Monday, July 06, 2009

TDF 2009: Stage 3 from Marseille to La Grande-Motte: Predictions

The third stage of the Tour de France takes off from one of the oldest port towns in the South of France, and will end 196 km (121 miles) later in La Grande Motte--a newer Mediterranean resort town.

This stage will be similar to yesterday's though the second half is completely flat but with unpredictable winds through the Camargue, an area consisting mostly of sand flats, water and shrubbery--and flamingos!

It's the Wild West of France combined with Florida so to speak because here competitions are held for best cowboys--harnessing steer with ropes, and jumping from horse to horse, held to roaring audiences. But the resort of La Grande Motte has glass and steel high rises dominating the skyline near the sea.

So today will also be a sprinter's day, but you can believe that there will be several teams chomping at the bit to take yesterday's stage victory by Mark Cavendish, "the fastest man on earth," away from him.

That determination is sure to make the teams work super aggressively, with some sending out diversionary riders to exhaust the teams, and others pushing to the front. But the winds could upset all that, and make it much harder to strategize until the last few kilometers. Add to that a grueling temperature, right now at race start it's 94 degrees.

There will also be more danger of crashes in this stage because of the flats and the winds. Said one commentator for Swiss newspaper Le Matin (CH),

Mais, si le ciel est sans limite, la route, elle, s'arrête aux bas-côtés, et derrière le coureur en bout d'éventail, les autres n'ont d'autre choix que de se ranger en file indienne pour chercher l'abri du vent. Le peloton ressemble alors à un élastique, qui peut casser à tout moment.

Translated, "If the sky is the limit, the route which stops at the edges (of the Camargue) and behind the first rider to the end of the fan (tail), the others won't have any other choice than to arrange themselves in an Indian file to find safety from the wind. The peleton thus resembles an elastic band that can break at any moment."
Since yesterdays nail biting finish where the last turn to the line peeled off a few riders, and Cavendish (Columbia Highroad) bicycled away from Tyler Farrar (Garmin Slipstream), 2nd, and Romain Feillu (Agritubel), who came in third.

In yesterday's final sprint, four Columbia Highroad riders pulled Cavendish to the final sprint and the win for the Green Jersey are Rogers, Hincapie, Tony Martin, and finally Mark Renshaw.

So today we predict that Tyler Farrar of Garmin Slipstream will make a big effort to steal the Green Jersey from Cavendish, and he just might succeed.

One thing to keep in mind, Cavendish has won sprints 82% of the time.

Currently with 77 km down and about 120 to go, there are four riders in front of the peleton by 8 minutes and 25 seconds, (down from 11 minutes previously) Bouet, De Kort, Dumoulin, and Perez Moreno.

Average ride speeds of the main group are wavering from 35.9 km/ hour (22.2 mph) to about 33 km/ hour (20 mph).

Expect some crashes, some aggressive behavior, and heat exhaustion among the riders, for an unpredictable finish.

PS guess who is following this stage in one of the team cars? Ben Stiller!!!!

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