Monday, July 19, 2010

TDF 2010 Stage 15 Preview: Passing Casartelli

This 187.5 km stage from Pamiers to Bagnieres de Luchon near the border of Spain features several 2, 4 and 5 category climbs followed by the mother of all climbs, the hors categorie Port de Bales.

It's also the place where in 1995 Lance Armstrong's Motorola teammate Fabio Casartelli  died after a crash on the descent of the Col du Portet d'Aspet.

If you recall, Armstrong won that stage at pointed to the sky as he passed the finish line, in a gesture to his fallen teammate.The riders will go by a monument to his memory crafted in marble at 106 km into the stage.  It will be interesting to see what the riders do when they pass by his monument.

Forty seven stages of the Tour have finished in Luchon, the last in 1998 which was won by Italian Rodolfo Massi over eventual Yellow Jersey holder Marco Pantani.

It's a stage that is bound to blow apart the field but with 88 degree weather, it won't be as punishing as the Alps where weather hovered in the mid and high 90's.

And although the first three quarters of the stage should allow a breakaway, with the 19.3 km climb at 6.75 percent that sometimes increases to 14 percent, I don't see anyone making it to the end today without being caught, except perhaps Lance Armstrong--as a passionate gesture to his lost teammate. The two previous ascents are at 10.9 and 11.2 percent, similar to the grade at Mont Ventoux, and many might be expecting a move from Armstrong, so maybe he'll be taking it easy instead and working for his teammates--whose prospects for the third place podium finish is rapidly diminishing.

Still we might see some activity from Contador who needs to make some distance between himself and Schleck to secure the Tour victory. Schleck also might make a move. But will either of these two allow the other to get away? It won't be easy, expect a battle.

There is a lot of talk about RadioShack aiming for the podium for a win in the Team category. I can see that but the team award is not the big deal that Versus is making it.

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