It?s a day of reckoning in the Alps today. The top three riders in the general classification are split by just eight seconds.
After yesterday?s cautious non-showdown between the overall contenders, CSC-Saxo Bank are going to have to do something very special to put time into Cadel Evans if Frank Schleck is to have any chance of staying in the yellow jersey to Paris.
It?s a big ask. Evans is far superior against the clock than any of his rivals and Schleck needs to build up a comfort zone today, otherwise the Australian will claw back every second in the final 53km time trial. Schleck lost one minute 47 seconds to Evans in the 29.5km stage four TT, he could feasibly lose nearly double that on Saturday.
CSC will collectively have to attack Evans on the final ascent on Alpe d?Huez. They know that Evans? weakness is his complete lack of team support in the mountains and his reluctance to launch an attack himself. However, it?s hard to see how they are going to put any meaningful time into Evans ? he has the ability to unshakably attach himself to a rival?s back wheel. It?s not going to stop CSC trying, and that?s going to lead to an explosive finale.
It?s worth noting that Schleck has previous Alpe d?Huez form ? he won there in the 2006 Tour, beating Damiano Cunego.
It could easily shape up to be one of the most exciting Tour stages for years.
What are the climbs like?
Today?s stage features some of the Tour?s most feared climbs: the Cols du Lauteret, Galibier and Telegraphe, and the final climb of Alpe d?Huez have made and broken many a rider?s Tour aspirations. Race organisers have made Alpe d?Huez the sting in the stage?s tail: a mountain top finish guaranteed to shake up the race.
Will Schleck stay in yellow?
Almost definitely. Frank Schleck?s only priority today is to gain time on Evans. If he isn?t in the race lead by the end of today by a wide margin, he?s lost the Tour.
Who’s wearing the jerseys?
Yellow Frank Schleck (CSC)
Green Oscar Freire (Rabobank)
Polka-dot Bernhard Kohl (Gerolsteiner)
White Andy Schleck (CSC)
CW’s tip for the win
It?s another tough one to pick. The overall contenders will be more concerned with watching each other than chasing down breaks, so a breakaway group has a high chance of success just as they did in yesterday?s stage 15. However, we?re going to say that CSC will drive the pace hard on Alpe d?Huez and vacuum up everything in their path. With Evans attempting to hold Schleck’s hand all the way up, we?ll go for Carlos Sastre as our pick for the win. Just.