Tour de France 2019 - race for yellow: Heavyweights poised for royal rumble on road to La Planche des Belles Filles

  • In Sports
  • 2019-07-11 08:00:00Z
  • By The Telegraph

After winning the 12th Tour de France stage of his career on Wednesday, a playful Peter Sagan told television's Matt Rendell he was feeling "exquisite, thank you."

In stark contrast, a dejected sounding Michael Matthews whose team had worked tirelessly to deliver the Sunweb rider to the line, opened his heart to François Thomazeau on The Cycling Podcast.

"I think most of them should be in a boxing ring rather than in a cycling race, yeah I guess that is sprinting," he said after losing his position and the opportunity to win his first Tour stage since 2017.

"I'm getting a bit confused in the sprints for some reason, I don't know if I should have guys with me or do it myself. Some days I have them with me, some days I don't. I'm a little bit confused on what is the best for me at the moment. I just need to get my head in the right place and keep trying."

Whether or not Matthews was unhappy with himself, his rivals or his team-mates is open to interpretation, but one thing is almost certain: he will not need to worry about such issues during Thursday's brutally hard stage to La Planche des Belles Filles.

Described variously as the toughest stage in this year's race and the opening salvo between the general classification contenders, the sawtooth profile features over 4,000 metres of vertical elevation over seven categorised climbs.

Though relatively new to the race - La Planche des Belles Filles made its Tour debut in 2012 - its place in modern-day history is assured. Each rider who has worn the leader's yellow jersey following the summit finish here has gone on to win that year's Tour. Bradley Wiggins (2012), Vincenzo Nibali (2014) and Chris Froome (2017) all have fond memories of the climb known as 'the plank of the beautiful girls'.

Though hardly a tête-à-tête, some regular readers of the Telegraph Sport live blog were in disagreement on Wednesday. While one believed the Tour had been packed thus far with "exciting stages", another claimed the race had been boring, saying it would not start 'proper' until Thursday's mountainous stage when we will get our first opportunity to see the race for yellow open up.

Neither is right, neither is wrong. For some the racing over the past five days has been 'exquisite' - how could you not marvel at Julian Alaphilippe's swashbuckling attack on the champagne stage? - to others it has been a little confusing, especially for those looking for telltale signs about who has the legs to win this year's Tour.

I guess it is all about interpretation. Let battle commence.


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