July 10, 2009
Preview: Stage 7: 224km Barcelona - Arcalis
We've seen the TT specialists, the sprinters and punchers, and even the breakaway boys have had their stage in this year's Tour. Sitting in the field through all this, conserving their energy and trying not to tip their hand, have been two groups who define the Tour: The climbers and the overall contenders.
Today's stage, culminating in the hors categorie Arcalis in Andorra, should be a coming-out party for both groups. The longest climbing stage of the Tour offers the first big climbs of the race, and a finish at 2200 meters, one of 3 mountaintop finishes in this yeear's Tour.
The race profile this year offers fewer mountaintop finishes than in recent years, and fewer time trial miles. The effect of the change is to amplify stages like today's where riders can build time gaps.
Racers will cover 5 categorized climbs, with a 1st Category 127 kilometers in, and the Arcalis, which is officially 10.6 kilometers or about 7 miles, where we'll find out a lot more about who has brought their climbing legs among the overall contenders.