July 9th - 93km
And now, at last, the chase is on. And quite appropriately the race today passes through Switzerland and St Moritz, giving us just enough time to answer one of those really crucial questions: was George Lazenby really the best Bond ever. That’s one still up for debate, but it seems fair to point out that you can only ski going downhill, so Bond wouldn’t have had a chance on stage 8. Maybe anyone who finished today should be given an "I’m tougher than James Bond" T-shirt. With rolled up sleeves of course.
There has been some talk in the peloton of how the profiles for the earlier stages didn’t always reflect the reality of the race. Well I don’t think that anyone could claim that they were deceived by today’s. Here’s where the GC begins to be decided, and if you don’t think that you’re a contender then, well, has the grupetto ever formed somewhere between the roll-out and the real start? Tomorrow’s signing on takes place in Piazza Bertacchi in Chiavenna, and thanks to the wonders of webcams you can get to watch it completely live just by clicking on that link any time beween 9:45 and 11:30 CET. Assuming that it is pointing the right way. And if you see any horror-stricken faces, remember that they are just about to start their day with 30km of climbing at an average of 5% right up to the Maloja Pass deep inside Switzerland. Wikipedia has a couple of nice shots of the last few hundred metres, here and here, but the really nasty thing is that the day is only a third done, and there are two more GPM climbs to come.
The next 30km through St Moritz are pretty flat on the map, then there is a small descent before the next climb, 20km up to Passo del Bernina (click for webcam), although at 3% average and 7% maximum it will be the distance that is the killer. Finally there is the last climb of the day, just under 4km up to Forcola di Livigno, before hitting a richly deserved 15km descent into Italy again and the town of Livigno. Salite.ch has profiles for all three of these climbs, Passo del Maloja, Passo del Bernina and Forcola di Livigno if you want more of the bloody details.
Now for the bad news. Italian journalists are all going to be on strike tomorrow, which means that there may be no video coverage. They have scheduled 75 minutes of coverage on Saturday which should include a recap of sorts, but it may not have pictures to go with it. Those webcam shots may be all that we get, so if you happen on a good one, then right click on it, save it to your hard disk, upload it to somewhere like tinypic and post it here. The race departs Chiavenna at 11,45 and is expected to arrive in Livigno between 15,00 and 15,30. The grupetto may be a little behind that schedule.
Images via www.girodonne.it