The 2013 Tour de France's overall classification will take shape this weekend when the peloton races in to the Pyrenees. It reaches its first summit finish in Ax 3 Domaines today and covers five serious cols en route to Bagnères-de-Bigorre tomorrow
Chris Froome leads the virtual GC after his Sky team topped rivals in the time trial in Nice. Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff) sits six seconds back, Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp) 14 seconds and Cadel Evans (BMC Racing) 23 seconds. The mountains, however, will shake up the GC and paint a new picture by Sunday evening in Bagnères-de-Bigorre.
"It's going to be a fight being it's the first mountain-top finish. It's something I'm looking forward to open up the race," Froome told journalists including Cycling Weekly yesterday morning.
"A climb like Ax 3 Domaines, everything has to be judged on the road. If I attack depends what happens on the climb or before the climb: who's attacking, who's on the wheels. It's not something I can say now."
"The Pailhères and Ax 3 Domaines are tough and can break the race if riders want to make a hard race," Contador said in a press release.
"In any case, the stage [to Ax 3 Domaines] seems more decisive because is an uphill finish and there everyone will try to go as far as possible."
Col de Pailhères climbs to 2001 metres with 29 kilometres to race. Ax 3 Domaines is shorter, rises only to 1375 metres but also includes several sectors over nine per cent gradient.
Before getting to Bagnères-de-Bigorre on Sunday, the riders must climb five climbs including the Col de Peyresourde, Col de Val Lour-Azet and La Hourquette d'Ancizan. La Hourquette d'Ancizan leaves 30.5 kilometres to race downhill.
Evans and Froome agree, the big differences will be made today.
"I think the time difference are more likely to be up Ax 3 Domaines, whereas there will be a downhill finish to Bagnères de Bigorre," Evans told the Sydney Morning Herald. "The first hilltop finish everyone is looking at each other and getting an idea of how they are going compared to their rivals."
"Sunday's going to be a hard day, but I don't think it'll be a natural GC day with those climbs and with it coming down to the finish," added Froome. "It could eliminate one rider, but probably not change the top five."
Today's stage eight kicks off at 11:45. After tomorrow, the riders will not face another high-mountains test until stage 15 to Mont Ventoux next Sunday.
Tour de France 2013: Related links
Tour de France 2013: Cycling Weekly's coverage index
Driver cleared of killing cyclist after claiming 'no recollection' of fatal crash
The crash occurred in 2018, with the jury's verdict delivered yesterday
By Ryan Dabbs •
Here are six riders moving down from the WorldTour in 2022
Some pretty big names will be taking the step down as more teams look to build to a WorldTour licence in the coming years
By Tim Bonville-Ginn •