Modane Valfréjus to Alpe-d’Huez 69 miles
Le. Tour. De. France.
As it turns out BruceMcF was quite right to suspect that yesterday the Mad Manx, Mark Cavendish, 4 Stage winner and leader in the points competition by a comfortable 35 would come under tremendous pressure to finish inside the time limit (which yesterday was 33:07) or be dropped from the Tour.
Well he didn’t do that, and was part of a group of 88 riders that finished 35:50 back.
But there is safety in numbers and as one can imagine the Tour organizers were kind of embarrassed at the prospect of losing about half the field, including some other high recognition sprinters like Gilbert and Hushovd, so instead they used a loophole in the rules designed for after a spectacular Peloton splitting crash and fined the all the riders in the group 20 points instead.
This did a bit of reshuffling of the sprinter standings from Wednesday to Thursday and instead of a commanding 35 point lead the Mad Manx has a margin of but a bare 15 and is headed to another day in the mountains.
At the front Andy Schleck put on quite a show with an early break away after the Casse Déserte that he maintained all the way up the Galibier and gained more than 4 Minutes over Alberto Contador who has defeated him for the past two years. While the shuffling in the GC was not quite as dramatic there were still a few changes-
||79h 34′ 06″
||79h 34′ 21″
||+ 00′ 15″
||79h 35′ 14″
||+ 01′ 08″
||79h 35′ 18″
||+ 01′ 12″
||79h 37′ 52″
||+ 03′ 46″
||79h 37′ 52″
||+ 03′ 46″
||79h 38′ 50″
||+ 04′ 44″
||79h 39′ 26″
||+ 05′ 20″
||79h 41′ 14″
||+ 07′ 08″
||79h 43′ 33″
||+ 09′ 27″
The most important thing is the deltas, the time margin between competitors, because after today it will be very difficult to make up more than a minute, maybe 2, in the Individual Time Trials without a major mistake or a disasterous crash. The route tomorrow is relatively flat and short, only 27 miles.
Today’s Stage is the last in the Alps and contains 1 category 1 and 2 Unclassified climbs finishing uphill on the Alpe d’Huez. It’s fairly short so you can expect climbing attacks early.
At about 56 miles there is a descent that looks in the profile like you’re dropping straight off a cliff. They exaggerate the scale so the elevation changes are more visible but it is still a high speed and twisty bit and people, especially if they are tired and anxious, might make mistakes.
If there are any sprinters left, their checkpoint will be after that.
Tomorrow is a very busy day for me as I’ll also have Formula One Qualfying at Nurburgring at 8 am, the same time as Le Tour. Today’s Vs. coverage starts at 8 am.