Saturday, 9 July 2011

#TDF Stage 8 Today we climb

Yesterday's flattest stage with the exception of Paris was meant to be fairly uneventful. It was a natural sprinters stage which was proven my Mark Cavendish and his eight team mates doing exactly what they needed to do getting him as further 56 points in the Green Jersey competition, after two lead outs in half an hour. The first at the intermediate sprint where he secured 5th and eleven point and then at the end where he secured his 17th stage win on the same street as he secured his first. That tally moves him ahead of Jacques Anquetil, Charles Pélissier and René Le Grèves and alongside Jean Alavoine.

That should have been the end of the excitement, but at 39 km to go there was a crash which resulted in about half of the field being left behind the group that led. Worse for us British fans our national colours were one of the last to get up from the melée, but worse than that Bradley Wiggins when he did get up was in so much pain it was clear that he had a broken collar bone and he had to abandon. Geraint Thomas his Sky team mate who was leading the young rider category waiting for him, losing the jersey to Robert Gesink of Rabobank.

But on to today without one of the outside shouts as favourite in Wiggins.

Today we head into the Massif Central today we start at 415m and end up on the ski station of Super-Besse Sancy at 1275, but not before we encounter our first second category climb at the Col de la Croix.

Before the going gets really tough though there is the intermediate sprint at Auzances 83 km in. This will be the last we see of Mark Cavendish in today's stage. No doubt with Rojas on 167, Gilbert on 156 and himself on 150 he'll be going for whatever points are on offer, to close those gaps. Then he will sit back and climb in the back of the race up the Col de la Croix. I doubt we will see him on the finish for the category 3 climb. The stage however should see all the GC contenders in the front of the race, they'll not b challenging too much, with the possible exception of Alberto Contador. However, the climb to Super-Besse is a long straight climb of 1.5 km at 7.6% though it does start to climb up from 6 km out.

There is a false flat before the final assault but the finish is tough and will suit the real climbers more than the puncheurs. Samuel Sanchez (EUS) may well show what he has, Andy Schleck (LEO) will certainly want to make sure people know he is around. Someone like Roman Kreuziger (AST) may well be there for line honours today, he is a climber with a turn of pace in the sprint. Another one with an outside chance of the stage win today is the Maillot Jaune of Thor Hushovd. We know he can climb better than most sprinters and if he can get over the Col de la Croix with or close to the leaders he may well be in contention for the last ascent of the day.

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