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Tomorrow, the Dauphiné Starts to Matter

The Anneyron time trial is possibly exhibit A why pretty much all of the main Tour de France contenders are in attendance at the Dauphiné Libéré. Yeah, it's nice to climb Mont Ventoux for kicks, but the Giant of Provence isn't on the calendar in July... while time trials very similar in profile to what you see above are.

Compare this to the Albi Time Trial, a/k/a Stage 13 of the Tour. Not identical, and 40km is roughly 3/4ths of Albi's 54km distance, but I'll stick with my hypothesis that the maillot jaune will emerge in the time trials, and tomorrow's stage is the best dress rehearsal out there. The Bern time trial at the Tour de Suisse is only 33km, a bit flatter, and possibly not as warm (St. Etienne today will hit the 80s; Bern is about 10 degrees cooler).

While the top riders like Valverde, Vinokourov, Menchov and Leipheimer may not want to overheat their finely tuned engines on the slopes of Mont Ventoux, you can nonetheless expect them to use tomorrow as a true test of their form. Albi may be a month away, but it will be on the minds of Cycling's biggest stars tonight and tomorrow.