Stage 8: Oyonnax – Le Grand-Bornand
Date: July 3, 2021
Stage timing: 13:10 - 17:06 CEDT
Stage type: Mountain
Stage 8 preview video
After a week riding on the flat and over occasional punchy climbs, inserted to spice up the action, the Tour de France reaches the high mountains. At the start in Oyannax, the riders will see the wooded hills of the Jura filling the view ahead of them, but after an uphill start through the Échallon forest where the day’s break should form, the route rolls along the western edge of this massif and enters Haute-Savoie to reach the intermediate sprint at Frangy.
Assuming it’s clear, the Alps will now be in the foreground. The riders will cross two categorised climbs in the foothills of the range and then, just beyond Thuet, will arrive at the foot of three consecutive first-category climbs, the last two of them the Col de Romme and Col de la Colombière combination that featured in the 2009 and 2018 races.
Race Director Thierry Gouvenou has pepped up the finale by inserting the Côte de Mont-Saxonnex before this pairing. Extending for 5.7km, it’s not long, but there are significant sections at 10 per cent gradient and more. After a week in the big ring, some may find the transition to the little ring a little uncomfortable.
The route drops equally quickly to Scionzier, where there’s a very short respite before the Romme kicks up viciously from the valley floor on a spectacular road hacked out of the cliff face. Almost 9km long and close to 9 per cent average, it’s a tough test in itself, but made even more so by the fact that it links very quickly into the Col de la Colombière, another 7.5km of climbing at 8.5 per cent, giving a total of 20 kilometres of climbing at close to 9 per cent during the final third of the stage.
From the summit, there’s a sweeping and fast 15km drop into the finish at Le Grand-Bornand, where some of the favourites may find their GC hopes have dwindled considerably just as the serious climbing has begun.
Matt White's view
The first mountain stage of the Tour is always a tricky one and it’s usually the more dominant leaders among the favourites who want to assert their authority. Even though it isn’t a hilltop finish, you have three very solid climbs back to back and then a descent down to the line.
It’s probably not a day for the breakaway, because the likes of Jumbo-Visma, Ineos and UAE will want to position their leaders in good positions for those climbs and the pace of that day will probably eat into any breakaway unless it’s a very big one and there’s a bit of a Mexican standoff between the three big GC favourite teams.
You would expect to see a very good selection at the top of climb but because it is more than 10km to the finish you might have a bigger group come to the line, maybe between 10-15 riders.
Peter Cossins has written about professional cycling since 1993 and is a contributing editor to Procycling. He is the author of The Monuments: The Grit and the Glory of Cycling's Greatest One-Day Races (Bloomsbury, March 2014) and has translated Christophe Bassons' autobiography, A Clean Break (Bloomsbury, July 2014).
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