Saturday, 6 July 2013

Tour de France 2013 : Stage 9 Preview

STAGE eight was the first of a two part Pyrenees adventure and boy did it deliver the fireworks we expected. Stage nine will have to really go some to match it but the profile certainly gives it a fighting chance!
It sees the field head from Saint-Girons to Bagneres-de-Bigorre but whereas the sat-nav will take you on a nice 110km ride through the valleys, the peloton face a 168.5km route which crosses one category 2 climb and four cat 1's.
It means a total of 42.9km of climbing although the final mountain comes 30km from the finish, leaving a long a fast run into the finish.
Team Sky absolutely blow their opposition apart on stage eight which means the responsibility of controlling the race falls to them. It is a difficult day to do so but it is not something that will phase or bother them.
Such was their domination that Chris Froome, and second placed Richie Porte, now have huge gaps over the other main rivals meaning they have to come out fighting if they want to get anything out of this race.
Just look at some of the gaps:
3 Alejandro Valverde - 1.25
7 Alberto Contador - 1.51
9 Joaquin Rodriguez - 2.31
23 Cadel Evans - 4.36
35 Ryder Hesjedal - 8.29
44 Tejay Van Garderen - 12.38!
For some, like Hesjedal and Van Garderen, barring a miracle the tour is already lost. It does mean that we must start talking about names that weren't considered challengers prior to the grand depart.
Movistar seem the most likely to challenge the British outfit. Valverde is now third after grimly hanging on to the coat-tails of Froome and Porte. He is 1.25 down.
Team mate Nairo Quinatna shrugged off 3 falls in 3 days to produce a great climbers display, reminiscent of the great Colombian climbers of the past like Luis Herrara and Fabio Parra. He couldn't fend off the charging Sky express though and finds himself 8th at 2.02 behind.
Rui Costa is the third challenger. He dropped away late on in the stage but is just 2.45 down in 11th. It allows Movistar to 'gang up' on Sky if they want by sending different attackers up the road and force them to chase.
Some of the strongest men of the day were the Belkin duo of Laurens Ten Dam and Bauke Mollema. They finished fourth and fifth respectively on the stage and are now fourth and fifth overall as well, 1.44 and 1.50 behind.
Roman Kreuziger also looked strong but had to wait for his team leader Contador. If the Spaniard continues to suffer expect the Czech to be given leadership of Saxo Tinkoff.
I can see one of three things happening today.
Firstly we could see the likes of Evans, Valverde and Contador attack in an attempt not only to gain time back but also isolate Froome.
Secondly the main favourites will all just watch each other and roll into town together in a reduced peloton.
The third option seems the more likely. If Sky can engineer it properly a breakaway should head off up the road and not be seen again.
There is a total of 45 mountains points up for grab and those who have designs on that jersey will want to be involved.
Pierre Rolland is one of these riders and at almost five minutes down Sky may well be happy to let him go.
Others who may possibly want to get into the break to enhance their chances in that competition are AG2R's John Gadret, FDJ's Arnold Jeanesson and Lampre's Przemyslaw Niemic.
Movistar may want to put someone in there like Andrey Amador. The Costa Rican would be a perfect man to put into the break for Valverde and co. He is a good climber, can time-trial well and could still be a danger overall. Sky would be nervous about the likes of him but may be content to let him get a small gap.
Thomas Voeckler won this competition last year and this stage looks perfect for him. He is far enough down as well to be allowed to leave so it would be a shock not to see him in the break.
Compatriot Sylvain Chavanel is another who will like the look of this profile.
For me it's between these two for the stage. If it came to a sprint Chava would be the favourite but this just stage just has Tommy written over it. Expect him to be in the break and then make a crazy attack....and make it stick!

No comments:

Post a Comment