And Now … I love that scene from Dude Where’s My Car?
So here we sit: Rest Day 2 already! And yet it feels like forever since the Tour started. Weird stuff happens to sports fans in July. The last few days of racing have been typically explosive, with Cav making it 19 TdF career stage wins (good grief the man can find the finish line) yesterday, and Cadel defending manfully against the combined assaults of the brothers Schleck, interspersed with Thor doing the impossible. Standard Tour de France!
As it stands, Thomas Voeckler holds the yellow jersey, and at this point has ridden so far beyond the expectations of everyone involved that there’s nothing but head-scratchery being done about the defense of his lead. As was said prior to the Pyrenean high mountain stages, he just won’t be able to handle the pressure applied by the big hitters.
Thomas should drop down the GC list fairly quickly once the rubber band finally snaps and his legs point out to his brain that they appreciate how nice it is to be wearing the yellow jersey, but they’ve already provided two days of impossible, so please stop asking for more impossible because it’s just not possible. Or something like that.
Assuming Voeckler’s legs do indeed eventually rebel against his brain, then the GC race now stands thus;
- Frank Schleck leading
- Cadel +17s
- Andy +26s
- Basso +1’27″³
- Sammy Sanchez +1’55″³
- Contador +2’11″³
If we were at the end of the mountainous stages, Cadel would be the overwhelming favourite to win with his far superior TT abilities compared to the Schlecks, particularly Frank. However, there are still two key stages to go: Stage 18, a 200km monster with three hors cat. climbs, and Stage 19, a 110km kick while you’re down, covering two hors cat. climbs and a cat 1.
If the Queen Stage of 2009 is anything to go by, where the Schlecks did battle with Contador at the front of the race, while Wiggo and VDV worked together to grimly defend, eventually succumbing to an attack from Lance at the top of the final climb, Cadel is in a lot of trouble on this stage.
The key was that the Schlecks’ team made the going very hard early in the day, and then the final two climbs came super close together, allowing no respite for those struggling to hold their wheel or minimise their losses. The Schlecks put 2min on Lance, and 4min on Wiggo that day. This would be more than enough to put paid to Cadel’s chances of winning the Tour.
Stage 19 of this year has almost the same shaped double-kick climb to start with (The Telegraph followed by Galibier), but then has a third Hors cat to finish the job. If the Schlecks keep their powder dry early, then maybe Cadel can hang on, but… it’s only a maybe!
Otherwise, Contador needs to absolutely set the world on fire to get himself to within a minute of the Schlecks (and from his point of view, close to the same time as Cadel), and going on form thus far, I’m not seeing how he’s going to be able to find that. Sammy Sanchez has been allowed to sneak off the front late twice so far, but as he creeps closer to being a threat, he’ll find his moves covered more closely. He’s a solid time triallist, but not normally of the standard of Evans and Contador, so they would be comfortable losing a little time to him.
Basso is a poor time triallist, and so needs a lot of time to be a top-of-podium threat, and I just can’t see him managing that. His big strength is he has a massive diesel engine: not super good at pace changes, but able to grind a punishing tempo for long periods. He showed this strength in winning the Giro last year with some unbelievably tough stage wins, so may take the snap out of the legs of the Schlecks and Contador by the sheer intensity of the tempo.
It’s all to race for, with 3 blokes in contention for the win as it stands, and a further 3 threatening to pounce if they have any opening.
My tip for Paris?
(That’s not what I want to happen, but what I think will happen!)
We shall see.