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TDF 2010: Week #2 Up Close

It’s Friday, and we’re back to the business of sifting through the possibilities of the 2010 Tour de France. For this final day of the work week, we’re taking a closer look at Week #2, which means taking a closer look at the Alps: a vastly toned down version of the Alps, but the Alps nonetheless. Read on!

There’s not too much introducing to do this time around. After a tough, tense first week, the race heads uphill in earnest for the first time in Stage 7.

Stage 7: Tournus – Station Des Rousses, 161km
Ed gets us started with the background: At soccer matches in Scotland, when the opposition fans are beginning to get a tad anxious, their opponent’s supporters chant; ‘you’re not singing any more!’ The sprinters and Classics riders ‘stop singing’ on Saturday 10th July, stage 7 from Tournus to Station des Rousses, both locations are new to the Tour, and that ‘s ‘station’ as in ‘ski,’ not as in ‘railway!’ It’s a mountain top finish with another five big climbs along the way; still, it’s only a hundred miles – 161 kilometres! Today is the start of the Alpine stages, sprinters no longer think of finish line tactics – just survival. And if you’re a GC guy, then reverse that equation!

Jered: For the overall race, however, we can expect this to be a less than decisive stage. The final 14km climb to the Station des Rousses will be best described as moderate and should only rid the GC bunch of the truly incapable.

Into the Alps we go…but it’s a disappointing jaunt through the mighty mountains of eastern France.

Stage 8: Station Des Rousses – Morzine-Avoriaz, 189km
Ed: Sunday 11th July; Station des Rousses to old fave, Morzine Avoriaz and the first stage to feature in the ‘saw blade catalogue’ at the back of the Official Tour Guide that is the mountain stage profiles section.

Richard Virenque was a happy solo winner in Morzine-Avoriaz a few years back. We’re due for an ‘epic’ solo break through the mountains a la Jalabert, Virenque, and Rasmussen – perhaps better served for Stage 9.

The early part of the 189 kilometres is lumpy, if predominantly down hill, but the Col de la Ramaz at 154 K with 14 K of 6.9% and the 13.6 k and 6.1 % grind to the line provide the ‘sting in the tail’ of clichй.

You can bet your house that there will be a break fighting to hold off the charging field en route to Morzine-Avoriaz.

Jered: Again, it won’t be an easy finish, but Morzine-Avoriaz as the premier Tour de France uphill finish in the Alps? That’s appalling. The Tour’s treatment of the Alps in 2010 is akin to the massive slight the Giro organizers gave to the Dolomiti in 2009. Morzine-Avoriaz is the heart of the Alps – it will be a frustrating day as we watch so many possibilities float on by.

BUT – there could be hope: VeloNews’ John Wilcockson has compared the final climb to that of this year’s Tour de France winning climb for Alberto Contador: Verbier. It’s no Alpe d’Huez, but it should suffice to elicit some sort of selection.

Rest Day #1
Monday 12th is a ‘jour de repos;’ but the next day it gets savage again on Tuesday 13th July for stage 9…

Stage 9: Morzine-Avoriaz – St-Jean-De-Maurienne, 204km
Ed: Four major climbs dominate the 204 kilometre profile between Morzine-Avoriaz and Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne. The brutal Madeleine at 2,000 metres with 25.4 K at 6.1% isn’t the place to have a ‘jour sans,’ – as the French say, literally; ‘a day without!’

The enjoyment of the Gerrie Knetemann and Ludo Peeters on the Madeleine back in 1979 will not be duplicated this time around. The Madeleine will be all business for the Tour contenders.

The slight saving grace is that there’s 30 K off the top of the Madeleine to the finish, if you get dropped.

Jered: The lack of a summit finish won’t be too palpable here – this can only be described as a classic Alpine stage. There’s not too much to complain about in this one. I don’t love the 30+ kilometers to the finish line after summiting the mighty Madeleine. That’s a bit much. It will be interesting to see what kind of possibilities dispatched riders have of getting back on. It won’t create a finish as decisive as a big mountaintop finish, but it will be an absolutely thrilling finale with riders chasing riders, groups forming, groups trying to stay away, a stage that will require strength, panache, courage, bla bla bla – the kind of racing the ASO loves. Even better, they get their racing full of courage and panache without having to sacrifice too much in terms of continued drama in the race. No one rider is going to get away with too big of a gap.

To finish off the PEZ dissertation on Stage 9, we bring you Mr. Gord Cameron: What goes downhill from the start must, unfortunately, go way back up again. The kind of hangover morning where you’re only well enough by lunchtime to ask … did I really do something so bad last night that I deserve this?

Uphill strength will need to be accompanied with descending prowess in the finale to St. Jean De Maurienne.

It’s like your other half’s glaring gaze waking you: “Why were you not wearing your trousers when you got home last night? (Col de la Colombiиre);

What CCTV footage do the police have that you need to explain about? (Col des Aravis); Who are Candy and Misty?? If they’re not strippers, you’re probably in even more trouble (Col des Saisies); Oh, and by the way … I’m leaving you (Col de la Madeleine)!!” Ouch …

Stage 10: Chambery – Gap, 179km
Ed, take us away on the stage details, please: Bastille Day! Tuesday July 14th stage 10 and 179 kilometres from Chambery to Gap – a French win is the desired result here, so no killer mountains but a spiky profiled, tough day for the ‘baroudeurs,’ the long breakaway riders, the literal translation is ‘adventurer’ or ‘fighter.’ Tommy Voeckler (if he can keep off those Becks we saw him downing the night before Lombardy) or Viktor’s favourite rider, David Moncoutie?

