The Pyrenees battle begins for the GC contenders in the Tour de France. GC favorites Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank), Andy Schleck (Leopard-Trek), and Cadel Evans (BMC) will vie for supremacy on the Col de Tourmalet and the final climb to Luz-Ardiden.
Anticipation is high in the peloton as the Tour de France enters its first GC selection. Other favorites include Andreas Kloden (RadioShack), Ivan Basso (Liquigas), Tony Martin (HTC), and American Christian Vande Velde (Garmin).
Philippe Gilbert (Omega Pharma Lotto) has been a revelation this year in cycling and may be a dark horse candidate in the GC top 10, despite being known primarily a sprinter who can climb.
Teams which have multiple GC contenders like Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack), Frank Schleck (Leopard-Trek), and Peter Velits (HTC) may also try to send up one of their contenders in a breakaway as a strategy for setting up the other favorite.
GC contenders often target the first mountaintop finish of the Tour de France in order to push the pace, gaining major chunks of time, selecting out the contenders for grabbing the yellow jersey.
July 14 is Bastille Day in France, which is the French version of Independence Day. Frenchman and current yellow jersey holder Thomas Voeckler (Europcar) will have every motivation to keep pace with the favorites in order to hold onto his yellow jersey.
The beginning of the Pyrenees also means the sprinters will be looking just to make the cut-off times off the back of the peloton to stave off elimination. One of those sprinters is HTC's Mark Cavendish, who was the winner of yesterday's stage and the 18th stage win of his career.
The GC top 20 is currently:
1. Thomas Voeckler, Team Europcar, in 45:52:39
2. Luis-leon Sanchez, Rabobank Cycling Team, at 01:49
3. Cadel Evans, Bmc Racing Team, at 02:26
4. Frank Schleck, Team Leopard-Trek, at 02:29
5. Andy Schleck, Team Leopard-Trek, at 02:37
6. Tony Martin, Htc-Highroad, at 02:38
7. Peter Velits, Htc-Highroad, at 02:38
8. Andreas Kloden, Team Radioshack, at 02:43
9. Philippe Gilbert, Omega Pharma-Lotto, at 02:55
10. Jakob Fuglsang, Team Leopard-Trek, at 03:08
11. Ivan Basso, Liquigas-Cannondale, at 03:36
12. Damiano Cunego, Lampre-Isd, at 03:37
13. Nicolas Roche, Ag2r La Mondiale, at 03:45
14. Kevin De Weert, Quick Step Cycling Team, at 03:47
15. Robert Gesink, Rabobank Cycling Team, at 04:01
16. Alberto Contador, Saxo Bank Sungard, at 04:07
17. Tom Danielson, Team Garmin-Cervelo, at 04:22
18. Rein Taaramae, Cofidis Le Credit En Ligne, at 04:52
19. Christian Vande Velde, Team Garmin-Cervelo, at 04:53
20. Samuel Sanchez, Euskaltel-Euskadi, at 05:01
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