Starting from the town of Combloux, the 22.4km individual time trial offers breathtaking views of Mont Blanc. It's a sight that captures the beauty of nature and led Victor Hugo to describe Combloux as the "pearl of the Alps." However, some riders in the Tour de France might see this stage as a taunt from the organizers who prioritized mountains over more time trial stages.
This time trial is the only one in the race featuring the fewest individual time trial kilometers since 2015. It's a decision that has caused some top riders to focus on other races, while others who don't usually participate in the Tour have made appearances. For the riders who excel in time trials and still choose to ride the Tour, they must make the most of these 22.4 kilometers to gain an advantage. Time trial specialists have endured two weeks of challenging racing just for this one chance to win a stage.
The route, however, only partially caters to time trial enthusiasts. Nestled in the Alps, it includes some climbing sections. After a relatively flat beginning, the final 6km are uphill. First, riders face the 2.5km climb with an average gradient of 9.4% called Côte de Domancy, known for its prominence in the 1980 World Championships road race and Bernard Hinault's only world title. The final 3.5km to the finish at Combloux continues uphill.
This stage is reminiscent of the 2016 Tour de France's final time trial, which also passed through Combloux via the Côte de Domancy. However, climbing in this year's route is less severe, ensuring that lighter riders won't lose significant time.
This trial is the only opportunity for time trial specialists after two demanding weeks in the Pyrenees, Massif Central, and now the Alps.
The top two riders, Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) and Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates) are separated by only 10 seconds. Both have shown their strength in the mountains, but their performance in this time trial remains to be seen. They have previously performed well in time trials at the Tour, with Pogačar winning two stages and Vingegaard finishing second last year. The stage could be a closely fought battle between these two rivals.
Stefan Küng from Groupama-FDJ is a strong-time trialist, though his team hasn't won a stage in this year's Tour. He recently won the individual time trial in the Tour de Suisse. However, the uphill climb at the end might make it challenging for him. Küng, who has never won a stage in the Tour, will be eager to secure a victory for himself and his team.
Rémi Cavagna, the French national time trial champion from Soudal-Quick-Step, aims to win a stage in his home country. He showed good form at the Critérium du Dauphiné, finishing third. Mikkel Bjerg (UAE Team Emirates), who won at the Dauphiné, will also be a contender. However, his weaker climbing abilities might put him at a disadvantage.
Wout van Aert (Jumbo-Visma) is a strong-time trialist who excels in flat and uphill sections. Fred Wright (Bahrain-Victorious) shares similar strengths. Mattias Skjelmose (Lidl-Trek), Nelson Oliveira (Movistar), and Søren Wærenskjold (Uno-X Pro Cycling Team) could also be strong contenders for the stage.
We predict that Jonas Vingegaard will win this stage. He is excellent in time trials and climbing, and he will likely try to increase his lead over Tadej Pogačar before the final week of the mountainous stages.