Jered: Ed is spot on with this one. A break will rule the day here. Breaks love Gap. Speaking of break – this stage will retrace part of the jaw-droppingly thrilling day to Gap back in 2003 – remember the descent that ended Joseba Beloki’s career? Remember Lance’s field adventure? Yep, they’ll be descending the same road in 2010.

So if you’re remembering the descent of La Rochette, you’ll be remiss to forget about that day’s winner: Alexander Vinokourov. There’s no telling whether Vino will be able to get within 500 miles of the Tour in 2010, but hey, not too many details yet, ok?

Looking for more breakaway success? Pierrick Fedrigo topped Salvatore Commesso a few years back in another day for the breaks in Gap.

Stage 11: Sisteron – Bourg-Les-Valence, 180km
Ed: Wednesday July 15th stage 11 and the sprinters get a break, the 180 kilometres from Sisteron to Bourg-les-Valence aren’t too savage, but those days in the clouds will have weakened their locomotives and a break just might ‘stick.’

Attacks, lots of them, should dot the Massif Central stages.

Stage 12: Bourg-De-Peage – Mende, 210km
Ed introduces the day: Thursday July 16th stage 12 with its 210 K from Bourg–de-Peage to Mende is another for the baroudeurs – but only the ones that can climb; this is a tough stage. And remember, this is the south of France, in July it’s hot – Jacky Durand would have loved this one! The finish is one for the guys with fast twitch muscles and cool nerves, though – the runway of Mende airfield!

Mende seems to be synonymous with Laurent Jalabert. And why not? It was the site of, arguably, Jalabert’s greatest Tour stage win on July 14, 1995. That’s Bastille Day for anyone keeping track, and the measure for which all French riders will be held to on Bastille Days forevermore.

Gord: A Laurent Jalabert tribute stage into Mende! Bonus, as it’s a tough finishing climb up there which could cause a few overall classification ripples. 12% slopes and a 210km day will make this tough, plus the fact that it’s very likely to be boiling hot … not a day when you’re going to win the Tour, but one of those potential ‘jour sans’ where you lose everything.

Jered: Of all of the second week stages, I feel like the vicious slopes of the ‘Jalabert Climb’ could well provide for some great fun. Note that I said fun and not huge time gaps. The Croix-Neuve averages over 10% for 3.1 kilometers, hitting max grades well into the teens in the switchbacks.

Alberto Contador announced his presence with authority and gave a hint of what was to come that bright Spring day in March 2007.

It was a certain, Alberto Contador, who leapt to the victory in Mende back in 2007 at Paris-Nice. He did a great job carpentering away at Rebellin’s lead before stealing it on the final day in Nice. There was no blazing six shooter salute here in Mende that time though. Contador will surely be tempted into attacking in Mende – if ever there was a climb at the Tour de France that seems cut from his favorite fabric…steep, short, explosive.

It’s pretty in the area around Mende. Not important to the racing, but important for visual enjoyment, no?

Stage 13: Rodez – Revel, 195km
Ed: Friday’s stage 13 on July 17th is more of the same, heavy roads, heat, and a day for the breakaway as the transition from one mountain range to another is complete, with the 195 kilometres from Rodez to Revel.

Jered: Revel loves its breakaways. Remember the 2000 Tour de France where Erik Dekker hit a monster purple patch and seemed to win out of every break for three weeks? Yep, this was the site of one of those wins. He took the two-up sprint over the hapless Santiago Botero.

Going back much further, Sergei Ochakov relegated one, Lance Armstrong, to second place out of the break. See, it’s not always Ed when it comes to history lessons. I can scan the Cor Vos archives and learn my history too. Ha.

And since a breakaway will in fact take the day in Revel, we will be left to look at the disinterested field, the peppy break, and…


Week Two Conclusions
I’ll let Al have first go at some final thoughts on the second week of the 2010 Tour de France: The Alps in the second week could be decisive, but probably won’t be as there are none of the usual climbs that we love. Where is the Alpe d’Huez? Sestrieres? Then where is the Mont Ventoux? The second week could lead to the race winner showing his stuff, but there are some good stages for the Rouleurs or that long break by lower placed riders taking big time.

Jered: I was instantly pissed at the second week of the Tour when I saw it. I thought it was a lame excuse for an Alpine experience at the Tour. I have an intense dislike for negating a chunk of the race in hopes of making it more thrilling down the line in the Pyrenees. Did they emasculate the Alps to make up for the castration of the Pyrenees in 2009? The gentle Alpine voyage isn’t nearly as bad as the atrocity committed to the Pyrenees in 2009, but it is in the same ballpark. Can I just hike up to the mountaintop and yell as loud as possible: WHY???? As I calm down a bit, I am starting to come around to see some positives…ish.

There won’t be as much race photography in the second week…because there’s a fair chance that nothing all that huge will be happening to the overall. The swimmers will get their day in the pictures.

The two sorta mountaintop finishes to start the week won’t be earth-shattering, but every time the Tour finishes uphill, you can be assured of some decent bike racing. The finish in Morzine-Avoriaz should provide at least a little opportunity for someone to get some time. The stage finishing with the Madeleine should be decisive – at least as decisive as a similar stage that saw Contador and the Schlecks ride away in 2009.

We’d be remiss not to mention it, but Cadel Evans is still smiling about the exclusion of the team time trial in 2010.

I think a finish like that could be very possible. Unless something very drastic happens, Contador and Andy Schleck (maybe Frank) will be in their own class up the big climbs. The Madeleine is a big climb.

After that, the stage to Mende looks to be a great one. I’ve got big hopes for that day.

Up next – the Pyrenees.

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