July 14, 2011
Stage 12 Preview: 211 km Cugnaux to Luz-Ardiden
Today the focus shifts from sprints to a marathon, as the Tour de France comes to the Pyrenees. Stage 12 is 211 kilometers/131 miles, with 3 climbs ranked at least 1st Category.
The majority of today's stage is comparatively flat, with the first real climb more than 130 kilometers from the start. First up is the 1st Category Col de Horquette d'Ancizan, making its Tour de France debut, followed by the HC Col du Tourmalet, then the HC Luz Ardiden for the finish.
Johnny Hoogerland's time in the King of the Mountains jersey is almost certainly over today as the points on offer dwarf those awarded so far.Thomas Voeckler has said he thinks he's likely to lose the leader's yellow jersey today, as well, but has promised to battle to keep it. Luis-Leon Sanchez, sitting 1:49 down on Voeckler but :37 ahead of Evans, could inherit yellow.
Mark Cavendish rides today in the green jersey. The intermediate sprint line comes at 119km, before the stage hits the Pyrenees, so Cavendish, Gilbert, and Rojas should all be able to contest it.
Today is Bastille Day, the French national holiday, which usually means French riders killing themselves in the breakaway in an effort that ultimately comes to naught. Expect that pattern to continue as the poorly placed GC hopefuls (Alberto Contador and Sammy Sanchez) are going to need to go all out to crack the field, while the well-placed GC riders like Evans and the Schlecks will have to play defense, keeping those threats under control.
It's really anybody's guess who has the best climbing legs in the Tour this year, but we're going to get our first look today. Lots of commentators believe Ivan Basso of Liquigas has been keeping a low profile awaiting the big mountains and tipping him for a possible stage win here.