Tuesday, July 14, 2009

TDF 2009 Stage 10 Preview: Back to the "Flats"

Today's stage 10 will take riders 194.5 Km from Limoges to Issoudin along a mostly flat course with some category 4 and 5 climbs.

It's Bastille Day, a national holiday in France, and sure to bring out cheering fans and an extra incentive for a French man to win this stage. That means breakaway, breakaway, breakaway.

This year's Tour has been yielding a number of surprises, one of them is the breakaways that have proven successful to the very end of the stage, allowing riders who normally wouldn't be in the top 10 --to be winners for the stage. And many of them French men. Has the Tour finally become le Tour de les Francais, encore?

It's made for a good Tour over all because it satisfies (so far) those who want Armstrong and Contador to do well, while also allowing some of the lesser known riders to strut their stuff.

But today is also one of the two days when radios between team managers and the riders will be banned--oh that will make for some exciting results. Radios do help to ensure the safety of riders and help when riders need sustenance or have a flat or have crashed. But having no information about who is in front of you, how many miles ahead they are, is sure to bring some interesting results.

Paul Sherwen speaking on Versus said that when radios weren't used in the past, it made the race very dangerous because team managers would drive up to the front of the peleton to give instructions to their riders.

Shedding the elements of unpredictability and the fact that French riders will ride harder today, this stages again offers the opportunity for a field sprint finish that favors Mark Cavendish of Columbia HTC, my prediction is Thor Hushovd will try and make his mark again and retain the Green Jersey--if he has the energy after the mountains. Oscar Freire who came in fourth in Stage 9 could also be up there in the top three.

Pic from George Hincapie's Twitter page
He did a spin with the Astana team this morning, July 14th. Some really handsome men, n'est'ce pas?


We might also see a surprise attack from the likes of Tyler Farrar of Garmin Slipstream, and you can be sure the determined underdog who was harrased by fellow riders in Stage 9, Cadel Evans of Silence Lotto will try to be up there.

Over the next couple of days which are mostly flat, we can expect there will be some jostling for the Yellow Jersey--and it could change hands once or twice.

Twitter updates from Lance Armstrong and Levi Leipheimer tell us that drug control visited early this morning to both of them for testing. Armstrong also has a pic (reproduced here,) of a radio with the title "R.I. P."

Fourteen teams signed a petition to allow radios, a move that was started by Johan Bruyneel, the team manager of Astana. But all of the French teams did not sign the petition. Will the riders start their own protest by slowing down? At their own risk I say, it will only allow a breakaway to get away!

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