What will happen?

The favourites sat and waited yesterday but it’ll be a very different story today. The question is whether anyone tries to light it up on the Tourmalet. The climb is long and tough enough to do some real damage. There will certainly be some nervous faces if Riccardo Ricco attacks again there. No one will want him taking back another minute or more and let him back in the picture, but who will want to chase a relatively lowly threat at this stage?

If CSC are going to win this Tour, they have to do something today. It’s no good having tenth, 11th and 12th places and hoping to move up together because that won’t win them the race. They need to use that strength in depth to spark the racing early and hard. They could attack with one of the Schlecks on the Tourmalet, then save Sastre for Hautacam. They have to spend one of their chips today.

Just as long as no one drops back to check on the well-being of the rest of the group before putting in a stinging attack…

Caisse d’Epargne could also apply the pressure with Oscar Pereiro clearly in good form. Euskaltel will be fired up on what they consider to be home turf.

The rest will follow – or hope to follow. By the end of the day, though, there will have been some casualties and the race for the yellow jersey will be a smaller one.

What are the climbs like?

The Tourmalet is legendary because of its height, its length and the fact it’s been used so many times in the Tour. The four or five kilometre stretch near La Mongie – which has hosted a stage finish in its own right – is very difficult. Hautacam is also hard, one of the tougher summit finishes available in this area.

Will Kirchen stay in yellow?

This is by far his biggest test yet. Yesterday he admitted he had suffered as he rode towards the back of the main group. And he had only one team-mate, Kanstantin Siutsou, with him at the end. Today will be even harder. Kirchen will be vulnerable if it gets lively on the Tourmalet and he’ll be even more vulnerable on Hautacam. His six-second lead over Evans could go in the blink of an eye. Although his advantage over the other imminent threats, such as Denis Menchov and Alejandro Valverde, is a more substantial, if he cracks, he could lose two minutes in half a dozen kilometres. We think there’ll be a new yellow jersey tonight. If it’s still Kirchen, he will have thoroughly deserved it.

Will Cadel Evans’s left shoulder stand up to the job?

The big worry for the Australian is how bad his shoulder is after yesterday’s crash. It is not fractured, apparently, but he was in discomfort. If it hampers his climbing today, he could be in trouble. It’ll be a case of riding through the pain barrier but his hunched-forward, out-of-the-saddle, fighting-with-every-ounce-of-his-being style when it gets steep and tough may be compromised. Rumour reaches CW that the Silence-Lotto strategy was all based around this stage because Evans rides better in the Pyrenees than the Alps. If that’s the case, yesterday’s crash was terrible timing.

Who’s wearing the jerseys?

Yellow
Kim Kirchen (Team Columbia)

Green Oscar Freire (Rabobank)

Polka-dots David De La Fuente (Saunier Duval)

White Andy Schleck (CSC)

CW’s tip for the win

A Spaniard. Carlos Sastre. Although the Euskaltel boys were looking strong yesterday, so our wild card will be Samuel Sanchez.

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: STAGE REPORTS

Stage nine: Ricco wins in the Pyrenees

Stage eight: Cavendish wins again in Toulouse

Stage seven: Sanchez takes action-packed stage

Stage six: Ricco storms to win

Stage five: Cavendish takes first Tour win

Stage four: Schumacher wins TT and takes race lead

Stage three: Dumoulin wins stage from break

Stage two: Hushovd wins chaotic sprint

Stage one: Valverde wins

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: NEWS

Cavendish talks about his second stage win [stage eight]

Beltran heads home but doubts remain about other Tour riders

David Millar: the dope controls are working

Manuel Neltran tests positive for EPO at the Tour

Comment: How the Tour rediscovered its spirit

Doping back in Tour de France headlines

Millar: close but no cigar in Super-Besse [stage six]

Super-Besse shows form of main contenders [stage six]

Millar to go for yellow [stage six]

Team Columbia’s reaction to Cavendish’s win [stage five]

Cavendish talks about his Tour stage win

Tour comment: Why Evans should be happy [stage four]

Millar: Still aiming for Tour yellow jersey [stage 4]

Who is Romain Feillu?

Cavendish disappointed with stage two result

Millar too close to Tour yellow jersey

Stage 2 preview: A sprint finish for Cavendish?

Millar happy after gains precious seconds in Plumelec

Valverde delighted with opening Tour stage win

Comment: Is Valverde’s win a good thing for the Tour?

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: PHOTOS

Stage eight

Stage seven

Stage six

Stage five

Stage four

Stage three

Stage two

Stage one

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: BLOGS

Life at the Tour part three

Life at the Tour part two

Life at the Tour part one

TOUR DE FRANCE 2008: GUIDE

Tour de France 2008 homepage>>

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