TDF Stage 18/Stage 19 Preview

24 Jul

The 2010 Tour de France is winding down. Today’s stage was a good transition, for me at least, to take us down a notch or two from the excitement and heroics of Stage 17. Good preparation too to prepare me for no more Tour after Sunday – always difficult for a few days – withdrawal pains.

Back to the Tour – as predicted, today’s stage ended in a bunch sprint and with no teammates around him, Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) took his fourth stage win of this year’s Tour. It was a very impressive win by Cavendish – even if the stage lacked the drama of the previous four.

Stage 18 provided a day of rest for the riders – sorely needed (pun intended) – especially for the top five riders in the GC.

Stage 19

Tomorrow’s stage is an individual time trial. Different then the prologue, the time trial tomorrow is 52km. Because of the length of the time trial and the fact of tired legs after three weeks of racing, it will not favor a time trial specialist like Fabian Cancellara (Saxo Bank).

Most people give 2nd place Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) very little chance of gaining 8 seconds on Tour leader Alberto Contador tomorrow. And, to be honest, the odds are against Schleck – but anything can happen – especially in the Tour. A flat tire, a crash, weather – any of which could affect the outcome of the time trial – and the outcome of the Tour de France.

Without something like that, it is likely Alberto Contador will keep or extend his lead – thus winning the Tour. Also likely, is that 4th place Denis Menchov (Rabobank) will take 3rd from Sammy Sanchez (Euskaltel – Euskadi). Menchov is very good at time trials – Sanchez less so. Taking 3rd in the Tour de France is a huge prize for any rider so Sanchez will be highly motivated to keep his 21 second lead over Menchov.

Another thing to consider is Contador has not won a stage yet in the Tour de France this year. The expectation is that the Tour winner should win at least one stage – to honor the jersey and show he is a true champion. To survive the Tour de France and be in the top position should be proof enough that a rider is a champion, but because of this, I think Contador will ride lights out for the win tomorrow. Contador has become very proficient at time trials.

My personal hope is that Lady Karma will visit Contador, and Schleck will end up in that beautiful yellow jersey and win his first Tour de France.

One thing is for sure – tomorrow will be exciting.

*Pictures are from Getty Images

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