Admit it, you felt a bit let-down by Stages 8 and 9. After such an exciting climb up Arcalis on Friday, you wanted more fireworks from the remaining two days in the Pyrennes this weekend. It's okay, you can say it.
But we didn’t get it—at least to the degree we were hoping. Yes, Stage 8 included 3 categorized climbs including two 1st Category ascents; and Stage 9 included the Col d’Aspin and the Col du Tourmalet, two legendary mountains. But on both days the organizers put all the heavy lifting at the beginning of each stage, all but rendering these climbs moot. For example, from the top of Tourmalet in today’s Stage 9, there were still 70 kilometers left to race—almost half the stage. Couldn’t ASO have done more to bring-on the Pyrenean fireworks?
Regardless, some great racing ensued, particularly if you’re a fan of breakaways and aggressive opportunists. Luis Leon Sanchez and Pierrick Fedrigo are two worthy winners, both after spending the majority of the day in breakaways. In Sanchez' case, his exploits have moved him up the GC to 11th place overall; a standing he can certainly improve as the race continues.
Now the Tour heads north for a rest day followed by 3 relatively flat stages through the center of France. Tuesday brings Bastille Day and a stage rideen—unless Bruyneel and his petition win-out—without the aid of radios in the peloton’s ears. Exciting racing should ensue.
Things get interesting again on Friday in another stage without radios through the Alsace region. Several tough climbs speckle the route, including two 1st Category ascents. Will it be a day for another breakaway, or will we see the GC battle begin to boil again?
The week ends with the race’s entry into the Alps, culminating with a summit finish in the village of Verbier. Will Astana end the week in yellow? If so, who will the bearer be? Will Saxo or Liquigas succeed in breaking the race apart? Will Evans, Sastre, and Menchov climb their way back into contention?
All in all, with one week down and two to go, several questions remain unanswered. But one thing’s certain: it’s been a great Tour so far, and it looks to get even better.
What are your thoughts on the first week? How do you see things shaping-up in week two?
Share you thoughts below. And thanks for reading!