2008 Tour de France Update #3
It’s do or die time now at the Tour de France. Tuesday and Wednesday in the Alps are the last chances for the riders to gain significant time on each other prior to Saturday’s time trial. Because the time trial results will be fairly predictable, we know what each team and rider needs to do prior to then.
Team CSC and rider Frank Schleck now are in Yellow. Carlos Sastre is also only 49 seconds back of Schleck. Schleck got killed in the first time trial and if those results are extrapolated to the 53km of the final time trial he will lose another 4:01 to Cadel Evans and 3:48 to Menchov. Sastre can expect to lose 3:06 to Evans and 2:53 to Menchov. If CSC wants a winner they need to do something dramatic in the next two days and I think that means tomorrow’s Stage 16.
Stage 16 has two HC climbs in quick succession and I think it would be good tactics to throw caution to the wind and attack on the first climb with either Sastre or Frank Schleck. CSC isn’t going to crack both Menchov and Evans by traditional “wait until the last climb” means. Watching Stage 15 it was evident the Denis Menchov is probably the best climber of the contenders and that he is fully capable of attacking Evans in the mountains and getting the time he needs to hold out through the final time trial. Had he not fallen on yesterday’s stage he would now be in yellow and the favorite for the overall. If CSC waits until L’Alpe-D’Huez or the final climb tomorrow to attack they will find they are simply dragging Denis Menchov to victory.
For Cadel Evans, yesterday’s stage revealed that he is strong enough to resist CSC’s attacks, but that he needs to keep Denis Menchov close enough to force a showdown in the final time trial. I expect Menchov will attack either the final climb tomorrow or L’Alpe-D’Huez or both in order to put time between himself and Evans before the final time trial. Neither Evans nor Menchov has a team that has shown anything in the mountains, so it will likely come down to a one on one battle between them on the final climbs.
Because neither Silence Lotto (Evans) nor Rabobank (Menchov) have shown well in the mountains it would be good tactics for them to find some allies besides each other in the fight against CSC. The logical choice here is the Basque team, Euskaltel. Euskaltel has the climbers needed to chase attacks in the mountains, wanted a stage win yesterday and failed to get it. In addition their leading rider, Sammy Sanchez, is far enough back that he poses no real threat to the overall unless he gets about 7 minutes. Sanchez is also an excellent descender which could prove useful tomorrow. An alliance could be formed getting Euskaltel a stage win in return for keeping CSC close over the next two days. Alternately CSC could ally themselves with Euskaltel to assist an epic attack by one of CSC’s riders in return for an Euskaltel stage win. Because they are in Yellow, CSC may be better positioned to offer deals.
For Garmin Chipotle, American Christian Vande Velde has held on bravely. He can substantially out time trial Sastre and Schleck and surprise contender Bernhard Kohl, so if he can simply hang on the next two days he should find himself on the podium after the final time trial. This would be an excellent result for the team in their first Tour appearance.
Through some good climbing Berhard Kohl of team Gerolsteiner has also launched himself into contention. Kohl was also killed in the first time trial and he can expect to lose another 3:12 in the final time trial. Kohl needs to attack if he can to gain some time, but realistically I don’t see him dropping both Evans and Menchov. A more realistic result would be for him to drop Vande Velde and turn in a good enough time trial to finish on the podium. The podium would be an excellent result for Gerolsteiner.
The next two days should be nail biters. CSC needs to pull a rabbit out of the hat in order to win, and if they do it will be both fun to watch and well deserved. Denis Menchov and Cadel Evans have both looked like strong men. If they can hold on we can tip our hats to the strongest man after one emerges victorious in the final time trial. If Christian Vande Velde continues to hold on we’ll have a good American result, a good result for Garmin/Chipotle and perhaps a concrete example of how a clean team can win races. In any event tune in for the next two days and then wait until Saturday mornings time trial, when you can wake up late, grab a cup of coffee and watch the race of truth determine a winner.
Posted by BVBigBro at July 21, 2008 10:40 AM
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|# July 21st, 2008 10:43 AM kris|
|I know that, as Americans, we're officially not supposed to care about the Tour, but I have to say that the last 1/2 hour of yesterday's stage was absolutely riveting. You had American Danny Pate, who quit racing in Europe because he didn't want to dope, contending for the stage win and then 4 minutes behind you had all of the GC contenders duking it out. Add in the terrible weather and even worse crashes and it was spectacular TV. |