Saturday, July 17, 2010

Tour de France Preview - Stage 14, July 18th

 Photo credit © Roberto Bettini
When Alessandro Ballan jumped a surging field that was hoping to set up a field sprint, I got goosebumps. The former world champion has the strength and the wits to win with tactics like this, he looked very strong. However, I forgot to account for the rage that was about to fuel Vinokourov's surge to the stage win. Instead of banging his handlebars in frustration like he did at the end of yesterday's stage, he zipped up the jersey bearing his home country's capital, Astana, and raised his hands in victory. Lance Armstrong tweeted later "Say what you want about Vino but the guy has some serious guts. When he puts his numbers on he races. Period." To ride away from the best bike racers in the world, was very impressive.

Tomorrow's first stage into the Pyrenees will see a battle royale on the Two climbs that occupy the final 50km of the 184km stage. All eyes will be on Andy Schleck or Alberto Contador, and they will be watching each other to see if there are any weaknesses to exploit. The Port de Pailheres is a particularly brutal climb. Just over 15km (9mi) with 4km of that at pitches of over 9% grades. Steep. There will be no place to hide, but you just might see someone like Sastre or Evans try to attack and get back in the overall game.

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