Thursday, July 13, 2006

Stage 10 - Le Tour - The mountain tactics

Today T-Mobile chose to let a break go, but to also keep the gap smaller rather than larger. So they semi-controlled the situation whilst the other teams sat on. They allowed a French rider - Cyril Dessel - to take the yellow jersey, which takes the heat off T-Mobile. Or does it? It's true that if Dessel and his ag2r team want to keep the jersey they will have to defend it. However tomorrow is a tough - very tough - stage and it's easy to imagine one of the contenders who tagged along today (such as Landis or Evans) attacking and putting pressure on both Dessel and T-Mobile. The T-Mobile riders will have expended more energy than the others, and Dessel may not have the team support he needs to defend the jersey. So will Landis or Evans (or another contender) take the initiative tomorrow?

It's not easy playing tactics like this. T-Mobile could have exhausted themselves today by closing down all attacks and thus defending the maillot jaune, but they were mindful of the long hard stage to follow. So they did 'half a job' and cut their losses. They could also have gone on the attack - they have multiple cards to play after all - and increased their lead, perhaps putting Rogers into the jersey whilst Kloden rested. Kloden could then have gone with tomorrow's breaks.

In any event tomorrow will be interesting. Dessel could amaze us all and hang in there, or another surprise could await us. It may be too early for the contenders to show their hands. Or it may finally be the day when a contender steps up and takes control. Landis could do it. Evans could as well. But could their teams defend from here, all the way to Paris? Both T-Mobile and Discovery have the team resources to defend, and multiple cards to play. It's just a matter of time I suspect before someone escapes, someone from a team with the resources to defend to the end.

21 riders are now within 7 minutes of yellow. T-Mobile have 4 riders in the top 10, all under 6 minutes down. Gonchar then Rogers are best placed with Kloden just behind. All are threats overall. T-Mobile could send one of them up the road and seize the iniative. What would you do?

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