Tuesday, July 07, 2009

TDF 2009: Stage 4: Montpellier Team Time Trial Preview

The team time trial will be taking off this morning along the streets of Montpellier with a lot of excitement about who can win.

They will be cycling across a 39 km/ 22 mile course that winds through the streets of Montpellier. The first half has some climbs, and the course is a bit tricky, with narrow roads, and lots of turns. The second half of the race is mostly flat or downhill, which will make it very fast and prone to crashes.

Four teams are sure to be battling it out tooth and nail:
1. Astana who has three great riders, Armstrong, Contador, and Leipheimer, all of them favorites for the Tour;
2. Saxo Bank, team of Fabian Cancellara who will be battling it out to keep him in the Yellow Jersey;
3. Team Columbia HTC, who despite working hard out front in yesterday's race, have some very fast--and determined riders like Tony Martin who is in second place overall, Mark Renshaw, and George Hincapie;
4. Garmin Slipstream with riders David Millar, Christian Vande Velde, Brad Wiggins, and Dave Zabriskie, who just might have the determination to win this stage because they haven't shown any results yet this Tour.

But our first pick is Astana. For one, a win by the team would put Lance Armstrong in the Yellow. That's not so great in terms of the Yellow for the following 17 days of the Tour--which is Armstrong's way--but as a strategic move, if they put enough time in between Lance and the rest of his competitors, it might be difficult to fight him--or even Contador--when it comes to the mountains.

However, given that the TTT is only 38 km means that even if Astana wins, unless they take some significant time away from Saxo Bank, Cancellara could still be in the Yellow at the end of the day. Not such a bad thing--he's got to defend it if he has it.

Our second pick is Team Columbia, though having raced a tough race yesterday in the wind, could really slow them down.

Following up on the Twitter sphere, there were rumors circulating yesterday that blamed Contador (and even the NY Times picked this up, minus the Twitter part), for being the one rider that let the split get away yesterday. Balderdash. As if the other 140 so riders had no legs?

A little background on Montpellier: BBB was there in 2000. It's a university town, but also has a big population of homeless young people sporting dreadlocks who hang out in the main square with their homeless dogs smoking dope and playing music. There are sure to be a lot of young, boisterous fans lining the course of this stage. It's a bit inland from the coast so although Bob Roll said it won't be so windy, Armstrong reported on Twitter this morning that their team did a quick tour of the course this morning and it's WINDY.

Just a note on the media, despite all our wisecracking, Bob Roll is doing great this morning. Not so great as the reporting in the NY Times who despite a very interesting article about filling stockings with ice to cool down the riders, got it wrong when they said the only race favorite to make it in the split yesterday was Lance Armstrong. But what about Cancellara?

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