19.07 - Stage 12: Lannemezan - Plateau de Beille 198 km mountain top finish
It’s up to the teams
This could be a pivotal stage in the race, its parcours are of simple beauty, two category one and two category two climbs before an epic finish up the legendary Plateau de Bellie - where Marco Pantani soared to glory in 1998.
To view today's parcours please click here.
As Marcel Wust, legendary sprinter, King of the Mountain jersey wearer and now a managerial revelation at Team Coast pointed out, “The only way to beat Armstrong is to attack him constantly. Team Coast would have done that particularly on stages like this one.”
Since Coast did not make the selection - it is up to the Spanish teams to attack. To be fair, that is exactly what iBanesto did on Stage 6 of the Dauphiné Libéré - and to be equally fair the Postal team and Armstrong were equal to the task. To read the stage report click here.
The Kelme team have enough riders of class to cause significant worries to the yellow jersey holder. Oscar Sevilla Ribera (Spa) is looking in good form as is Santiago Botero Echeverry (Col). Antonio Tauler Llul (Spa) is good against the watch, and is a more than useful rider. Santiago Perez Fernandez (Spa) and José A.Vidal Martinez (Spa) are having great seasons - Francisco Cabello Luque (Spa), José J.Gomez Gozalo (Spa), José E. Gutierrez Cataluna (Spa) and Constantino Zaballa Gutierrez (Spa) make up the rest of the team. In terms of general classification, Sevilla, Botero, Perez and Martinez could still be a threat by this stage. It is up to the oldest Professional Cycling club in the 1st Division, in its famous green and white stripe, to attack at the first climb. Considering the team and it’s riders have been under huge pressure because of the financial problems of the management the riders have responded magnificently.
Having said that, another team who must be looking at this stage with relish are the CSC Tiscali team. Jalabert, Sastre and Hamilton could be a very powerful trio and todays stage could suit them perfectly - below is what the CSC official site
had to say about the race.
Simply racing in the Tour de France, cycling’s marquee event, is a highlight for many pros. Winning a stage or fighting for the overall title is reserved for the strongest and the luckiest. Team CSC Tiscali, CSC's cycling team, is looking for both strength and luck.
CSC Tiscali has a chance to make an impact in the three-week race, which begins July 6. Last year, Team CSC Tiscali had one strong rider in the Tour de France, French cycling star Laurent Jalabert, who won a stage and the King of the Mountain jersey awarded to the best climber. This year, however, the team has three seasoned cyclists competing: Jalabert; American Tyler Hamilton, who took second in this year's Giro d'Italia in June; and Spaniard Carlos Sastre. That depth should propel CSC Tiscali to even further success.
Jalabert dealt with bouts of flu earlier this season that kept him from racing at full strength for a while, but he ended up winning the CSC Classic, a Danish race, in May. Jalabert will be CSC Tiscali's main competitor for stage victories at the Tour and also will chase after the King of the Mountain jersey this year. "Especially in the first week of the Tour, Laurent could be quite aggressive," team manager Bjarne Riis said. "Laurent is excited for the Tour and he’s comfortable with his position on our team. He doesn’t have all the pressure on his shoulders."
Hamilton's role in the Tour used to mean supporting his former team leader, three-time Tour winner Lance Armstrong. Now, with CSC Tiscali, Hamilton's chances in the Tour seem brighter after his strong performance in the Giro d'Italia, cycling's most prestigious event after the Tour. Although Hamilton had been one of the Giro's early favorites, he was almost counted out of the race when he had three crashes during the first week and was forced to continue with an injured shoulder that later proved to be broken. But he won an important time trial that catapulted him into the top ranks, and held his position as the race hit the mountain stages. He finished behind Italian cyclist Paolo Savoldelli in second place, one of only three Americans ever to make it to that tour's podium.
Because of the injury, the team had Hamilton cut back on practice and stay out of racing until the Tour, skipping the warm-up races he had planned. That may mean that Hamilton will start a little slow, but he says it's a long race and he should be able to stay close until he warms up. "Some guys start strong and end weak, so I'm hoping to be on the opposite end of the spectrum," he said.
Daily Peloton’s Stage Prediction
Hamilton and his wonderful helper Sastre have one major advantage over most of their competitors - they have already ridden one three week tour. The entire team will have the advantage of experience over those who did not compete in the Giro. If Hamilton has learnt from his experiences, and there is no reason to doubt otherwise, it is today's stage the CSC Tiscali team should make their mark.
Maillot blanc a pois rouges (polka-dot jersey): This red and white polka-dot jersey is awarded to the best climber in the Tour. Points are accumulated based on the finishing order along summits in the race to determine the leader.
The first King of the Mountains was Frenchman René Pottier, who reached the top of the Ballon d'Alsace first in 1905.
The King of the Mountains Classification was calculated for the first time in 1933 (with Spaniard Vicente Trueba winning), but one year later the classification was officially introduced by Henri Desgrange. In order to win the jersey, Trueba was the first to reach the tops of the Aspin, Aubisque, Ballon d'Alsace, Galibier, Peyresourde, Braues, Vars and Tourmalet.
Trueba's descents were poor and the time he gained on the ascents was lost on the descents. Desgrange decided, in 1934, the rider to reach a mountain top first, got a time bonus - which would be the gap between him and the second rider (with a maximum of two minutes). In 1934, the first official winner became René Vietto from France. This time bonus for the climbers no longer exists.
The Polka Dot Jersey itself was introduced in 1975. The first rider to wear it was Dutchman Joop Zoetemelk; the first one to bring it to Paris was Lucien Van Impe (The Ladybird) from Belgium, his third King of the Mountains title.
Tour winner Napoleon Paoli hit an ass in the Bayonne - Luchon stage of the 1920 Tour de France. High in the Haute Pyrennes the ass came galloping into the riders - and the Corsican Paoli collided with it. Sadly the animal had to be put down - but Paoli carried on in an attempt to make up time only to suffer a head injury from a piece of falling rock as he struggled up the Tourmalet. He eventually reached the top of the mountain at ten o’clock - but still finished in third place overall.
Paoli won the Tour in 1919, had finished 2nd in 1918 and 3rd in the 1920 event - making him one of the few riders to finish in all three podium positions. If you know the other riders to achieve this feat please post a message up on the message board here.
Regarding yesterday's tale of Christophe, Ste Marie de Campan and the forge, I have received some more details which I have not heard before.
Eugene Christophe is in second position on the Tourmalet. A car reverses into him and crushes his bicycle. Christophe puts in on his shoulder and runs the fourteen kilometers to Saint-Marie-de-Campan. There he finds a forge and repairs the forks himself. This takes 4 hours and all the time he is watched by race officials. When one of them decides to go to get something to eat, Eugene Christophe becomes angry. "If you are hungry, eat coal! I am your prisoner and you will remain my guards until the end!"
To see a fuller account of the story click here.
Full Tour coverage is on our Tour de France Main Page here.