Confession, I've been way, way, waaaaay behind on the chatter, but in catching up I've been struck by the number of teams targeting stage 2. Basically, everyone not listed on Douglas's yellow jersey preview, everyone not interested in defending yellow anytime soon is lining up to defend it for the first week. Why? Start with this:
Nine rated climbs, including a rather early cat-2, is nothing to sneeze at. The stats suggest nothing too odd except the Holme Moss, a full 4.7km at 7% average, which should ensure that the sprinters aren't around for the finale. Not only that but:
- With nearly 60km to go after that climb, the gap could be pretty large at the end. With a decent number of teams hammering it out for yellow, who among the sprint teams pins it back? Maybe OPQS, maybe Giant-Shimano, but even then you can only do so much to control the gap on behalf of the non-climbers when the road keeps going up again.
- Stage 1 is flat and shouldn't produce any gaps.
- Stages 3-7... if you can climb, when will they wrest the jersey from you? Maybe stage 5, certainly in the event of a crash, but my feeling is that as interesting as that stage is, the gaps might not be too great. Yes, some pipsqueak climbers will lose major time, but your puncheur in yellow should be able to hang on to a middle group.
- Even stage 8, if you can climb pretty well, might not dislodge you.
So yeah, this is a big deal. With no time trial or major climb, long-term ownership of yellow -- and all the sponsor love it entails -- is on the dock.
Riders to Watch
Whom does the course favor? Dozens and dozens of riders. I can think of a few to note (and that I noted yesterday):
- Jan Bakelants. Good finisher. And OPQS knows how to hold a jersey.
- Riblon or Peraud. AG2R would turn themselves inside out to hold the maillot jaune in week 1. Stuff like this is so good for the Tour.
- Rui Costa. I can dream...
- Arthur Vichot. Pinot probably draws too much fire, and with his handling issues isn't a great bet to hold on.
- Rolland. Or Voeckler, but I've seen that show before. Anyway, Rolland is probably saving it, but coming off the Giro he might be better served with some early action.
- Gerrans. Orica showed at the Giro how well they can hang on to the early lead.
- Chavanel. Want to see France go crazy?
One more scenario: someone gets the jersey tomorrow, but by a second or two. And the battle for early yellow turns into a week-long brawl. Yep, this should be a pretty fun start.
AmyBC's "Wine" of the Day: Cadenhead's Old Raj Gin
Why gin? Because when I think of England and alcohol, gin is one of the first that comes to mind. Also: "Gin craze."
So this gin is infused with saffron, which explains the slight yellow tone. One should probably drink it with simply an ice cube. But I wanted a cocktail. My first thought was a Negroni. But instead, I'm drinking anAviation. Because when you have gin, Luxardo and Creme de Violette at home, it becomes the right thing to do.