Tuesday, 13 July 2010

Stage 10 preview: And the Beat Goes On...

Tomorrow's trek from Chambéry to Gap, will seem like a walk in the park compared to today. The Côte de Laffrey climb, on leaving Vizille, will be very difficult; the Col du Noyer pass very technical. The descent is very winding; it was here that Joseba Beloki fell in 2003, when he wanted to avoid Vinokourov gaining too much time on him. On that occassion, Lance Armstrong was obliged to take a short-cut through a field to avoid being caught up in the aftermath.

Chambéry often provides accommodation for the Tour caravan, but has only ever hosted the start of one stage, back in 1996. Luc Leblanc won that stage, on a day in which Stéphane Heulot lost the yellow jersey to Evgueni Berzin. The town boasts a cycling tradition as the Critérium du Dauphiné Libéré was organised here 20 times. Not unknown to Tour greats, in 1989, Greg LeMond won the World Championship here, following his comeback success attained on the Tour three months earlier.

179km after leaving Chambéry, the peloton will arrive in Gap; the scene of magnificent wins by riders like Géminiani, Nencini, Bernard, Zabel and Vinokourov. The Prefecture of Hautes-Alpes was also the start of legendary Tour stages that finished in Briançon, successively won by Bobet, Coppi and Bahamontes. Starts from Gap have tended to finish in Alpe-d’Huez, as in 1991 (victory of Gianni Bugno) and in 2006 (Frank Schleck). The most dramatic image associated with a stage in Gap nevertheless remains that of Lance Armstrong cutting across a field in 2003, following Joseba Beloki’s fall; a memory he will surely have in the forefront of his mind tomorrow, though he will surely not wish to repeat it.

As tomorrow is Bastille Day, the peloton will be on the lookout for French riders looking to escape in a breakaway in a hope of waving their national flag with pride. Last year, it was Brit Mark Cavendish who won on Bastille Day; a feat he is unlikely to repeat. 31 Frenchmen have won stages on Bastille Day in the history of the Tour, the latest being David Moncoultie who won stage 12, Briancon to Digne les Bains (187km) back in 2005.

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