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Anticipation: An Epic Week Ahead?


As an inexpert fan of cycling, I am always uncertain of my expectations of a cycling event. As a fan of Alberto Contador, I have been nervous about him all year - the loss to Igor Anton on a  mountaintop finish in the spring, the loss to Evans at Fleche Wallone, the time trial loss to Brakjoivic in the Dauphine, the indifferent performance in the TdF prologue, the loss to Schleck in a mountaintop TdF stage. Every time I expressed my doubts, wiser, more experienced heads at PdC have  checked my overreactions.

But tell me this, am I wrong to expect an epic week ahead? Is Andy Schleck not looking as good as you have ever seen him? Is this not the most exciting top flight duel since Armstrong-Ullrich in 2003? Here is what Bernard Hinault said:

AS: Bernard Hinault should know who is going to win the Tour, no?

HINAULT: No idea. SIf you asked me in Rotterdam, I would have said clearly Alberto Contador. But now, I have doubts.

AS: Why doubts?

HINAULT: Simply because in Avoriaz he ceded 10 seconds to Andy and he should not have lost that time, there was not enough territory for that loss. [. . .] That Alberto gave up time at that finish leaves me doubting.

AS: Then, Andy has it in his hands then?

HINAULT: No, absolutely not. He has only 41 seconds advantage. In the time trial in Bordeaux he could easily lose 2:30 to Contador . . .so Schleck is obliged to attack in the Pyurennes. If he can't, he's lost the Tour.

. . . . AS: There were doubts about Contador's team.

HINAULT: We've discovered this kid, Dani Navarro, who left them all with one powerful kilometer of riding on La Madeleine. Whatever happens, neither Schelck or Contador are likely to suffer a mental letdown. It's been a long time since we have seen two champions with their condition so high.

AS: How do you see Contador?

HINAULT: Controlling the race. Nonetheless, he is facing a very dangerous rival. Contador has no margin for error. He has the Tour in hand, because of his time trialing advantage, but if Alberto is confident about his chance, great. But any slip[s, and Andy will take advantage.

AS: And they cross the Tourmalet twice.

HINAULT: Its daunting. You know what happens in the Pyrenees - the time differentials are collosal because there is no rest. In the Alps there are valleys and a long distance to the finish.. In the Pyrenees, the riders are destroyed. It will be a battle, with the heat, there will be huge time gaps. We are witnessing a Tour that has wonderfully combined a first week on classics roads and great mountains stages for the finish.

AS: If you were Contador what would you do?

HINAULT: Follow Schleck everywhere. If he can, and does not fall, he'll take the jersey in the final time trial.

Sounds obvious but Hinault's point, I think is, there is doubt, perhaps not much, but some, that Contador can stay with Schleck on every climb. That's how I see it too. But Hinault also sees what seems obvious - Schleck on the attack.

And when one of the great climbers we have seen is on the attack against another of the great climbers we have seen, epic seems the correct adjective.

I can't wait.

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