July 13, 2004
Stage 9: 160.5 km Saint-Léonard-de-Noblat to Guéret
VeloNews predicts Petacchi for this stage. I'm predicting that won't happen.
The start town, St. Léonard, is the hometown of Raymond Poulidor, the "eternal second" who was 2nd 3 times, and 3rd 5 times in 14 Tours. He NEVER WORE the yellow jersey, even for a day.
Two Category 4 climbs offer points down to 3rd place, and 3 intermediate sprints could factor in the green jersey race, which Robbie McEwen leads:
1) McEwen 158
2) O'Grady 149
3) Zabel 148
4) Hushovd 147
5) Hondo 139
With the race for green so close, I doubt the sprinters' teams will let a break stay away, so look for a field sprint to the line, and so far, it's looked like Robbie McEwen is the flat-out fastest man in the race.
Starting Stage 8, it's:
Jakob Piil is in the red race numbers. Again. This year, Tour organizers will award an overall combativity award, but not until Paris. Piil's the early nod — he's never met a crazy flyer he wouldn't take.
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