Friday, June 26, 2009

Vive Le Tour

The 96th Tour De France will kick off on July 4th with a 15km Time Trial in Monaco. The race then moves across the southern end of France with a slight dip into Spain prior to the Pyranees. The race then makes an air transfer to the north and proceeds across the nothern part of France to the Alps and finally makes it's way down to the "Giant of Provence" for the penultimate stage....Mount Ventoux.

Stage 1 (and it is a Stage this year as opposed to a Prolouge as it is over 10km long)-Monaco>Monaco-Stage 1 promises fireworks from the get go, at 15.5km there is the opportunity for the favorites to put some time into each other on the first day. The stage itself is a challenge with a gradual 7.5 km climb to the top of the Category 4 Cote de Beausoliel, followed by a screaming descent back into town.

Favorites: Cancellara, Zabriske,Evans, Leipheimer
Next Cut: Menchov, Hincapie, Armstrong, Millar, Van De Velde
Outside Shot: Pate, Kirchen, Moreau, Contador, Kloden

Stage 2-Monaco>Brignoles-Stage 2 looks to be a chance for the sprinters to mix it up although with one Category 3 climb and three Category 4 climbs a breakaway could conceivably get up the road and steal the sprinters day. The last climb is 60k from the finish so I expect that Columbia will have pulled any breaks back by that time and will control the race to the finale.

Favorites: Cavendish, Hushovd, Ciolek
Next Cut: Dean, Farrar, O'Grady, Benatti, Ballan
Outside Shot: Napolitano, Casar, Auge

Stage 3-Marseille>La Grande Motte-If ever there was a stage that screamed "Bunch Sprint" this one is it. Two Category 4 climbs in the middle will give some no name French rider a shot at wearing the Polka Dot jersey for a few days, but the end of the stage is flat. The last 100k has zero elevation change so the sprinters teams should be able to pull back the break and set up for an exciting day of sprinting.

Favorites: Cavendish, Hushovd, Ciolek
Next Cut: Dean, Farrar, O'Grady, Benatti, Ballan
Outside Shot: Napolitano, Casar, Auge

Stage 4-Team Time Trial-Montpellier>Montpellier-39km of pure red line hell. The Tour won't be won here, but if you are on a weak TTT team (I am looking at you Sastre) then you could lose enough time that your Tour may be over prior to the high mountains.

Favorites: Garmin-Slipstream, Astana, Columbia-High Road
Next Cut: Saxo Bank, Rabobank, Milram, Cervelo Test Team, Caisse D'Espargne
Outside Shot: Everyone else....this is going to be UGLY!!

Stage 5-Le Cap D'Agde>Perpignan-This stage is a breakaway artists dream. With the big guns resting their legs after yesterdays TTT and looking forward to the High Mountains in two days time a break composed of the right riders should stay away until the end. Look for some no name French rider to win the stage and possibly take the Yellow Jersey.

Favorites: Some dude off of a French Team
Next Cut: Some other dude off a French Team
Outside Shot: Someone not French on a French Team

Stage 6-Girona>Barcelona-The Tour visits Spain for this rolling stage before the High Mountains. With three Category 4 and two Category 3 climbs on the route, look for whatever no name Frenchman wearing the Polka Dots to go out and consolidate his lead before the real climbers come out and play tomorrow. The sprinters will want this one since their opportunities from here on out are few.

Favorites: Cavendish, Ciolek, Hushovd
Next Cut: Some random dude that is an hour down already.
Outside Shot: Anyone from BBox, Cofidis, Agritubel, FDJ, or Ag2R

Stage 7-Barcelona>Andorre Arcalis-The first of the High Mountain stages and the longest stage of this year's Tour should make for an interesting day. There are 5 categorized climbs starting off with a Cat 4 climb and then two Cat 3 climbs sandwiched around a Cat 1 climb. The stage finishes on top of the HC Arcalis. I don't think that the big boys are going to duke it out on this first climb, but rather they will mark each other so as not to lose any time. Expect a pure climber to win this stage.

Favorites: Gessink, Hesjedal,Kruziger, A. Schlek, F.Schlek, Sastre

Next Cut: Any of the GC guys should one of the other favorites attack

Outside Shot: One of the mountain goats from Euskatel. It is their home turf after all.

Stage 8-Andorre-La Vielle>Saint Girons-With two Cat 1 climbs and a nasty Cat 2 sandwiched between them this stage could be fireworks, or with its downhill finish could be nothing. I expect that the GC contenders will again be content to mark each other and barring an attack from a contender, sit in for this stage. Expect a breakaway/climber to win this stage.

