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It all comes down to this. Well, not really. There is still the small matter of the ITT, and ,to a lesser extent, the final two sprint stages. But this is what could decide the podium. Sorta.

This tour has been anything but the expected, so making a prediction for this stage is rather tough. What can be said is there will most certainly be attacks. If the top four riders get away, we could possibly see one of the most dramitc fights in quite some time.

There are two keys to this stage: how your body responds to a rest day, and who gets the most help the longest. The riders will go Cat4, Sprint, Cat1, lunch, Cat1, Sprint, HC (Col du Tourmalet) summit finish. It's not just the Maillot Jaune on the line, either. This is the last day for the Polka Dots, and that race is close. We also have the points race. Thor has it, Cavs wants it, and Petacchi had it, lost it, had it again, and is under Italian questioning. Thor has proven he can climb, so I expect to see him make a go at the first sprint, but the next sprint is two Cat1's later.
The Mountains Classification will be quite the battle, but probably peter out after the Second Cat1. This leave the GC race.
I fully expect to see Saxo Bank with at least three men around Andy until halfway up the second Cat1. Cancellar will be pushing the pace up and down the first Cat1. Jens will be in charge of getting Schleck up the second Cat1. He will need someone to follow down the descent, and that will be the tricky part. He may make a pact with SSanchez to attack up that climb so he can follow his wheel on the backside and distance himself from Contador. This would be risky as SSanchez could get more time on Schleck, and I don't know how good SSanchez is at time trialing. Nor have I seen how technical that route is.

So, I'm gonna lay all that aside and say Contador takes the stage, :45 over Schleck. Not sure if SSanchez or Menchov will cross before Andy.

Oh, and everyone will wonder why we doubted Astana's power. Vino and two others will get Contador safely to the base of the Tourmalet. And it'll be game over, man.

 

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AC and AS prove they're the class of the GC contenders, finish together ahead of the rest. AC "gifts" the stage to AS as a bit of an apology for Tuesday, and then gets ripped on RBR.
 

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godot said:
AC and AS prove they're the class of the GC contenders, finish together ahead of the rest. AC "gifts" the stage to AS as a bit of an apology for Tuesday, and then gets ripped on RBR.
that sounds about right! only alternative is that they mark each other, do some trackstands, and a non-gc climber gets the stage - maybe sastre or even evans since he seems to have taken stage 16 off
 

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I just hope someone actually does something.

Who's currently second to last? I vote that guy. Takes a lot of work to hold your head up high being second to last.
 

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As much as I want AS to win, I have a feeling that AC and AS will to focus on each other to much and Menchov will attack and pull a 2008 Sastre stunt. I think Menchov is staying and keeping low so that there's no pressure on him. He'll pull close enough to Conti and then take it away on the ITT. I know it's a long shot but no one thought Sastre had it a chance in 08 and I want to be the one to call it if Menchov miraculously pulls this one off. My guts tells me this is Menchov year.
 

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I say Schleck takes the stage and a few seconds on AC. This presumes that Andy's rest-day time in remedial classes on the proper operation of a drive train is well spent.

JR
 

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I think it's like Ventoux last year, where 2 or 3 non-contenders go up the road first. AC and AS and one other GC guy mark each other all the way to the top and maybe Andy gets 5-10 seconds. Those two guys are like a lightweight prize fight - lots of dancing but nobody swapping leather.
 

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JohnHemlock said:
I think it's like Ventoux last year, where 2 or 3 non-contenders go up the road first. AC and AS and one other GC guy mark each other all the way to the top and maybe Andy gets 5-10 seconds. Those two guys are like a lightweight prize fight - lots of dancing but nobody swapping leather.
True....but AS knows he's beat in the TT, so I think he'll kill himself tomorrow. I think we'll find out who has it and who doesn't. He can't put enough time into AC to win GC, but he'd like to wear yellow again.
 

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We will find out who the best climber is, AC or AS. Andy has to go for it to have a chance on GC and to get his revenge. I say Andy.
 

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godot said:
AC and AS prove they're the class of the GC contenders, finish together ahead of the rest. AC "gifts" the stage to AS as a bit of an apology for Tuesday, and then gets ripped on RBR.
AS doesn't need any gifts from AC.
 

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jd3 said:
We will find out who the best climber is, AC or AS. Andy has to go for it to have a chance on GC and to get his revenge. I say Andy.
With rainy weather predicted it could be a long breakaway that succeeds as peloton may not be super-motivated to drive hard in the rain.
Andy attacks non-stop and takes time out of Contador and yellow but not nearly enough of a cushion to preserve it in ITT. I am already a little disappointed in Andy.
 

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AC will take the stage if he can. He can't bet on winning the time trial and he'll want to win a stage to validate his overall especially with what's happened.


godot said:
AC and AS prove they're the class of the GC contenders, finish together ahead of the rest. AC "gifts" the stage to AS as a bit of an apology for Tuesday, and then gets ripped on RBR.
 

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I think a break away with non-GC riders dwindles down to a few, and the strongest takes it. For GC, Contador puts the aforementioned :45 into Schleck. Wait, that doesn’t read right. :ihih:
 

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it's pissing rain here and it's cold - forecast is for more of the same + some mntn thunderstorms this pm. This will no doubt have an impact on the race. We're bagging plans to climb Tourmalet to watch and instead will watch from the roadside in the valley and then on TV in our local café. The descents off of Marie Blanque and the Soulor are tight and technical - I expect Cancelara to go to the front and neutralise those descents to prevent Schleck the younger from falling/drop chaining and losing time! :)
oops... Peals of thunder now - tough day ahead!
 

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godot said:
AC and AS prove they're the class of the GC contenders, finish together ahead of the rest. AC "gifts" the stage to AS as a bit of an apology for Tuesday, and then gets ripped on RBR.
LOL. :D
 

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JSR said:
I say Schleck takes the stage and a few seconds on AC. This presumes that Andy's rest-day time in remedial classes on the proper operation of a drive train is well spent.

JR
^^^^^ This.

Andy presents his certificate of completion for the gear shifting class he took on Wed then takes the stage win. :)

I think the Tourmalet is better suited to Andy's climbing style. Andy takes the stage but only a few seconds ahead of Alberto.
 
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