The Big Gorilla didn’t pack his climbing legs for this year’s TDU. Translation: Andre Greipel couldn’t stay with the peloton as it went up the very tough Mengler’s Hill at warp speed.
Oscar Freire, however, did, and he led a good-sized bunch over the line in Tanunda today. It was a very good result for the race as much as anything: processions tend to put the fans off.
Stage 5 is going to be the decisive stage of the race. It finishes at the top of Wilunga Hill, and does a lap prior to that going over the hill as well. The hill is not that tough from a world cycling perspective, but is hard enough to put gaps between the strong climbers and the rest of the field.
Most likely the two passes up the hill will be ridden at warp speed, as will the lap in between in an effort to put some time into the sprinters such as Heino Haussler and Bling Matthews who have remained a threat on GC.
As I noted yesterday, there are a couple of contenders with some serious pedigree…
Hesjedal is always good, and will be cranking out a massive gear at a low cadence, Jan Ullrich style, looking like he is not going as quick as everyone else, but grinding away from them all instead
Gerrans is in great form as shown from his nationals win. He also can position himself well in the bunch, and is faster than all but the sprinters when it comes to a kick. He is going to have massive local support up Wilunga as well.
Valverde is returned from his drugs ban and would not be a popular winner. He was craven in how he dealt with being caught, behaving like a primary school child, denying everything despite overwhelming evidence.
That said, he is a great bike rider, and in good form, so will be hard to beat.
Lloyd showed he has good legs at nationals last week, but may not be quite fast enough to skip away for the win as the hill isn’t quite hard enough for him.
It’s going to be a huge final 30 or 40km of racing, and the last kick will be spectacular to say the least.
Heart before head in the tipping: Hesjedal just getting past Gerrans in a photo; Valverde third.
Read more from Toby at his site, Tobbloganning.