After the day we’ve had some of the riders will be looking forward to the rest day on Monday,but before we get there we have 1 cat 2 climb and 4 cat 1 climbs!
At only 168.5km it’s not a long stage but the amount of climbing and the weather(30 degrees again!)will mean that this stage will be extremely hard.Quite how the other teams go about the race will be very interesting.They will be demoralised by the power of Team Sky and might decide to sit tight,lick their wounds and wait till the Alps.The stage seems perfect for a large break to get away and never come back,although not everyone will be happy with that.There are a large number of points available for the polka dot jersey,so Rolland and Nieve might not be too impressed with a Simon Clarke going and taking all the points.I don’t think there is much they can do about it though as Sky won’t be too happy letting them away.Expect Euskatel and Europcar to put more than 1 rider in the break to help steal some points.The climbs are fairly brutal,we have the Col de Portet is 5.4km at 6.9%,the Col de Mente is 7km at 7.7%,the Col de Peyresourde is 13.2km at 7%,the Col de Val Louron-Azet is 7.4km at 8.3% and finally the Hourquette d’Ancizan is 9.9km at 7.5%.This is a horrible stage by itself but add in stage 8 fatigue and the heat and a lot of riders will struggle.
Team Sky will be delighted if none of the break are GC riders and they can just roll through the stage and see if anyone wants to attack on the last 2 climbs.
The intermediate sprint point is after 73km and 2 climbs,I fully expect Peter Sagan to be in the break and get the 20 points on offer,what he does after that is unknown.He did mountain training before the Tour de Suisse and won a mountain stage that included a very hard cat 1 climb but can he cope with 4 of them?I’d be tempted to say yes.Sagan is a show-off and wants to display all of his talents and show people he is the complete rider.
Another thing to consider is the team classification.Getting a rider in a break that wins by 10 minutes makes a massive difference,so watch out for Garmin!
Picking riders for the break is very difficult,but I’ll have a little go at it:
RadioShack – Gallopin,Voigt
Europcar – Reza,Voeckler
FDJ – Roy,Fedrigo
AG2R – Minard,Kadri
Katusha – Losada
Euskatel – the Izagirres
Movistar – Amador
OPQS – Martin,Velits
Garmin – Dennis,Millar
Orica – Clarke,Meyer
Vacansoleil – De Gendt,Westra
BMC – Quinziato
Sojasun – Feillu.
The riders know that the break will probably succeed so the early racing will be frantic with teams not wanting to miss out.
Bookies have made Voeckler favourite and you can never discount him on a stage like this.
If the break doesn’t succeed then a climber with a kick will win.Valverde,Rui Costa and Kwiatkowski are the quickest.
It should be another very interesting day.I need to have some more thought before predicting the top 3,so will update this post in the morning.
After much thought I think that the winner can’t be just a normal breakaway rider but an incredible climber.My 1st pick is Alberto Losada from Katusha.The Spaniard finished 11th in Paris-Nice this season,so he can climb.Katusha will be disappointed with Rodriguez and Moreno yesterday,so will hopefully try Alberto for a stage victory.
My 2nd pick is Gorka Izagirre.The Euskatel rider will surely be sent in the break to try and stop other riders picking up maximum KOTM points.He’s a good climber and nearly won stage 14 of the Tour last year from a break.
It is very difficult to predict the break and then the winner,so betting in-play is a must for this stage!