Wednesday, July 22, 2009

TDF 2009 Stage 17:Bourg Saint Maurice to Grand Bornand

This will be one of the more difficult stages of the race, including and perhaps especially the first big climb, Col de Roseland at 1968 meters and a 5.7 percent grade. It’s a tough climb, and with rain and wet roads today, the descent can be treacherous—and will favor a good climber and descender.

Roseland is also the Col that Contador said in an interview Tuesday, he fears most. Even though the three other climbs in the stage are steeper, especially the Col de Saisies with 1650 meters, and 6 percent grade, the Roseland is the longest at18 km.

So far, at 106 km the riders have already tackled the first two climbs, and there are two more to follow, the Col de Romme with 1297 meters and an 8.9 percent grade, and the Col de Colombiere with 1618 meters and 8.5 percent grade.

Already the field is split in several pieces. Thor Hushovd is leading the charge by more than one minutes, easy to spot in his Green Jersey.

Behind him is a chase group, that includes some of the same breakaway players from yesterday, Pellizotti, Van Den, Kern, Casar, Rolland, Txurruka, Chavanel, Gerdemann. Verdugo Menchov, Bruseghin, Monfort, Arrieta, Uran, Pauriol, Lequatre, Van den Broeck, Martiniz, Hincapie, Barredo, and Voeckler,

In the peleton about 5 minutes behind the head, Fabian Cancellara and Stuart O’Grady are leading the chase.

The time difference between Hushovd and the pursuit group has not narrowed over more than 20 km. At the same time, the time to the peleton is widening. It’s where we can find the Yellow Jersey holder Alberto Contador and his teammate Lance Armstrong. For both these riders, waiting until the last minute to attack is a repeat strategy.

With such small numbers between the chase group and the peleton, it is unlikely that the group will have a significant impact on the top placements of the general classification. But one thing is clear, Hushovd is determined to put whatever time he can between himself and Mark Cavendish, so that once they reach the last stage day, which is mostly flat—his Green Jersey will be secure.

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