TDF Stage 6/Stage 7 Preview

10 Jul

Close, but no cigar. Mark Cavendish took his second straight stage win edging out Garmin-Transitions Tyler Farrar. That makes 12 stage victories in the Tour de France for Cavendish equaling the record of sprinter legend Erik Zabel.  The great sprinter won a record 6 consecutive green jerseys in the Tour de France from 1996 – 2001 and is considered by most to be one of the best sprinters to ever race.

Today’s stage marked another 2nd place finish to Cavendish for Farrar, but he does seem to be getting better. If he can hang tough through the mountain stages, it could give his wrist time to recover a little more before the next sprint stages. Farrar is a stronger sprinter this year even with the fractured wrist so perhaps he will manage to pull out a stage victory before the Tour ends.

The breakaway didn’t happen the way I thought it might. Three riders successfully got away, but with only three to carry the workload it had no chance to succeed. If a group of six or seven riders had got away, the breakaway could have possibly succeeded. Teams apparently are saving their energy for the mountains, plus the heat and length of the stage deterred more teams from sending riders.

Fabian Cancellara managed to hold on to the yellow jersey. Thor Hushovd kept the green, but that race is getting tighter with Pettachi, McEwen and now Cavendish in the mix.

Stage 7 will give riders their first taste of the mountains – a happy day for all Tour de France fans and spectators, not quite so happy for the riders. The first part of the stage is flat allowing a chance for the green jersey contenders to pick up points in three intermediate sprints. Even though the first 45km are flat, there are significant climbs as the Tour heads toward the Alps. There are 6 categorized climbs tomorrow with, 3 category 2 climbs (see Primer for explanation of categories) including an uphill finish. The competition for the polka dot jersey will kick into gear as there will be plenty of points to be had in the stage.

Tomorrow the GC contenders will come out to play – at least a little. Although tomorrow’s stage is not one of the tough mountain stages, there will be riders that could look to make up time tomorrow. Teams will also use the stage to check out the other GC contenders and teams to get an idea of how they are faring as the Tour turns toward the more difficult and highly contested mountain stages.

Riders that could make a move tomorrow include Armstrong.  Although it would be difficult because even though he is down 2:30 – he is still a marked man. They aren’t likely to let him go anywhere. Cadel Evans is another one that could use this stage to make a move. All moves by any serious GC contender will be marked, but this stage plays to Evans or Menchov better than it does to Contador or Andy Schleck. Contador and Schleck will be on defense tomorrow, but they will cover any move made by Menchov, Evans or especially, Armstrong.

Sprint stages are stages where potential Tour winners bide their time. They look to avoid injury and time loss. Mountains are where they ride to win. We will get a taste of that tomorrow.  I can’t wait, the mountain stages can’t be beat for suspense and excitement – and they are only just beginning!

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