Stage 10 - July 10: Dax - Lourdes Hautacam, 205 km
Start time: 10:52
The moment of truth has arrived and now the world will see who are the real potential winners of the Tour De France. There's a new twist: Mother Nature will have her say as well! Le Tour management issued a communique warning of bad weather for Stage 10. There should be cold and wet conditions, especially on the highest climb of the Col d'Aubisque. After 112km of relatively flat racing, the peloton hits the steep side of the 1035m Col de Marie Blanque (9.2km @ 7.7% average grade).
After a 15km descent and transition, it's the tough 1709m Col d'Aubisque, again from the steep side (16.5km @ 7.1% average grade), followed by the climb and descent of the Col de Soulor down to Argeles-Gazost. This is the fast, tricky descent that Lance Armstong crashed hard on during training in May. Then it's the final steep climb to the finish to Loudes Hautacam at 1520m (13.5km @ 7.9% average grade).
With such an open race in this year's Tour De France, it will be a very interesting stage. Will Elli hang on to his Maillot Jaune? Perhaps...he's strong and motivated and a good climber, but Telekom may not want the race lead anymore.
Will Pantani go on the attack? Likely if his legs feel good, especially on the final climb to Hautacam he knows well. But the cold weather may slow the tiny Italian from his usual accelerations. Also in attack mode will certainly be Richard Virenque; He's already 6'00 down on top GC favorites. Virenque is likely to be joined by Alex Zülle and Fernando Escartin, who also lost considerable time in the TTT last Tuesday.
As for the favorites; defending Tour winner Lance Armstrong, '97 winner Jan Ullrich and the O.N.C.E. duo of Laurent Jalabert and Abraham Olano, no one can be sure how any of these riders will go when they hit the mountains. After 9 days on the flat of fast and open racing, riders always find it difficult to change their rhythm and style from flat racing to climbing. Most observers say that Lance is the strongest rider in the race, but his USPS team doesn't have the depth of O.N.C.E. in the mountains.
As for Ullrich, he is THE big question mark of the Tour 2000. Despite a repectable Tour Of Suisse last month, is the sometimes weight challenged German up to the onslaught of attacks he'll have to endure on the road to Hautacam? Don't forget outsiders Bobby Julich and Jonathan Vaughters; their Credit Agricole team had an excellent TTT and both are very well positioned to move up the ladder on GC if they have the legs today. Whatever happens, today's stage will set the scene for the next week or so of racing until the hard stages of the French Alps arrive.
Km 76.5 - Côte
de Barcus - 2.4 km climb at 6.9 % (Cat. 3)
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