I have a gut feeling about tomorrow’s stage: Liquigas is preparing to go on the offensive. The clue?
Frederik Willems drifting-in off the back of today’s breakaway, almost 4 minutes down.
Insignificant? Maybe. But Willems has good directors, and good directors think beyond the racing in front of them to the days to come. Ever wonder why that rider who you know can time trial put in one of the day’s worst times? Because he was told to save himself for the next day by his director. Ever wonder why the guy with the killer sprint suddenly sat-up from the break? Because he was told to come back and drive the peloton by his director. I bet once it became apparent that Ivanov was gone for good, Willems was told to soft-pedal to the finish, cooling down in preparation for another big day in the saddle.
Another clue: Franco Pellizotti wearing the polka dot jersey. Yes, it’s a great chance for a capable rider to add another honor to his palmares, but it’s also a chance to get a talented man up the road in the Alps, ready to help his teammates should they struggle. The polka dot jersey gives just the excuse Liquigas needs for someone as potentially dangerous as Pellizotti to go off the front.
Look for Pellizotti to get himself in an early move, positioning himself to soak-up points on the five categorized climbs in the race’s first 135km. He’ll most likely be joined by Egoi Martinez; David Moncoutié needs to be there as well, if he really wants to try and get the jersey for himself by Paris. Saxo Bank could put a rider up the road as well (Jens Voigt?), setting the stage for later in the day when the Schleck’s might need a hand.
From there, it’s anyone’s guess, but expect the serious contenders to start showing some cards on the climb to Verbier. I think Liquigas' one-two punch of Kreuziger and Nibali could be the one start things--if Saxo Bank doesn't beat them to it. And if his teammates need him, look for Pellizotti to be there when it matters most.
Overall, it should be--hopefully--a terrific day of racing. Will we go into the second rest day with a better idea of who will take yellow to Paris? Will Nocentini hang-in to defend his jersey?
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