Favorites: Gessink, Hesjedal, Kruziger, A. Schlek, F.Schlek, Kirchen

Next Cut: Any of the GC Contenders if one attacks

Outside Shot: Euskatel guys

Stage 9-Saint Gaudens>Tarbes-Two of the Tours most famous climbs make an appearance here, unfortunately they are so far away from the finish line that it won't make a difference. The Col de Tourmalet and Col de Aspin fall right in the middle of this stage and are only 30km apart, however even if one of the GC men should faulter on the the Tourmalet his team should be able to bring him back to the peleton in plenty of time to reach the finish without giving up time. Expect whomever is the KOM leader to go out point hunting today to consolidate his lead.

Favorites: Gessink, Dessel, LL Sanchez

Next Cut: Moncoutie, either Schlek

Outside Shot: Random guy no one has ever heard of that is an hour down already.

Stage 10-Limoge>Issoudun-After a rest day in Limoge, the Tour heads north on a relatively flat stage. There are three Cat 4 climbs in the first 60 km but after that it is pretty flat. Expect the sprinters (that are left) to contest this stage as the opportunities for a stage win are growing small. It is July 14th (Bastille Day) so you can expect a Frenchman to make a go of it either in a breakaway or in the sprint.

Favorites: Cavendish, Hushovd, Ciolek

Next Cut: Moncoutie, S. Chavanel, some random French dude.

Outside Shot: Any random French dude.

Stage 11-Vatan>Saint-Fargeau-Another flatish stage heading north. The only bumps in the road are two Cat 4 climbs one at the beginning and one at the end. I would be shocked if this is not a bunch sprint at the end.

Favorites: Cavendish, Hushovd, Ciolek

Next Cut: Eisel, Farrar, Dean

Outside Shot: Some guy no one has ever heard of.....

Stage 12-Tonnerre>Vittel-This is an interesting stage that could feature some fireworks toward the end. There are six catogorized climbs ( five Cat 4 and one Cat 3) none of which are all that difficult, however the placement of the Cat 3 climb 30km from the finish could allow a breakaway artist to go and stay away until the end.

Favorites: Voight, Asle-Arveson, Flecha

Next Cut: Eisel, Pate, Pozzato

Outside Shot: Anyone....this stage is hard to predict.

Stage 13-Vittel>Colmar-The Tour visits the Vosges for the first time in a couple of years. This stage has all the makings of an attack-fest. With the Alps starting in just two days (and only one stage being a true mountain top finish) expect one or more of the GC men to attack on this day to try and either get back some lost time or gain time going into the mountains and the final TT. There are 5 catagorized climbs on this route, with the tricky Cat 1, Cat 3, and Cat 2 trifecta in the last 70km (the Cat 2 climb coming just 20k from the finish). This is definitely a can't miss stage for viewing.

Favorites: Leipheimer, Menchov, either Schleck, Evans

Next Cut: Krueziger, Vande Velde, LL Sanchez, Gessink

Outside Shot: Dessel, Moureau, Popovich, Hincapie

Stage 14-Colmar>Besancon-A relatively benign stage, this should be a bunch sprint. After yesterday's attackfest and the high mountains starting tomorrow, expect the GC guys to sit in and save their energy. Depending on the fatigue factor the win today could also go to someone in the breakaway.

Favorites: Cavendish, Hushovd, Ciolek, Freire

Next Cut: Farrar, Dean, Eisel

Outside Shot: Close your eyes and pick one....this has the potential to be an "I don't care" stage by the peleton.

Stage 15-Pontalier>Verbier-The Alps begin today and here is where the GC contenders will position themselves for the last week of the Tour. There are 6 catagorized climbs on this 200k stage, however the first 4 are Cat 3 climbs and fall in the first 74km. The remaining 2 climbs (one Cat 2 and the finshing climb of Verbier {Cat 1}) should separate the men from the boys. The final climb is 8.8 km long (relatively short by Tour standards) and has a maximum grade of 7.5% so it isn't that steep either. Don't expect the true contenders to lose too much time on this one.

Favorites: Contador, Armstrong, Sastre, Menchov, Vande Velde, Evans, either Schleck, Gesink

Next Cut: Leipheimer, Kloden, Rodgers, Hesjedal, Kruziger

Outside Shot: Anyone from Euskatel, Karpets, Gerdeman, Popovich

Stage 16-Martigny>Bourg-Saint-Maurice-Day 2 in the Alps. Only 2 climbs on this stage but boy are they both tough! Just 40k into the stage the Col du Grand Saint Bernard is a leg burning 24.4 km long at an average of 6.2% grade. This earns the higest classification of an HC climb. The second climb is equally as tough if not as long. The Col du Petit-Saint-Bernard comes at 128 km in and is 22.6 km long with an average grade of 5.1 %. With 30k from the summit of the last climb to the finish line, I don't expect that this will blow the GC apart. That being said if you get dropped on the first climb and can't get back on by the second one your Tour is pretty much over. I expect the main GC guys to stay together and whomever is the leader of the KOM competition to go out on a solo break and win.

