July 18, 2006
Stage 15 profile
The time for defense is over. With today's mountain stage finishing atop l'Alpe d'Huez, it's time for the strong riders to throw down a showdown.
They can't go all-out, though, because tomorrow's stage is even harder, and Thursday's is about the same, with more but smaller climbs.
As a result, I think today's stage may very well be won by an early breakaway, possibly including some teammates of the GC riders, who can be sent up the road to provide some help on the final climb if necessary, or to compete for the stage win if not. If it's Michael Rasmussen, this would also serve his interest in the climber's jersey.
There are 156 riders still in the race. Six teams are riding with every rider who started the race: T-Mobile's 7, AG2R's 8, and Française des Jeux, Gerolsteiner, Lampre, and Phonak with 9.
VeloNews offers a good riders' roundup of Stage 15, focusing on 7 riders: Floyd Landis, Denis Menchov, Cadel Evans, Carlos Sastre, Andreas Klöden, Michael Rogers, and Levi Leipheimer. They're the guys who don't want to get dropped during the next 3 days. If they are, their finishing places could be completely wiped away.
PezCycling instead looks at today's course to l'Alpe d'Huez itself, discussing what it's like to be on the course with hundreds of thousands of people lining every one of the climb's 21 switchbacks.
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