July 22, 2010
Today's stage through the most difficult mountain passes of the Tour de France are sure to provide a shake-up and perhaps produce the leader who will ride into Paris with the Yellow Jersey.
Contador no doubt will make his move today to cinch the win. If he doesn't he'll be fighting off moves by Schleck who is now 8 seconds behind the Spaniard. But no one expects Schleck to let Contador get away, so it will be a bloody battle up the Tourmalet. "Hopefully I can step on top of the podium that day," Schleck told VeloNews prior to the start of the Tour.
The riders will be climbing steep Cat 1 climbs up the col de Marie Blanque followed by the Cat 1 col de Soulor, and finally 17.5 km up the western slope of the Tourmalet an hors categorie climb with an average 7 percent grade. Riders don't reach the Tourmalet until they've been racing 155 km, making it a tough course overall.
The 174 km stage from Pau to Tourmalet could yield breakaways like the ones we have seen all of this Tour, from climbers who have not had a stage win yet, and see this stage as their final chance. It's anyone's guess if they would be able to say away.
If you recall Armstrong won the stage in 2002 at la Mongie, partway down the Tourmalet, as did Ivan Basso in 2004.
Weather reports predicted rain for the Tourmalet, and that could favor certain riders, northerners who are used to riding in the cold rain. But it also makes for better conditions in a sense for the climbing because of the cooler temperatures.