Sunday, May 19, 2024

Big Hitters’ Playground


Gaaaaaame on! Big Hitters’ Playground. It has finally become time for the big swinging cats to unsheathe their claws. It feels like forever since the race started — I reckon the first big climbs don’t normally come quite so late — so I reckon there’ll be a few lads (and their teams) wondering what their form is like and hoping that they earn the big bucks that they’re paid.

Today the race goes over three big bergs — a Cat. 1 to begin — the Hourquette d’Anzican, which has never been climbed before. This starts some 80km from the finish line, meaning time cut is going to be an issue for the sprinters if the race is on early. The boys are unlikely to be going quick at this stage, but it will still be really tough for the bigger lads (the sprinters and the like) to keep up.

Big Hitters' Playground
The amazing Tourmalet – you wouldn’t want to get it wrong when driving up here.

Next is the legendary Tourmalet, that climb from last year’s Tour, where Andy attacked Alberto, Alberto attacked: Andy, Andy then stared at Alberto, and they did… nothing more!

Well, when I say nothing more, I mean they went up the final few km of the hill blisteringly quick, and simply couldn’t shake each other. Truly brilliant bike racing!

Finally the Luz-Ardiden, where Lance had that crash back in 2003, where his handlebars were caught on aspectator’s handbag strap, he flipped onto the road, the field waited for him, and then he went on to destroy them all up the final part of the climb.

Two epic climbs with huge recent history, and a new climb. What a stage! Contador has a decent hit of time to make up on the Schlecks and Cadel, the Schlecks need to get some time on Cadel, and Cadel sits in the box seat wondering what tactics he should use tonight. If it were me, I’d realise that as good as the Schlecks and Contador are: going up hills, they don’t exactly descend with aplomb (despite the amount of training they do going up mountains — you’d think they’d have worked out how to get themselves down a hill quickly).

Cadel as a former mountain biker does know his way around a descent, and so if it were me calling the shots, and particularly if he’s exposed already with no team mates around him, he should attack the crap out of the others on the descent, putting himself a good: distance already up on Contador and the Schlecks for the final climb so that they not only need to put time into him, but also take time from him.

It would be an amazing thing to see him light it up like this. Who knows what’s gonna happen! Whatever it is, there’ll be some serious moving and shaking going on. I can not wait!

Bring it on.