Tour de France 2020 | Stage 17 (Grenoble - Méribel Col de la Loze, 170 km)

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When we think queen stage, we dont think about a stage where everybody and their mother knows that the important riders will only move with 3-4 kms left. Loze is obviously a great climb and should hopefully be visited a lot in the coming years, but the nature of the climb is such that we wont ever get a big spectacle from such a stage apart from the last 15 minutes or so. And thats basically true for a Loze MTF no matter the racing scenario, simply because the last part is so steep it discourages people to move from further out.

I dont have a problem with a MTF as a queen stage, but generally you'd want a stage where you see more action. Take the Giro stage over Stelvio as a perfect example of how an optimal queen stage should be designed (thats obviously extremely subjective), you basically ensure an entire hour of great racing with big gaps.

And in terms of the pacing, as I think LS has noted, you'd generally want such a hard MTF (which ensures gaps no matter what stages are in the horizon to potentially scare the riders) and follow it up with stages with greater potential to make a move from a bit more far out.
Great post. Also another example of a great stage was when Froome won with the attack on the Finestre. Even if Froome hadn't done a miracle ride; it already put many riders in huge difficulty (including the race leader) with still 90km to go.

Putting a brutally hard and selective climb in the middle of a stage should be mandatory for a queen stage in the last week of the race. If nothing else, it at least gives riders the possibility of going long and winning the race from minutes back and keeps the race open. There is the chance of it being a stage for the ages. On the route today it was simply impossible to go long.
 
The harder penultimate climb, followed by easier finishing climb is very popular on this forum. Mortirolo-Aprica, Finestre-Sestriere, Palhares-AX3 etc.

And with mountain stage chains, yesterday's stage 16 would be much better as stage 18. So HC MTF, multi high mountain stage, 'ambush' medium-high mountain stage.
 
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For future usage, I'd like it to be the first mountain stage of a trifecta. It's the kind of climb where the difficulty of the final climb will scare people anyway, but the final part is steep enough that it will create gaps regardless. You can then go over Madeleine or something working your way southwards for a multi-col stage the following day - Madeleine-Glandon/CdF-Alpe d'Huez or Madeleine-Galibier-L2A would be great examples, or maybe over toward Le Grand Bornand or Morzine. My only concern with L2A would be that we have more than enough Pantani beatification in the Giro most years.
Honestly, that would be the only Pantani celebration that I wouldn't mind seeing in the coming years (besides Carpegna, of course).
Anyway, there are rumours of a Granon MTF next year, if they give s that followed by any version of Briancon-Tignes I'm a happy boy.
That said, tomorrow is actually a great stage and it comes right after a super hard MTF, it's one of the few aspects of this route that I've been praising from the start.
 
The harder penultimate climb, followed by easier finishing climb is very popular on this forum. Mortirolo-Aprica, Finestre-Sestriere, Palhares-AX3 etc.

And with mountain stage chains, yesterday's stage 16 would be much better as stage 18. So HC MTF, multi high mountain stage, 'ambush' medium-high mountain stage.
Or, alternatively, restday between stage 16 and 17 and leave everything else the way it is.
 
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Great post. Also another example of a great stage was when Froome won with the attack on the Finestre. Even if Froome hadn't done a miracle ride; it already put many riders in huge difficulty (including the race leader) with still 90km to go.

Putting a brutally hard and selective climb in the middle of a stage should be mandatory for a queen stage in the last week of the race. If nothing else, it at least gives riders the possibility of going long and winning the race from minutes back and keeps the race open. There is the chance of it being a stage for the ages. On the route today it was simply impossible to go long.
Yes, Fineste, Agnello, Mortirolo, Stelvio, San Carlo.. other posters on this forum go probably make this list 20-30 climbs long. Unfortunately, the hardest climbs TdF possibly can use in France are Galibier, Portet, Tourmalet, Loze, Madeleine, Croix-de-Fer, but with a good design such stages can also cause carnage from far out even though they are not the Italian monsters we all love.
 
