Just a quick subject today; weekends are pretty hectic at Podium Cafe Central. As we head into the mountains, you might be wondering, when is the real action going to start? Nobody can tell until it happens, of course, but here are some things to look for:
- Today was never going to be the day. Nothing less than a category 1 climb at the finish would be hard enough for the top riders to feel like it was worth their effort. Riders, even the Contadors of the world, only have so many bullets in the chamber, and they prefer to use them to maximum effect. Well, the climbs on stage 7 weren't hard enough to put large chunks of time into his rivals, and in fact it's hard to imagine any of the top ten contenders getting dropped.
- Stage 8 is a lukewarm maybe. The cream will certainly rise along the road to Avoriaz, but you might see riders preferring to keep an eye on each other rather than launching an all-out attack. A better bet is that a top climber who's maybe just below the level of a yellow jersey contender will be the one to empty his chamber on the slopes of Avoriaz while the rest just hold each other in check. The wild card is the presence of a rest day on Monday, which allows the riders to dig a little deeper knowing they can catch their breath for 36 hours.
- Stage 9 is another maybe. The Col de la Madeleine is the hardest climb in the Alps on this year's route. But the stage finishes on a descent, meaning that time gaps could shrink right back down again. I would expect a good deal of action and if we're lucky a display of downhilling prowess by one of the great specialists in that discipline.
- A certainty is that the sparks will fly in the Pyrenees, and any of those stages has the potential for all-out war. Well, maybe not Stage 16, but the others are practically a guarantee. Riders love to attack on the hardest slopes, and they especially love to peak in the third week of a grand tour, where conventional wisdom dictates that the race will be won and lost.