Today Le Tour finally enters France, but what f our last day in Belgium.
Had Mark Cavendish lost too much speed because of the weight lose to make him more able to get over hills? With his team concentrating on yellow would he be able to win sprints as there will be no train?
Well yesterday I was standing in front of my TV for the last 3 km , not following what Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwin were telling me watch but keeping a track on the yellow helmet and rainbow jersey. For a change in a bunch sprint the combination made it easier to spot Cav. He was surfing off various wheels not one of which was his own team mates. At times he was following Mark Renshaw (RAB), habits are hard to break, then he got on the wheel of Oscar Freire (KAT) then when it mattered he found himself third wheel on the back of André Greipel (LOT) and his lead out man. Then he pounced just when it matter to take his 21st stage in the Tour de France and to move him into second in the Maillot Vert Green Jersey competition behind Peter Sagan (LIQ) who trailed in 6th. It was a 1-2-3 of former HTC riders though with Matt Goss (ORG) coming in behind Greipel.
Of course Cav was a top sprinter before he was given a lead out train, that was just a tool to help him win more and more easily. Yesterday he showed all the skills he learnt as a track scratch and Madison racer to get to the line just at the right time and in the right place leading for all of 1m of a 207500 metre race.
So the King is not dead, at least not yet. Though he is likely to be slumbering at least after Senlecques today. That at 119 km into the race is today's intermediate sprint but it comes before the tough last 67 km. Starting with the high point of the day at 193m above sea level Côte de L'Eperche (Cat 4) at 132 km, we then have the Côte de Mont Violette (Cat 3) at 163.5km. Then the last 16km of hell Côte de Herquelingue (Cat 4) at 181km, Côte de Quéhen (Cat 4) at 185km, Côte de Mont Lambert (Cat3) at 190.5km then the Category 4 climb to the finish at 197km to Boulogne-sur-Mer. One added element as we twist this way and that towards the sea will be the wind. This may well be a factor which breaks up any pack as much as the climbs and descents so contenders will have to be aware and stick near the front all the time.
So it is a tough stage today and not one for the mass sprint finish. We will see if Sagan can manage to keep up over the category 3 Côte de Mont Lambert before trying to repeat his stage win from Seraing. Also from that stage Phillippe Gilbert (BMC) led the main group of 45 almost up to the bolting three riders. He may well want to launch his own attack this time to ensure he has his own win. But when he launched his attack to take his stage last year it was to counter his new team mate Fabian Cancellera so we shall see what those guys do in the finish today. We've seen that the legs of both Cadel Evans and Bradley Wiggin have been able to keep with almost anything that has be put to them on the uphill finishes so far.