Favorites: Gessink, All the main GC contenders

Next Cut: Voeckler, Moncoutie

Outside Shot: anyone who is a decent climber and is so far down on GC that the peleton won't bother to chase.

Stage 17-Bourg-Saint-Maurice>Le Grande-Bornand-Here is where the GC will be thinned out and we will see the final podium start to take shape. There are 5 catagorized climbs (4 Cat 1 and one Cat 2) all of which are long, steep, and hard. The summit of the last climb and the finish line are only separated by 15 km so whomever crests the last climb first should win the stage. The climbs are as follows:

Km 18.0 - Cormet de Roselend (D.902-D.925) - 18.1 km climb to 5.7 % - Category 1
Km 56.0 - Col des Saisies - 15.1 km climb to 6 % - Category 1
Km 111.5 - Côte d'Araches - 6.3 km climb to 7 % - Category 2
Km 140.5 - Col de Romme - 8.8 km climb to 8.9 % - Category 1
Km 154.5 - Col de la Colombière - 7.5 km climb to 8.5 % - Category 1

All I have to say is OUCH!!

Favorites: Contador, Sastre, Armstrong, Gessink

Next Cut: Evans, Menchov, Leipheimer, Kloden, Vande Velde, Gerdeman, Rodgers

Outside Shot: Kirchen, Dessel, Moncoutie, S. Chavanel

Stage 18-Annecy>Annecy-Normally this would be the day that shakes up the GC and sets the final podium for Paris. Not this year! With the Giant of Prevance looming in just a few days the GC men will approach this TT differently than in years past. Last year it was a climber (Sastre) who had to hold off a Time Trialist (Evans) in order to secure the yellow jersey and win the Tour. Today's TT will be more about the strong time trial riders trying to gain back time on the pure climbers that might be ahead of them on GC and the climbers trying to limit their loses so that they still have a chance on Mount Ventoux.

Favorites: Armstrong, Leipheimer, Menchov, Evans, Cancellara, Zabriske, Millar

Next Cut: Contador, Kloden, Rogers, Hincapie, Karpets, Gerdeman

Outside Shot: Sastre, Gessink, S. Chavanel

Stage 19-Bergoin-Jellieau>Aubenas-This stage on paper is a breakaway winner's dream. It's the day after the final TT and the day before the showdown on Mount Ventoux so in theory the GC contenders (what is left of them) should sit in and save their energy for tomorrow and the sprinters aren't going to make it over the last Cat 2 climb in time to make it a bunch sprint so a breakaway rider or riders who can climb should win this stage....right? In the words of Lee Corso..not so fast my friend. The last climb on this stage is a nasty little Cat 2 that is only 14km from the finish. If one or more of the GC men are within a minute or two of a podium position then expect an attack on this climb to try to take back a bit more time before tomorrow.

Favorites: Voight, Moncoutie, anyone a long way down on GC

Next Cut: any Frenchman that hasn't contended for a stage win

Outside Shot: Anyone..literally. It could be a GC man or someone 3 hours down.

Stage 20-Montelimar>Mount Ventoux-The Queen stage of the Tour. Today will decide the final podium in Paris. There are 5 catogorized climbs on this stage none of which should factor in the final results except for the final one....Mount Ventoux. The Giant of Prevance is 21.1 km long at an average gradient of 7.6%. This stage could go either way, it could be a final showdown between 3,4, or 5 remaining GC contenders or it could be a matter of the Maillot Jaune just surviving to the top to seal his victory. I expect Lance to win this stage one way or the other, if he is wearing yellow then it will be a crowning acheivement to an 8th Tour victory, if he is not in yellow then I expect him to win to try and erase the regret of gifting the stage to Marco Pantani in the 2002 Tour.

Favorites: Armstrong, Contador, Gessink

Next Cut: Leipheimer, Evans, Kloden, Sastre, Vande Velde

Outside Shot: No one outside the Top 5 on GC

Stage 21-Montereau-Fault-Yonne>Paris-The final stage! Who will be drinking champagne on the way to Paris? Expect a sprinter to win here.

Favorites: Cavendish, Hushovd, Freire, Farrar, Dean

So there you have it, a stage by stage breakdown of the 2009 Tour de France. Tomorrow I will preview each team and then the GC contenders, Sprint and KOM favorites on Tuesday.


Kevin said...

Thanks for the killer preview. I cant wait to watch the tour this year. Should be interesting to see how the Armstrong/Contador situation works out with both leading the team

The Cranky Princess said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Cranky Princess said...

Oops. Apparently I edited myself. Lemme try again:

This is fabulous!!! Thanks for sharing it. I'll be doing a 2 hour TdF tribute class so have also been working on a "user friendly" stage breakdown. Participants will have all the elevation profiles and of course I'll do my scented towels and other fun stuff. Can't wait to watch it and, hopefully, get some other folks interested, too :0).