronne which is 3.9 kilometers long at 8.6%, it ends with 42.5 kilometers to go, and there is no descent before tackling the next one.

This is the Puy Mary Pas de Peyrol which is 5.3 kilometers long at 7.8%, summiting with 31 kilometers to go. But this is a very dangerous ascent as the gradients go all the way up to 16% close to the summit and the riders immediately go into a technical and steep descent directly into the base of the next climb. It's a prime location for an explosive attack.

After the descent there is the Col de Pertus which is 4.5 kilometer long at 8.2%, and in it's summit is a bonified sprint with only 14.5 kilometers to go. The peloton can completely explode on this ascent if it hasn't already, as 8 seconds at the top are not to be ignored.

After a small ascent comes the last climb of the day, the easiest of the four but not an easy one by any means - adding the fact that fatigue will be high at this point. The Col de Font de Cère is 3.4 kilometers long at 5.6% and ends with only 3 kilometers to go. It's almost a summit finish. Only a tiny descent follows and then a slight uphill sprint to the line in Le Lioran.

PREVIEW | Tour de France 2024 stage 11 - Breakaway bonanza or will Pogacar and Evenepoel test Vingegaard again?
PREVIEW | Tour de France 2024 stage 11 - Breakaway bonanza or will Pogacar and Evenepoel test Vingegaard again?

The Weather

PREVIEW | Tour de France 2024 stage 11 - Breakaway bonanza or will Pogacar and Evenepoel test Vingegaard again?
Map Tour de France 2024 stage 11

Relatively warm day but rain is expected. Perhaps most will fall in the morning before the start, we may see wet roads but the rain not falling. It shouldn't be too risky. There will be some wind from the west which will mean a crosswind throughout most of the day, and a relative tailwind trend for the final kilometers and climbs of the stage.

The Favourites

GC Fight - In the end, regardless of what happens, this is the most important question of the day. After stage 9 we can say with certainty that both Tadej Pogacar and Remco Evenepoel are considerably annoyed with Jonas Vingegaard and his defensive racing. In the long climbs and high mountains there is no chance to surprise him, but on stages like this it is more possible. The two can become allies and I do see that happening, but still they would have to drop their rival to make it work and this is the hard part, because Vingegaard is very focused and does not let Pogacar go anywhere by himself.

In the summit of the penultimate categorized climb I wouldn't be surprised to see Evenepoel attack, perhaps at any moment that the race slows down. UAE, although not too likely, may also want to take this day where a breakaway is expected to win and try to sneak in Adam Yates, João Almeida or Juan Ayuso in the breakaway. It's a flat start so it's not easy, but if they do it and get collaboration in the front, Visma will be under pressure. No other team, including Quick-Step, is currently racing for victory in the race so we can expect to continue seeing UAE against Visma and UAE have to try and start using their numbers at some point. The rest, I don't expect to see much action, it's a day to tick off. We may see riders in the Top20 trying to get in the breakaway for sure, as this is a day where minutes can be gained and they will know that.

But in the end of the day, this is a stage I expect to see going for a breakaway. No team under ordinary conditions will spend 120 kilometers working on flat roads to control a breakaway with no guarantees whatsoever of taking a stage win or time on their rivals. Besides, Pogacar and Evenepoel have already taken stage wins and Vingegaard has no interest in them. And even more, the three are evenly matched uphill virtually, so working all day may not even lead to any gain at all. So as soon as the breakaway goes, someone will only work in the peloton if there are dangerous GC riders in front - although only a few riders would make this happen, since UAE or Visma will not care about almost anyone other than their direct rivals.

But with a flat start it's close to a lottery to know who will be there. There are a few riders that will have to use the flat roads to their benefit, not only to be in front, but to get an advantage before the big climbs in order to try and fight for a win. This would include riders such as Michael Matthews, Stefan Küng, Ben Healy, Victor Campenaerts, Alex Aranburu or Jonas Abrahamsen, who can then survive the climbs with the right company. Mathieu van der Poel and Soren Kragh Andersen also have this opportunity, to bring a second consecutive win for Alpecin.

Then we have other riders that will depend fully on the climbs to make the difference. They will want to be in the break but wait for a conservative race there, and have the pressure to attack uphill early and split the groups before someone anticipates successfully. David Gaudu, Simon Yates and Stephen Williams could do very well on a day like this, but their lightweight physique can certainly take a toll between climbs.

All in all there are plenty fit contenders who are either climbers or puncheurs and are all valid options for a win. Some teams have plenty options such as EF who also have the likes of Richard Carapaz, Rui Costa, Alberto Bettiol and Neilson Powless; or DSM who have home rider Romain Bardet who will be motivated, Warren Barguil, Frank van den Broek and Oscar Onley. The likes of Tom Pidcock, Maxim van Gils, Oier Lazkano, Kévin Vauquelin and Alexey Lutsenko are all also proven winners who can take it on the day.

Last but not least there are a few more cards we cannot leave out, who in the right circumstances can raise their arms in glory, but I would not rate as high as their rivals: Toms Skujins, Wout Poels, Jesús Herrada and Tobias Johannessen.

Prediction Tour de France 2024 stage 11:

*** Richard Carapaz, Maxim van Gils, Romain Bardet
** Tadej Pogacar, Simon Yates, Alexey Lutsenko, Tom Pidcock
* Remco Evenepoel, Jonas Vingegaard, Primoz Roglic, David Gaudu, Alberto Bettiol, Ben Healy, Rui Costa, Stephen Williams, Oier Lazkano, Kévin Vauquelin, Warren Barguil, Frank van den Broek

Pick: Romain Bardet

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