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For future usage, I'd like it to be the first mountain stage of a trifecta. It's the kind of climb where the difficulty of the final climb will scare people anyway, but the final part is steep enough that it will create gaps regardless. You can then go over Madeleine or something working your way southwards for a multi-col stage the following day - Madeleine-Glandon/CdF-Alpe d'Huez or Madeleine-Galibier-L2A would be great examples, or maybe over toward Le Grand Bornand or Morzine. My only concern with L2A would be that we have more than enough Pantani beatification in the Giro most years.
Could you keep same start and finish as today but add Glandon before Madeleine? Glandon would be soft pedalled most likely but it would hurt legs more than the flat did today
 
time limits tomorrow could be a serious issue. Tired legs, big climbs start early and go on throughout the stage. And there‘s a steep uncategorised climb just before an intermediate. Anyone who gets dropped there had better hope that the peloton sits up completely and that there isn’t still a fight for the break going on in the 10km before the first cat 1.

at least the big lumps (and honorary big lump Caleb) will know it’s the last rough day before Paris
 
Exposing my own ignorance here. I've seen a lot of comments about the design of this stage and others. Why should this not be a queen stage? And why do people now not like MTFs? It seems like when there are few, people clamor for more. When we get them, people say they create boring racing. Recognizing that these might be different folks. But honest questions, who has a moment to succinctly articulate basic stage design principles?
The thing about a really long, super difficult MTF is that it tends to negate any racing earlier in the stage unless sheer desperation necessitates it. The good news with regards to the Col de la Loze is that this is clearly a mountain which is hard enough that it will create gaps wherever they put it because the difficulty of those final few kilometres on top of already climbing for half an hour before you get there mean that it becomes impossible for it not to weed riders out who are suffering or struggling. However, the problem is that because that final climb is so difficult, there would be almost no chance of anybody making a move on an earlier climb - and here we had the Col de la Madeleine, one of France's greatest and toughest passes, from one of its toughest sides, too.

That in and of itself is fine, and we got some decent action for the last few kilometres here. But the issue comes when you start chaining mountain stages together. A finish like the Col de la Loze will work best as the first climb in a series of mountain stages, because if you put it later on in the chain of stages, it will neuter racing on earlier stages because nobody will dare go hard on the stages beforehand, because they could pay for it with minutes on the Col de la Loze. If Loze follows at the end of a group of mountain stages, you could then have a really well designed mountain stage with five passes and a descent finish, or a smaller MTF after a bigger climb, where the hardest climbing is 50km from home, but nobody will move until the last few hundred metres because they don't want to empty the tank before such a monolithic climb. However, do those stages in the opposite order, you will get the same amount of action on Col de la Loze, but you will get far more action on the subsequent stage, because not only have the GC guys now got time gaps they have to work with, but the domestiques will be more tired from having had to work pace up the Col de la Loze, and so an attack from two or three climbs away from home is more likely to work, or an ambush plan like Heras to Pajares or Contador to Fuente Dé is easier to arrange because the leaders' teams' domestiques will find it harder to control who gets in to the break.

The 2009 Vuelta is a great example of this principle, where because of the steep final 8km of La Pandera and the kind of time that could be lost on it, the péloton soft-pedalled the far superior Velefique stage with 2x Velefique and Calar Alto, and also minimised the action on the Sierra Nevada (via Monachíl and Collado de las Sabinas) stage letting the break take both. A year later, a much better trifecta was planned, with Peña Cabarga being short but opening up small gaps because of how steep it was, incentivising some more action on Lagos de Covadonga, whose shape encourages attacking further out plus its status as an icon of the race infers prestige on it, and then the multi-col stage came at the end of the three mountain stages block (and had an MTF, at Coto Bello), and saw Fränk Schleck attack on the penultimate climb, a Euskaltel TTT to put Mikel Nieve up to the front, and more GC action than would have been the case had it had Lagos de Covadonga, a bona fide ESP-category MTF, the next day.

The Giro also shows us that the later you put a climb like Zoncolan, the less its effect. We have seen a couple of extremely underwhelming ascents of monolithic and iconic mountains in recent memory - 2009 Mont Ventoux in the Tour, and 2014 Giro Zoncolan being particularly clear, but 2011 Finestre is also a worthwhile one to mention. In all of these races the race lead was already on the shoulders of the strongest climber, Ventoux and Zoncolan stages are effectively Unipuerto whatever you do because of how steep they are, and so there was little action because nobody believed they could depose the leader - and they were probably right. In 2010 and 2011, however, Zoncolan was used on the penultimate weekend, and because of how difficult the mountain is, it automatically set up time gaps that needed to be dealt with in the following week, and improved later racing as a result. People like Arroyo and Joaquím Rodríguez were attacking 3 climbs and 65km from home in the Rifugio Gardeccia stage. This isolated nearly every team leader and created one of the most epic stages of the last 20 years. Without Zoncolan the previous day, that never happens; too many other teams' domestiques are strong enough to help their man, and so attacking on Giau is futile, the racing has to wait at least until Fedaia (Fedaia!!!!!). If you then put a Zoncolan MTF the following day, you postpone racing even longer, because people will understandably be concerned about going into the red and then facing a mountain as fearsome as the Zoncolan the following day.

