What will happen?
It’s tempting to say not a lot, until the final few kilometres. This is the flattest stage of the Tour so far, after two decidedly lumpy stages that have lead to long – if unsuccessful – breaks culminating in a fragmented finish (in the case of stage one) and a chaotic sprint (in the case of stage two).
Today’s racing may largely be decided by the weather. If it’s pouring down and with a strong headwind, it’s going to be a relentless slog for any break – almost a zero chance of success unless the break includes a hardcore selection of classics men. Pretty doubtful, race leader Valverde’s Caisse d’Epargne squad won’t want to relinquish the yellow jersey ahead of tomorrow’s time trial, and the sprinters’ teams will want to orchestrate a bunch finish. They’ll all be working together to chase down any likely looking break.
Instead, we’ll hopefully be treated to the 2008 Tour’s first proper bunch gallop – McEwen vs Cavendish vs Steegmans.
2007 King of the Mountains winner Juan Mauricio Soler took a nasty tumble on stage one that could have ended his Tour before it began. The Colombian climber is nursing some sore limbs and is well bandaged up, and was last man in yesterday, some seven minutes after stage winner Hushovd – he’s now laterne rouge in the overall classification. He’s obviously hurting. Will the Barloworld man make the start today? And if he does, can he finish?
Will Valverde stay in yellow?
There’s a nagging, and slightly unsavoury thought that Alejandro Valverde could stay in yellow throughout the entire race. Imagine that. However, chances are that one of the time trial specialists who are only one second adrift of the Spaniard in the overall standings – Cadel Evans, or possibly even Britain’s David Millar – will gain yellow in tomorrow’s time trial around Cholet. Valverde will be safe for today, though.
Who?s wearing the jerseys?
Yellow Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d?Epargne)
Green Kim Kirchen (Columbia)
Polka-dot Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom)
White Riccardo Ricco (Saunier Duval)
CW?S tip for the win
Are we going to pick Mark Cavendish for every flat stage? Of course we are. Cav has had two fairly quiet days so far, but today’s stage profile plays into the Manx Missile’s hands – largely flat and with a nice smooth run-in to the finish where he can blow away the competition with his immense turn of speed. Yeah! Er, or maybe Gert Steegmans will fill missing team leader Tom Boonen’s shoes and take the stage for Belgium and his Quick Step team.
Heavy rain and a strong cross-wind are forecast, making it a tough task for a break to work effectively.
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