The next three days will determine who is serious about winning the Tour de France. We have yet to have a definitive victory by any of the contenders in this years race and this weekend features two mountain top finishes and a time trial. Right now we still have 23 riders within 5 minutes of the lead and I have a hard time believing anyone can make up any more time than that over the remainder of the race. Each day this weekend that number should drop down and I'd be surprised if we ended the weekend with more than 8 or 9 riders still in that range.
Right now Julian Alaphilippe holds the yellow jersey and has done a good job to remain at the top of the race and to extend a 1 minute 12 second lead over defending champion Geraint Thomas. Alaphilippe will likely lose time on his competitors tomorrow as the race enters into the individual time trial. I always find the time trial to be interesting because it usually separates the true contenders of the race from the pure climbers. We could see riders lose several minutes in the standings over the short 27.2km course. Alaphilippe will have the advantage of being the last man to enter the course tomorrow and that will help him to try and keep pace with riders like Geraint Thomas.
The individual time trial launches straight into a massive mountain stage. If one day can decide the entire race, Saturday has a good chance to be that day. Two major climbs and ending on the mountain climb of the Tourmalet. It's always a treat when any stage ends on a mountain top and that is amplified by stage 14 ending on a over category climb. The Tourmalet lasts around 19km and covers around 1400m of altitude increase. The climb really kicks up at the top and only the very best climbers will remain in the final kilometer of the day. A perfect set up for riders to gain major time over the rest of the race, if you can survive. I wouldn't be happy about having to go up this climb in a car, let alone a bike. Saturday will be a must watch day of the Tour de France.
The weekend does not end with a whimper but instead see's a second mountain top finish. Sunday has four mountains along the route and closes out with a first category climb Foix Prat d'Albis. This climb isn't nearly as savage as Saturday's final climb. Any mountain finish is an opportunity for time gaps to appear so I expect the top riders to separate themselves from the rest of the pack on this climb. I expect this finish to see an elite group of riders all approaching the top together, establishing themselves as the only true contenders in the race.
The general classification will see drastic changes over the next few days and I can't wait to watch all the drama. I'm going to predict we see Geraint Thomas in the yellow jersey at the end of the weekend but I'd be pleasently surpirsed if that wasn't the case. I would love to see a few riders shock us on the big mountains Saturday and Sunday and you can never predict when a major rider will crack on the big climbs. Feeling a bit off on the wrong day and you can easily lose any chance of winning the race. It's going to be a fantastic weekend.