Saturday, July 7, 2012

Tour Preview - Stage 8

Any riders aiming at the polka dot jersey will have this stage red-circled in their calendar. With 7 categorized climbs on the menu, this is the day you need to hit the right break and collect points. I can’t see any team take control keep it together so let’s have a look at some of the riders able to make the final breakaway.

First name I thought of when I saw this stage profile earlier this was Sylvain Chavanel. This is a typical Chavanel stage and with the shape he has shown so far this season, he is surely one of the big favorites! Sylvain Chavanel came to the Tour stating that he wanted to animate the race again and take the yellow jersey at some point during the race. He tried hard on the first stages but Fabian Cancellara didn’t let it happen. Now the yellow jersey is property of Team Sky and Bradley Wiggins and I doubt they want to spend (waste) the same amount of energy in keeping the jersey this early in the race. Chavanel seems to be in something like the shape of his life and I’m sure he will try to get away and try to take it all in Porrentruy; stage win and yellow jersey. Only thing pointing against it is that Sylvain Chavanel still is fairly close in the GC. After Stage 7 he said that he now wants to keep his place high in the overall standings and with a time trial coming up on Monday he may think it would be wasting powers working in front all day on Sunday.

As said this is a stage for the riders chasing the polka dot jersey and because of that we can’t let out Johnny Hoogerland. His big goal in this Tour is to take revenge and get the jersey and being almost half an hour after Wiggins in the overall classification he’s absolutely no threat what so ever. Hoogerland showed in Tirreno-Adriatico that he has taken his climbing to the next level and he needs that on the last three climbs of the stage all with average percentages of 8-9%. Vacansoleil-DCM have a lot of riders who could do well on this stage (especially Rafa Valls and Marco Marcato) but I think Hoogerland will be the most motivated, knowing there are 38 points up for grab in the fight for the polka dot jersey.

Last climb. Top is 15km from the line.
Normally I would have picked out Michael Albasini as an excellent choice for a stage winner but after his effort on Stage 7 I think it’s time for Simon Gerrans to show the GreenEDGE colors. Gerrans had an outstanding start of the season winning Tour Down Under and Milano-San Remo and wanted to do well on Stage 3 but ended up in the side of the road before the race went into its final part. Without a real GC-contender GreenEDGE have giving Albasini, Gerrans and Weening green light to try their own luck in the breakaways and this being a perfect stage for a break to make it, I think Gerrans will be eager to show off his Australian Champion jersey in front of the Tour de France.

I could keep on naming typical breakaway riders like Sandy Casar, Alexander Vinkourov, Thomas Voeckler etc. etc., but that would take all evening. That being said, those three are also excellent picks for a winner in Porrentruy Sunday afternoon!

After Stage 7 Bjarne Riis didn’t hide Team Saxo Bank - Tinkoff Bank’s ambitions for this stage when asked about the tactic: “If they [the peloton] let him go I think we will see Chris [Anker Sørensen] in front again tomorrow”. It’s no secret that Sørensen wants the polka dot jersey but I honestly can’t see him win a sprint in a small group. If Chris Anker Sørensen is going to win Stage 8 it has to be solo, attacking on the last steep climb with its top 15 km from the line.

As you can see it’s almost impossible picking only one rider for a stage like this, but I think I’ll try with the Australian Champion. Second pick will be French.

Winner pick: Simon Gerrans
Joker: Sandy Casar

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