I never rode it as a stage in the Tour de France, but we raced it in stages of the Dauphine and the Midi Libre. How best to describe it? How about an unrelenting, back breaking, beast of burden? It has a flat section of about 100 yards and the rest is all climbing. It’s 14k of suffering ? similar to Alpe d’Huez but without any switchbacks where you can recover slightly.
My rider of the day is definitely Nieve who was the last survivor of the early break-away. He went out hard and tried, and his effort was the classic example of inspiration overcoming sheer exhaustion. I bet on many a Tour de France that would’ve been a successful effort and it would’ve/could’ve regained some respect for Team Sky, but neither Nieve or I realized how intent Nibali would be on defending his jersey with yet another mountain stage win. I mean, did you see how hard Astana was drilling it at the front today?! It was obvious that as soon as he smelled the border, and as a Spaniard, he was obviously encouraged to go hard for the native fans.
THE NIBALI FACTOR
Nibali was just superior today ? he rode like a great champion. Today he rode an Eddy Merckx type race. I’m not saying his career in any way matched Merckx, but the level of domination he has displayed ? especially today – was impressive. Remember, it’s not such a fluke that he’s winning either because in 2012 he was third behind Wiggo and Froome.
HOPE FOR VALVERDE?
If Valverde has any hope for a podium in Paris, it has to happen on Friday. He’s still close so I don’t think you can count him out entirely. Sure the young Frenchies are up on him, but don’t forget that the dude is a wily veteran. I think it will be take a combination of a miracle and an awfully inspired ride, but it is possible for him to claw his way back to the final podium.
FRIDAY FOR SAGAN
If ever there as a stage made for Peter Sagan, Friday’s stage is it. Between that category 4 climb at the end and the fact that he has yet to win a stage, and that he probably figures he has no chance of out sprinting Kittel in Paris, Friday will really be his last opportunity to come out of the 2014 Tour de France with a win to accompany his green jersey.