Aigurande-Super Besse, 195.5km
What will happen?
The much-anticipated stage to Super-Besse in the Massif Central is likely to see the favourites for ultimate victory eye each other nervously rather than seek to land a serious blow. With some very hard Pyrenean days around the corner, this will be a day for shadow-boxing. The exception to that rule will be if one of the big names shows a hint of weakness and the others choose, en masse, to exploit it. Now we’ve said this, Damiano Cunego and Alejandro Valverde will probably attack at the foot of Super-Besse.
What are the climbs like?
After two fourth-category hills in the first 90 kilometres it’s steadily upwards to La Bourboule – where Stephen Roche won his final Tour stage in 1992 – and on to the second-category Col de la Croix-Morand. That’s eight kilometres long at an average of 5.2 per cent, so not to be taken lightly. Super-Besse is 11 kilometres long at 4.7 per cent with a final 1,500 metres at 10 per cent. That’ll sort the men from the boys.
Will Schumacher stay in yellow?
His lead is very slender and although he’s strong on the climbs of Amstel Gold and Liege-Bastogne-Liege, this is a very different challenge. He will have to hope both Bernhard Kohl and Markus Fothen are able to stay with him until the latter stages too, otherwise he’ll be isolated. Keeping the lead depends on how soon the others start to attack him. With Kim Kirchen so well-placed to take over the lead, it’s difficult to imagine he won’t have a go.
Can David Millar take the yellow jersey?
The Garmin-Chipotle rider lies third, just 12 seconds behind Schumacher and level with Kirchen. He has been saying he wants to try to take the yellow jersey at Super-Besse but it looks a big ask considering the difficulty of the final climb and the fact he’s unlikely to be allowed any leeway. Schumacher is the equal of Millar on a climb like that and Kirchen is superior. The only chance is if he could slip away in a move and the chances of that are pretty slim. But if Millar, Christian Vande Velde (who is sixth at 37 seconds) and Jonathan Vaughters can cook up some kind of plan, it will be fun to watch.
Who’s wearing the jerseys?
Yellow Stefan Schumacher (Gerolsteiner)
Green Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole)
Polka-dot Thomas Voeckler (Bouygues Telecom)
White Thomas Lovkvist (Team Columbia)
CW’s tip for the win
We’ve got a feeling Alejandro Valverde may want to hit back after losing ground to Evans in the time trial. On the other hand, Evans may seek to scare the rest into docility by attacking. The most likely scenario, though, is that the favourites will stay cool and someone from lower down the order will win the stage. For a laugh, we’ll say Riccardo Ricco. Kirchen will end the day in yellow.
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