13 July 2011
I am really quite glad the stage was not terribly eventful. Tonight is the night they do the fireworks and I want to get this posted before I go. As I suspected, I am mostly looking forward to tomorrow, trying to figure when I should take my nap. I climbed the Tourmalet exactly how they are doing it, except I stayed in St. Marie overnight before I set out. I always like this bit of the Tour as I met a guy who I am still pals with in the hotel that night in St. Marie near where Eugene Christophe famously fixed his broken fork. My pal might even be reading this. Hi John.
The stage itself was quite standard, I fear there is more than me getting a little bit tired of a break that consists of majority French guys and another one or two. The six stayed away nearly to the end, when the sprinters' teams caught them. Then today, with it being flat, there seemed to me nothing anyone could do about the HTC lead out, and Cavendish finished it off. What an excellent team they have. I love watching the changing jerseys at the front for the last fifteen k, and especially the last few k. I must watch the videos of these sprints ten times each. I thought Cav was a bit short of help toward the end, but I guess not. He also took the green jersey, and I expect he will not want to part with it. There are two more stages where there is a sprint finish, the one I am going to in Montpellier and the the final in Paris. I figure Cav for one of those, at least. They do say he is going to sign for Sky next year, and I wonder if he will miss his leadout guys. Maybe Thomas, EBH, Swift will subordinate their personal careers in the Tour to lead out Cav, but I wonder. He has the finest leadout in the world now and I wonder if he would be wise to change. In any case, I picked him for today, so I get a few points.
Cav claims today that Greipel made one of the finest sprints he has ever seen yesterday, and that they get along fine. Odd thing to say. Not even gracious, as if it took the greatest sprint ever to beat Cav, then...
Looking at the green jersey competition, as it is the only one of interest now, we can see that assuming Cav wins one stage more, and picks up a bit in the intermediates sprints, he has the jersey. Maybe Gilbert has a strategy. For example, stay with the peloton and take points at the intermediate sprint, even if it is after a climb or two. We already know that Gilbert is going to see how he goes in the mountains for the first time. He will not join the back-markers, the bus, like Cav will. If Philippe goes well, then he could take a few points and maybe compete. But I somehow doubt it. It is very remiss of me, but I keep forgetting Rojas. He is serious, and is very capable and fast, without a huge long train like Cav. I guess Rojas has made his name, but I wonder if he can beat Cav, ever. If Gilbert fails to get points in the mountains, then it will be as it is now, in Paris. I am secretly hoping I am wrong and there will be a bit more up and down in that competition. But I don't think so. Mind you, there are a lot of mountains between here and Paris, so anything can happen.
Notice in fifth and sixth place two young sprinters, EBH whom I have already mentioned often enough, and the young Russian, Galimzyanov who has steadily placed and shown he will one day win a stage or more.
No change in GC, no change in yellow, no change in spotted, no change in young rider. Nothing to report. Actually nothing much to observe either. Other than the appalling rainstorm. We had a terrific one here as well. But the weather is meant to be good in the mountains during the next days. Hoogerland probably won't be able to keep up tomorrow, and with big points on offer, he will lose the jersey. Although apparently everyone loves him on the roads of the Tour. People will always remember him now, his identity is made. Since he is also a good rider, maybe his career is made. We will see how Gesink goes tomorrow. If it all goes as predicted he will not even get threatened on the white jersey. Heroic Thomas, we shall see. He should get dropped during the climb of the Tourmalet, but maybe will last until the final climb if they are all cruising along in a big group. Even up the Tourmalet they can do that sometime. It is the French National Day so Thomas will try hard to stay in yellow. Last thought, we have utterly no idea whatsoever who might be interested in the Mountains jersey, so as the green jersey competition dies off a little, the mountains jersey becomes slightly interesting, maybe. As it should be.
John Gadret out. Just wasted after the Giro. Like he said he was. His boss made him ride. Shame really, he was on one of my teams. Feillu out too apparently, tendonitis. He thought he would try for his victory one more time. I have not become fond of Feillu, even when he gets interviewed.
Usually, at this point of the race, I can take the top fifteen and note that several of them will disappear as soon as the road goes up. The sprinters, for example. But this time, there has been so much action with crashes and hill finishes that the top ten does look full of riders who can climb as well. No sprinters left in that GC. Most of those guys will still be there tomorrow night. I will say, and I will try to remember when Paris comes, that ALL of the guys in the top ten, will be from the top twenty on today's GC. Merely a question of who goes down and who comes up. Presumably Voeckler will go down, and Contador, for example, will come up.
But such speculation is not what I want to do tonight. Its the fireworks. I need to eat and be gone before it gets dark. I need to hang around a bit, see who is there before the fireworks start. After I will just come home. Should be a big day in the mountains, and I want to get a ride done in the morning.
As for predictions, I don't really have any strong feelings or intuitions. It could be someone from a break, someone who is way behind and just has a really good day. Guys like Uran, Gautier, Van Garderen, Moncoutié, Dupont. I predict a French winner if this scenario happens. Or it could be the winner from a wee pack of heavy guys who ride up together, Evans, Schlecks, Contador and whoever can keep up. Or someone ambitious, but not an immediate threat, could ride off and no one chases fast enough on the last climb. Like Danielson, Cunego or Vande Velde. Most likely it won't be one of the big stars, as I think they will ride up together and none of them will attack. The outsider winner would have to be from a team that is unlikely to win the Tour, as all the workers for that team (BMC, Leopard, Saxo, etc) will be keeping their boys back to stay with the leader. The leaders will be cautious on this first climb. Oh yes, and I reckon another leader will fade out of the GC today, but I don't know who.
Another small thing to watch is whether Evans will manage enough points in the mountains to threaten Gilbert or Cav. I don't think there are points for the ITT, otherwise Evans would have a good chance to overtake. We shall see.
See you in the mountains.