At long last, by Monday morning we'll be in the thick of another Tour de France Alpine campaign. Outside of Flanders-Roubaix week and an occasional stretch of the Giro, this is hands-down my highlight of the season. Some data and thoughts on the flip. Hopefully Dan will start posting flyovers soon.
The big question is whether or not we have to wait for Alpe d'Huez for the real action to begin. I'd guess the answer is no. For a number of reasons:
- The stats: Km 58.0 - Col Agnel - 20.5 km climb to 6.6 % - Category H; Km 183.0 - PRATO NEVOSO - 11.4 km climb to 6.9 % - Category 1. As the km marker indicates, this is 183km, no small matter. The presence of an early hors categoire climb should make for tired legs, particularly after some fast, bumpy stages all week, and two full weeks of the Tour. There will be vulnerabilities on the Prato Nevoso climb.
- The final climb itself is only Cat-1, but it's not too far removed from h.c., stats-wise:
- It's in Italy. There are still a few Italians with visions of grandeur -- Nibali, Cunego... Kreuziger is a liquigaser. Those three at least should be thinking of stage glory. Efimkin may want to show Italian fans what he thinks of Ricco stealing his stage win. Valverde will be looking to save face.
- Finally, the next day is a rest day. Leave it all on the road Sunday boys.
Part of this is wishful thinking -- I can't stand to wait any longer, and we're having a 6am house party to boot. But with Monday off, there's no great penalty for trying a little something on this stage, and anyway with a mere second separating the top two, the riders' natural instincts should take over and result in aggression at the first sign of weakness. Nobody has a real lead to sit on, and the only guy who technicall can claim any lead will have no team to help him sit on it. So... what does that make Sunday?