As they prepare for their first meeting in the Pyrenees, the contenders and stage hopefulls are 'eagerly' anticipating the clash that is about to happen on wednesday and thursday.
Stage 10 and Stage 11 should start to separate the wheat from the chaff. The first day is probably going to be a day to test out the legs and see how they're feeling, since the last climb is 40k from the end, and even if you get dropped there's time to get back on before the finish. The second day will really give us a good idea of who's got something and who doesn't, with 5 ridiculous climbs in the last 130k. Just who might those riders be? Let's take a look.
From the contenders camp we've got Floyd, Cadel, Menchov, Kloden, Savoldelli, Hincapie, Sastre, Moreau, and Mick Rogers. Those are really the only guys I see who have shown long Tour climbing ability in the past coupled with TT prowess. They are also sitting within striking distance of each other on GC. Of those guys, you've got one relatively pure climber (Sastre) and all the rest are power climbers of one level or another. There are no Lances, guys capable of climbing at tempo and suddenly putting in a huge acceleration to open a multi minute gap that they can hold to the end. They are more likely to attack, parry, attack, recover, attack, and so on until the final selection is made on the climb to the finish on day 2.
The stage hopefulls are numerous: Levi, Mayo, Zubeldia, Mazzoleni, Karpets, Oscar Pereiro, Popovych, Azevedo, Rubiera, Rujano, Wegman, Totschnig, Simoni, Chavanel, Garzelli, and some others that I'm too lazy to look up. These guys are either too far down in the GC (Levi, Popovych, Karpets, Zubeldia) than they can hope to make up climbing and TTing, or else can't TT to save their lives (Mayo, Rujano, Simoni). Some of them will most likely have to work on these 2 stages for teammates so they might not be free to go for stage wins until the overall is more properly decided and the Alps roll around next week.
There are some other guys who we just don't have enough information on (Lang, Fothen, Sinkewitz, Kessler, Egoi Martinez). Can they handle the extended climbs or will something like stage 11 just blow them up completely? We'll find out late Thursday morning.