Wednesday, July 8, 2009

TDF - Stage 7

It's all about the (Arcalis) "O"? Ya gotta love the French

Looking ahead to Stage 7, finishing at 7,350 ft at the ski resort of Arcalis in Spain, it culminates a climb of 5,500 ft from the mid-race base, and is a long, tough mountain stage. The final ascent is "only" 7%, so not a super-steep, but coming right at the end, and given the lead-up is all climbing, it will test climbers like Cancellara, Contador, Armstrong, and Leipheimer. The resort road is broad, and well paved, so there should be a lot of jockeying for position right to the end.

I found some excellent coverage on VeloNews, and this great piece on climbing. Even more so than they suggest, I shun climbing out of the saddle for the huge waste of energy using so much core and upper body strength represents. I should also say that my 54cm frame is a bit small for me, and I would no doubt find a 55 or even 56cm much more comfortable to climb in standing up. It just takes more energy to climb in a straight line with a long stem on a smaller frame.

I expect even the pros will be putting on their compact cranks sporting 34/50 and 11/28 gearing, because they will lose a lot of power above 5,000 ft on a hot day. IIRC the air-density altitude on a hot day will be around 11,000 ft at the top, which reduces their power output by about 30%, so this will be a real test of cardio for all the riders.

I am looking forward to some drama in Stage 7 after today's snooze-fest, although I think even Lance misjudged the effect of the tailwind in compressing the TIME left to the end of the race. By adding 5-7mph to the break-away group's speed, the TIME to the end of the race was shortened substantially, and I don't think anyone reacted correctly to that.

On the other hand, there were a lot of tired riders in the strongest time-trialing teams, so it kind of makes sense that the team that crashed so badly yesterday, losing a full 5 minutes, sported the winning rider today. He wasn't doing much work sitting around waiting for his crashed teammates to catch up yesterday, and no point rushing to defeat either, so I'm sure those that didn't crash wisely converved their energy. Still, great to see the French get a stage win - FINALLY.

• Mountain Passes: Cote de Montserrat located at 32 kilometers - 4.1km climb to 3.8 percent grade - Category 4; Port de Solsona at 97km - 5.8km climb to 4.3 percent - Cat. 3; Col de Serra-Seca at 127km - 7.7km climb to 7.1 percent - Cat. 1; Port del Comte at 136.5km - 3.1km at 5.3 percent - Cat. 3; Arcalis at 224km - 10.6km climb to 7.1 percent - Hors Categorie

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