Friday, July 09, 2010

TDF 2010 Stage 6 Preview: Montargis to Gueugnon

This 227.5 km stage is what one might call relatively flat, but it includes three category 4 and four category 5 climbs, enough to stall the sprinters less accustomed to hills, and putting a dent in their legs by the time they reach the final stretch.

Today you can be sure, there will be a sprinter's finish, but it's anyone's guess who will be in it, and how they will feel.

Tyler Farrar of Garmin Transitions has a broken bone in his wrist. He told Frankie Andreu at Versus today that he didn't have the legs yesterday, but usually when it comes to a one-to-one with Mark Cavendish he has a hard time coming in first. Still it was amazing to see him in yesterday's sprint: for a man with an injury in a weight bearing part of his body, he was battling it out in the final sprint at stage 5, not too far from the wheel of Cavendish.

Phil Liggett on Versus commented today that Garmin would have been better off sending out teammate Robbie Hunter for the sprint. But I am not so sure.

Team Milram pic of Gerald Ciolek 

Likely today the hills will tire out Cavendish so he will be facing a real attack from other riders at the end, including Thor Hushovd of Cervelo, Alessandro Petacchi of Lampre Farnese, Tyler Farrar, and possibly a couple of the other surprise sprinters like we saw yesterday, Gerald Ciolek of Team Milram who came in second in the sprint, and Edvald Boasson Hagen of Sky Team who was third.

In the meantime, the giants of the race are taking a back seat until tomorrow's stage, the first major mountainous run for the race this year.  It will be a 165.5 km course that begins climbing as soon as it reaches 29.5 km, and never stops from there. Three category 2 climbs will top off the second half of the stage, starting at 92 km, and ending at Station des Rousses.

Edvald Boasson Hagen when he was with HTC Columbia (now with Team Sky): Hushovd said he is someone to watch out for in this Tour

The only time this part of France has been included in the Tour was in 1996 with a climb up the Croix de la Sierra, finishing in Aix-les-Bains, but from the other side of the mountain.

It was a cold and rainy day, and Armstrong stopped on the climb and quit the race: he was diagnosed with cancer three months later, according to Velonews.

An interview with Armstrong in the Associated Press today lent a little levity to this year's historic Tour. When asked what he was going to do after the Tour was over he said, "I'm going to watch as much bike racing as I can from the beach."  He called the first few stages, "volatile and dangerous," and characterized this year's Tour as stressful with 100 guys who care about winning instead of the usual 10.

Like Armstrong, you can be sure that the rest of the climbers--and contenders for the general classification win, are looking forward to the start of the mountains so they can shed the sprinters and hangers on, and get down to some tough, tactical racing that doesn't end in chaotic mass finishes.

Asterix the Gaul, a comic book series first published in 1959. Asterix battles the Romans.  

The riders will be finishing in the town of Gueugnon today at the crossroads of the Morvan, Charolais and Bourbonnais areas, an interesting industrial town that features the Ugine stainless steel factory and the center of breeding for Charolais cows.
The area also boasts that it has green tourism, with hiking trails, and a heritage dating back to its Gallo-Roman past replete with a former potter's village. Think Asterix and Obelix, the series of cartoons written by René Goscinny and illustrated by Albert Uderzo (Uderzo also took over the job of writing the series after the death of Goscinny in 1977).

Making soup, Asterix and Obelix

The riders will be passing through thick forests in this stage--who knows, maybe one of Asterix's boars will come running out into the road and cause more panic among the riders. And hopefully,  no one will be drinking anything like the "magic potion" that Asterix so loved to use before he beat up those Romans. (If you know anything about the stories, read a correction from A. Benepe below:)
The Romans invaded Gaul (the ancient word for France), and the last hold-out village is the one that Asterix lives in.  His famous saying (or maybe it's what Obelix always says after he finishes beating up an entire garrison of Romans) is "Ils sont fous, ces Romans!".

Also, that picture isn't of Asterix and Obelix making the magic potion--they appear to be making a soup.  It's the druid Panoramix, or Getafix in the English translations, who makes the magic potion.  Asterix must drink the potion to get his super-human strength; Obelix doesn't need it because he fell into a vat of the potion as a baby, but he still craves the taste of it and is always conspiring to get a taste.

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