July 20, 2004
Sprinters look to Stage 18
Assuming Robbie McEwen survives the TT up Alpe d'Huez tomorrow, where can his pursuers make up points to take the green jersey away?
Stage 16 and 19 are time trials, so no points are up for grabs. Stage 20 is flat, and suits McEwen well; no one is going to build a big point differential on the stage to Paris.
Stage 17 is the last leg-breaker of the Tour, with an hors category, three 1st category, and a 2nd category climb. There's an early (9 km in) sprint, and one just before the last climb of the day, where Zabel or O'Grady are more likely to score than McEwen. Unfortunately for the sprinters, the finish of Stage 17 is only 13 kms down from the top of the 1st category Col de la Croix Fry.
So Stage 18 looks crucial from here. The biggest climb on the day is the 2nd category Col de la Faucille, after the 1st intermediate sprint. From there, it's mostly downhill to the finish, but with two 3rd category climbs before the 2nd intermediate sprint that might enforce a break in the peloton.
It is the stage that could completely turn the battle for the Maillot Vert, with the category 2 Col de la Faucille likely to be crucial. If O'Grady or Zabel make it over with the front group, and McEwen and Hushovd don't, whoever crosses the line first could grab all the points and put himself into green.
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I'm planning to go and watch stage 18 as I live fairly close by - has anyone been to see an open road stage before? How long before the caravan do they close the roads? How busy will a climb like Col de la Faucille be given it's not a major Alp climb?
If you have any tips I'd be glad to hear 'em.
Posted by: Jonty at Jul 21, 2004 12:15:01 PM