Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Tour of California - Stage 4 Predictions

The weather today is gorgeous, sunny, light and variable winds and temps into the low 60's. The terrain is very mountainous with flats on both ends. This is a day for climbers, so I expect Mancebo will once again be at the front of the race - provided Rock Racing has a team to put him in a position to win those 5, count'em, 5 KOM climbs on today's stage. That cold, thick air gives you tons of cardio, but that allows you to push your musculature to the limit, and all the riders at the front, and especially the sprinters, really got wrung out yesterday. (you can feel the extra drag on your body in cold air - it's noticeable)

Lance and Levi are tired and beat up, Astana having done most of the work into that brutal wind yesterday, and both men have crashed now. Levi's lead is down to 30-40 seconds on about 5 riders, so I expect Levi to give up the CG lead after making other teams work hard to take it from him, pulling he and Lance along in the process. If Team Astana can hang onto the yellow jersey today it will be a huge coup.

I expect the Columbia High Road team with Hincapie and Cavendish to make a hard run at Astana today. Cavendish needs some redemption today after blowing it at the finish line yesterday, and Hincapie is likely to feel like doing a bit of free-lancing today after his efforts to put Cavendish in a position to win the sprint at the finish were wasted.

While this will be the climbers day tactically, strategically, this is a day where it's all up for grabs. With Astana being so dominant, but now very tired from all the time spent pulling the peleton through the heavy winds yesterday, this is a day when 4-5 teams have chance to put on a strong performance and grab the stage win, and SaxoBank and Columbia have a chance to take the CG lead from Levi and Lance. Props, btw, to Popovych on the Astana team for doing most of the yeoman's work out front yesterday, saving Lance and Levi and all the wheel-sucking wanna-Bs just trying to hang on. I'm sure a lot of riders stumbled into bed and collapsed last night, and the massage tables will all have waiting lines this morning.

For us spectators, this should be a spectacular day of breath-taking vistas, exciting climbs, lots of team tactics and strategy playing out, and the stronger teams trying to reel in the climbers at the end. If Levi still has the legs, he might surprise us all and pull off a stage win, or at least, hang onto the yellow jersey. I'm hoping for a fast race, because I need to get out and have a fast ride of my own before dark, and before the rain sets in again tomorrow. Enjoy!!!

1 comment:

Rachel said...

I don't get into as much as Brent but we still watch it every night (he DVRs every stage). They'll be climbing Palomar on Sunday!