Tuesday, 19 July 2011

#TDF Stage 16 that Tour de France Cyclo-cross descent again

Stage 16 is really going to be about the Green Jersey. There aren't enough points on offer to affect the King of the Mountains, the hills aren't big enough to make the main contenders go for it so all eyes will be focused on Mark Cavendish, Jose Joaquin Rojas and Philippe Gilbert.

The first time we will focus on the three of them is at Veynes with 45 km to go. This is where today's sprint occurs. While it is uphill we know that Cav can and will put in the effort on uphill sprints and can pull it off. On Sunday's intermediate sprint it was only the three Green Jersey contestants that showed an interest and finished in the order they were in that competition. I fully expect the same three to be contested the bunches arrival at this point again today.

Then as we get close to taday's finish town Gap we head out on a final loop. Sadly for cav it is up the Category 2 Col de Manse before heading back to Gap. Many people are writing off Mark Cavendishes chances on the stage. While there is a hill in the way and it does come at the point tha the race will be flat out it is only a category 2 and comes after the rest day. I'm not sure how HTC and Cav will do, but I think if he feels good enough he might well be able to get over close enough to the front to still be in it. It will up to Omega Pharma-Lotto to set the pace to bring the race together today an to try and test Cavendish. If they don't shake him there is 11km of descent before the Manx Missile might just get launched.

Of course Gilbert has himslef attacked on a descent before. On stage 13 he raced ahead on the descent of the Col d'Aubisque in the end for only 6 points. So that might be his tactic again today. Which is why it depends where they manage to shake off Cavendish. Cavendish himself can descend, he has to to not lose too much time on the Mountain stages. So if he hasn't been shaken, it may well become a battle on the descent. I'm not sure if it will come to that, but on fresher legs it might just be possible. However, I do expect Gilbert to make some inroads into Cav's lead in the Green Jersey today, I'm not sure that he will be contention at the top of the Col de Manse.

Thing is that descent down into Gap has become part of Tour folklore when Lance Armstrong in Yellow took a cyclo-cross approach to near disaster back in 2003. Anything is possible and the weather forecast this time instead of it being dry is for rain.

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