Saturday, 10 July 2010

Stage 8 Preview: Where the tension really hots up

This is the stage where the real mountains start. With a high altitude finishing line at Avoriaz Contador should be looking to go on the offensive. In 2003, Richard Virenque attacked on the Col de la Ramaz pass, winning the stage that finished in Morzine and picked up the Yellow Jersey. Its possible that the young spaniard, and two time winner of the Tour, will want to repeat this feat. To find a stage with a finish at Avoriaz, you have to go back sixteen years to 1994. Latvian Piotr Ugrumov, 2nd place of the Tour podium that year, triumphed before winning the following day’s stage as well.

Avioraz is part of the town of Morzine, which specialised in hosting hill climb time-trials. Lucien Van Impe, the King of the Morzine climb, triumphed in these twice. Over longer distances Bernard Hinault, in 1979, and Piotr Ugrumov, in 1994, also dominated time-trials here at 1,800 metres altitude. Back in 1985 Lucho Herrera was the first to reach the “Gateway to the Sun” in a stage similar to the one planned for this year’s riders.

The 189 km provide no respite after today's climb, which Bradley Wiggins (Sky) commented was perhaps harder than everybody thought, especially in the heat that shows no signs of abating. Indeed the heat transformed into a humid hail and thunder storm at the finish of stage 7 shortly after the riders headed to their team buses and cars. Staying well hydrated will be paramount again tomorrow, but with the relentless climbs of today already causing some riders to suffer, there will be undoubtedly one or two abandoners. For the rest, a repos on Monday in Morzine-Arioraz will be a welcome break before yet more mountains to climb in their glorious alpine setting.

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