|ESPN.com: Tour de France 2006||[Print without images]|
|Moving to the mountains|
Over a week into the Tour, riders are starting to get tired. Tuesday will be the last chance for couple of days for riders to go into a breakaway and spoil the sprinters' run at another stage win.
On Wednesday, we move into the Pyrenees. This is the first day where you can separate contenders from pretenders, but it's also not going to be a stage that's very decisive. The last climb comes about 50 kilometers from the finish, so even if you're dropped, you could come back with the help of teammates. Most riders shouldn't lose time to the favorites. Thursday, however, is a very important day. This was the day Team CSC had originally planned to be super aggressive behind Ivan Basso. The stage finishes uphill, so if you're good, you're good all the way to the finish. If you're in trouble, you don't have any descent or flats to recover. The big time gaps will come here.
I think he's in position he wants to be in. At the Dauphiné Libéré, he was good in the time trial, but not in mountains. Hopefully, he's over that and he'll be able to ride well. I don't think he has to attack in the mountains. I think he should wait and see how the race goes during the second day in Pyrenees and let T-Mobile control the race for him. I would suggest he ride very conservatively, especially in Pyrenees. He can try to make a little bit of a difference in the last few days in the Alps. If he has to do any finishing touches, he can do that in the time trial. Levi Leipheimer
He lost over six minutes in the time trial, which is a lot. He's going to have to be very aggressive from here on out in every stage in the mountains. When I saw Saturday's time trial course, I immediately thought George Hincapie, Landis, Dave Zabriskie and myself would do well. Levi would not be as good because the course didn't suit him. I didn't get to see his ride yet, so I don't know exactly why he did so poorly. I think it would be really difficult for him to win the overall, but he's a climber and he'll be very dangerous in the mountains. Other riders could look at his big-time gap and make the mistake of giving him too much rope in the mountains, so his race is far from over. George Hincapie, Dave Zabriskie
I think they are both in the same situation. They've worked really hard on their climbing. George has been a big helper in the past, but there's a big different between being a helper and your stage being done with five kilometers left and being a leader who has to attack in those last five kilometers. A dark horse?
Right now, the race is too close to call. I don't want to put any pressure on him or call too much attention to him or seem like I am saying this because he's on my team, but Carlos Sastre has a very good chance of getting on the podium and maybe even a chance of winning. He had a respectable time trial on a course that's not suited for him because he's such a small climber. There is a Pyrenees finish in Spain, a finish that goes uphill, which will be more motivation for him. If he rides correctly and doesn't have race lead too early, he'll be able to attack at he right time and gain time on important riders. If there's anyone who would be a dark horse in this race, it would be Carlos. -- Bobby Julich