Wout Poels emerged triumphant from a breakaway on stage 16 and now the 2023 Tour de France enters its final week beginning with a 22.4km time trial which should favour the big guns in the GC battle.
Poels took the spoils on stage 15 but the action really developed behind the Dutchman as defending champ Jonas Vingegaard held off a wave of attacks from two-time winner Tadej Pogacar, maintaining a ten-second lead in the general classification battle in the process.
Monday’s rest day has afforded the two main contenders an opportunity to recharge the batteries ahead of stage 16, a 22.4km time trial from Passy to Combloux which is the only TT on the 2023 Tour de France route.
This is a short but steep profile which includes the 2.5km Cote de Domancy climb, featuring average gradients of 9.4% which are likely to play into the hands of the very best climbers in the peloton
Tadej Pogacar to win stage 16 @ 5/4
Pogacar and Vingegaard fought all the way to the finishing line over several days in the Alps, crossing the line together in the shadows of Mont Blanc on Sunday, and it looks likely that the duo will again be fighting tooth and nail for supremacy in this individual time trial.
A lack of racing against the clock has been a characteristic of the 2023 Tour and, when a TT does finally come along, it’s one which features a punishing finishing climb which should be right up the street of the GC men and Pogacar in particular.
The Slovene won the 2020 Tour with a remarkable solo ride up La Planche des Belles Filles, overhauling the lead of Vingegaard’s Jumbo-Visma teammate Primoz Roglic, and while this is a shorter test, his explosivity makes him an ideal candidate to do something similar.
With bigger, longer tests to come such as the Col de la Loze on Wednesday, Pogacar might not give it absolutely everything but he’ll know that this is a chance to at least take some seconds back from Vingegaard, who has been happy to defend his lead up to this point.
In addition to his win on La Planche des Belles Filles, Pogacar also won a time trial over a similar distance at the 2021 Tour. If, as expected, he can put pressure on Vingegaard, he could get close to ending the afternoon in yellow.
Adam Yates to win stage 16 @ 16/1
Wout van Aert follows the big two in the betting but the Belgian powerhouse could struggle with the steep slopes of the Cote de Domancy and, if there is someone to lower the colours of the big two, it could instead be Pogacar’s teammate Adam Yates.
Bury man Yates animated the 2023 Tour from the beginning, winning the first stage in Bilbao ahead of his brother Simon. He has mainly been deployed to help Pogacar, however, an individual TT affords him a chance to win for the second time.
Yates has not always been a top time trialist but this profile suits him and he’ll be keen to further his own GC ambitions – he sits fourth, just 19 seconds behind Carlos Rodriguez.