It is therefore best to put the 'queen stage' after - preferably immediately after - a stage that forces the GC big guns to work hard - and preferably their helpers too. The most obvious examples of such stages are ITTs and tough MTFs. The Tour doesn't really have anything in its repertoire to fulfil this role in the same kind of way as Angliru or Zoncolan, but it does have some climbs which are long enough and sustained enough at a steep enough gradient that they would be able to be decisive enough even if Unipuerto. The Mont Ventoux is the archetype and the most famous of these, but there are options. The Col de la Loze is definitely one of these. Others off the top of my head are the Col du Grand-Colombier via Selle Fremontel, La Plagne, Col de Granon, Chamrousse via Luitel, Tourmalet, Galibier North and Madeleine South. You can throw Plateau de Beille and Alpe d'Huez in there too for the same reason as I mentioned Lagos de Covadonga earlier - their prestige at that difficulty level. These are climbs that don't need to be in the queen stage, and in fact with the possible exception of Alpe d'Huez (as that can be chained immediately off the back of bigger and stronger climbs like Croix de Fer and Galibier North) are perfectly fine to use as MTFs, but should not be in queen stages for that purpose (where possible, though, using them as passes or descent finishes in queen stages where possible is totally fine and should probably actually be encouraged, however).

Hope that makes sense, it's a bit thrown together.
 
Could you keep same start and finish as today but add Glandon before Madeleine? Glandon would be soft pedalled most likely but it would hurt legs more than the flat did today
Believe it or not, right in the very, very early days of the Race Design Thread I did a stage which did something similar, a 205km from Guillestre to Méribel-Mottaret going over Galibier South, Madeleine and then finishing at Mottaret, which is also above the regular Méribel finish but in a different direction from where they went today and a markedly easier finale.

I can't see how that looked now because it was uploaded on tinypic so the images are gone, and I was using tracks4bikers at the time which is dead. There are a lot of fanciful things in that early Tour route though, and several things I would do differently now.
 
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Exposing my own ignorance here. I've seen a lot of comments about the design of this stage and others. Why should this not be a queen stage? And why do people now not like MTFs? It seems like when there are few, people clamor for more. When we get them, people say they create boring racing. Recognizing that these might be different folks. But honest questions, who has a moment to succinctly articulate basic stage design principles?
In the simplest way possible, it's to do with minutes of action. climbing finishes can be queen stages, but not when they have just about 20-30 minutes of entertainment, and the rest a prelude. A Queen stage must find that balance between difficulty and attrition and trying to force action from afar - so usually two big climbs and a smaller one, or three big climbs, and about 170-200km of length.
 
Pretty good take on things. My two cents is that Miguel Angel Lopez is a great climber, but he isn't a TTer. A hill at the end of the ITT isn't going to make a difference.

And, what's with so many people drooling over Quintana? Sadly, he seems to be past his prime (since last year?) Lots of hype around some of these riders, finally one of them (MAL) delivers!!
The drooling for Quintana was because in Colombia we all truly believed that He would deliver the first Tour de France victory. That happened at the hands of some one else. He keeps trying to deliver on his promise but after 2016 it has been downhill for him. He should desist on the promise and dedicate himself to having more fun climbing mountains and going for stages. He might have 2 more good years for that. But for going for the Tour victory he shut that door this year. IMHO.
 
Believe it or not, right in the very, very early days of the Race Design Thread I did a stage which did something similar, a 205km from Guillestre to Méribel-Mottaret going over Galibier South, Madeleine and then finishing at Mottaret, which is also above the regular Méribel finish but in a different direction from where they went today and a markedly easier finale.

I can't see how that looked now because it was uploaded on tinypic so the images are gone, and I was using tracks4bikers at the time which is dead. There are a lot of fanciful things in that early Tour route though, and several things I would do differently now.
Do you know how viable Loze is as a pass and how it connects to potential lesser MTFs?
 
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