Sunday, 11 July 2010

Tour de France, Stage 7 thoughts & Stge 8 preview.

Stage 7

I almost had to pinch myself to believe that it's only Stage 7 on Saturday, it's seems like the race has been going for a week now. Most of the major contenders have managed to be where they wanted to be come the first Alpine stage. There are of course some exceptions as Garmin lost it's GC rider in Vandevelde and Saxo lost the valuable help of Frank Schleck to aid his brother Andy. Cadel Evans is like a rider reborn wearing the Rainbow Jersey, and is the highest of the main GC riders going into the Stage.

Watching the Stage unfold I was really happy to see Pineau go after the Polka Jersey, he's doing a Virenque and bag some points on some of the easier days to consolidate his lead (not sure there really is an easy mountain or day at the Tour). It's truly great to see a French rider doing well in their Tour. Chavanel's attack was a surprise, and it surely must have raised a smile on Bernard Hinault's face (the last Frenchman to win the Tour in '85) who has been critical of both French riders and Chavanel himself in previous years. At first many may have asked what was he doing chasing after his team mate Pineau who was up the front, well by the power of riders radio's he probably found out that PIneau was cooked and this would be a great chance to re-take the Jersey back from Fabian Cancellara as he was well off the pace half way down the mountain (we would eventually roll in around 15 minutes after Sylvain Chavanel.

It must have been a crazy hot day out there as no riders I spotted where using baselayers and many choosing to ride their full zip jerseys unzipped and flapping in the wind. Many a time there was a shot of a rider pouring water over their heads or down the back to try and keep the core body temperature as cool as possible. Many riders are using special super light breathable jerseys, which can be up to 50-75 grams lighter than their normal race jersey. The Giro riders will no doubt be weighing up the choice of the lighter Prolight or the more airy Ionos Helmets. Teams I am sure will look to tomorrows stage and make equipment choices which allow the riders to remain comfortable for as long as possible.

So the winners on the day where of course Chavanel, but who else has placed themselves into a good position. Cadel Evans finished the day 1:25 on GC, with Ryder Hesjedal at 1:32. What is interesting is that both these riders seem to off the radar and the commentators are concentrating on the Contador/Armstrong/Schleck battle. Evans is riding better than ever and is really exciting to watch. In recent years he has been criticised for lacking any attacking ability. Since wining the Worlds last year he has adopted a new racing style which has ignited many a race this year. Hesjedal has 'the numbers' which means he is a consistent performer and even though he is a tall guy, he is one of the best climbers on the Garmin Team. Where will they finish overall, very difficult to predict.

Contador's biggest threat may come in the form of Alexander Vinokourov his own Team mate as it's unclear if he is really riding for Bert or not. Bradley Wiggin's is up to 11th and is moving closer and closer to the podium.

Stage 8 - Sylvain Chavanel is in Yellow and Jesus is the Lantern Rouge*

Stage 8 is the first time the peloton with have an altitude summit finish today. Normally this doesn't bring the fireworks to the race, but because Monday is a rest day it will mean that the riders can go deeper and harder as they will be able to sleep and rest properly from the heat and battle of today.

Climbers are traditionally split into those who prefer the less steep longer climbs of the Alps, compared to the shorter, steeper climbs of the Pyreneans. So I'd expect today that Armstrong, Evans, Wiggins and Hesjedal will all be up in the front group. If they have any sense they will work together to gain some time over Contador, who is much more explosive on the shorter steeper climbs. They will have to be careful and watch those riders who appear to be out of GC contention due to their time, but could end up taking the stage as people are not concerned for them on the overall. Carlos Sastre (Cervelo),  Robert Gesink (Rabobank),  Michael Rogers (HTC - Columbia) could all try to get away to away and grab some time and exposure for the Team as they have all come here with a high placing in their sights. The other possible situation is that RadioShack may send either Andreas Klöden (Radioshack) <6:00 on GC> or Simon Gerrans from Sky <28:52 down on GC> up the road to make the other Teams chase them do giving their respective GC leaders an easier time and hopefully leaving them with enough in the tank to unleash an attack on the final climb.

I expect it's going to be a long and exciting hot day in the saddle for sure.


186 Jesus Hernandez Blazquez (Spa) Astana 1:01:08

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