Well now... there are a number of theories as to how this stage shapes up. The course features eight climbs, half in the cat-4 category, three cat-3s and a cat-2. By Koppenberg's point system Update [2007-7-12 10:15:35 by chris]: which may be wrong, there are some 70 KOM points at issue today. So the going theory this week has been that either Michael Rasmussen (~:>) or one of his challengers will come out flying early on. We could even see a real mano-a-mano battle for the maillot pois, which would be a refreshing change.
HIstory is a little mixed on this point. Last year there were no truly comparable stages, but the closest early KOM points bonanza was a stage in which Jerome Pineau took off and got hold of the jersey. He wound up 30th in the final KOM points and was nowhere to be seen when Rasmussen went on his annual romp. However, two years ago the Tour came by this region of France late in the first week, and then the results were more telling. On stage 8 along the western border of Germany into Alsace France (sic?), Rasmussen emerged to win three cat-3 climbs and take third on the finishing cat-2 hill. The next day, clad in polka dots, Rasmussen left early and stayed away all day, winning a truly beautiful stage over some of the Tour's historic early climbs. The KOM points were huge: four cat-3s, a cat-2 and a cat-1.
So by this guide, it's not inconceivable that today's cache of KOM points could tempt ~:> out of his shell. Or one of his rivals. Or both. There are bigger points days ahead on the major climbs of the Tour, but for spotty jersey hunters, there are no better days to get away without the GC guys following.
A second theory, the one the Tour wants you to believe, is that today's stage will be a battle of the Classics champions. The 8 categorized climbs will presumably remind them of April in Belgium, or October in Milan? Anyway, the thought of a leading peloton including O'Grady, Cancellara, Boonen, Ballan, Hincapie, Nuyens, and so forth is indeed delicious, but the Tour doesn't ever really work that way. So file this away in "flights of fancy."
A third possibility will be a relatively anonymous breakaway that's left to stay away. My hunch is the KOM fight will begin, but the bland door #3 is runner-up. One thing I really don't expect is a bunch sprint. Have fun, I plan to join early.