16 July, 2009

Flat Stages Are Not Easy

It's hard to read or listen to people discuss flat stages being easy. Here's one guy's take on yesterday's stage 11, "Another flat stage, another easy ride with a bunch sprint at the end."

These aren't easy. It's more than just a four-plus hour spin. The roads are narrow, the turns tight, the wind shifts, there are countless hills even on what seems like a flat day, and just one mistake by one rider can have the effect of blowing the race apart at any moment.

The finish, despite what many think, isn't all that certain. Look at today's stage 12. The field held the gap to the break at three minutes much of the day and then when Columbia realized they were going to have to do all the work to see the breakaway brought back, they threw in the towel and the breakaway's gap quickly shot up to six minutes, where it stayed.

Columbia was playing "chicken" with the field. Only the field had little interest in seeing another Cavendish stage win. Just as the field should have little interest in Astana winning the Tour. When you're the best sprinter with the strongest leadout, don't expect the field to help. Likewise, Astana shouldn't expect any help starting tomorrow.

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