Australian remembers his own experience from 1996 Tour de France
While conditions are being monitored, and seem to be improving on the Galibier where stage 18 will reach its conclusion, Pat Jonker says that should Thursday's route need to be changed due to snow or black ice, it will be an advantage to Thomas Voeckler.
Jonker speaks from experience, riding for the O.N.C.E team at the 1996 Tour de France when snow forced organisers to shorten the stage from 190kms to just 46kms leaving the riders to contest the Montgenèvre and the final ascent to Sestriere.
"We were in the valley ready to start the stage because it was going to be a pretty important stage for overall classification and it was good weather there but we could see in the distance that the Galibier was under a cloud, you just couldn't see it or any of the mountains from the start," he recalled to Cyclingnews. "We thought the stage would go ahead but as the convoy neared the Galibier it was decided that it was going to be too dangerous because all the fencing and KOM signage and flags got blown off the side of the mountain. They decided to drive us over the climb and then started on the bottom of the other side to go to race to the finish in Sestriere."
On that day Bjarne Riis (Telekom) took the stage by 24 seconds, 1:23 ahead of general classification leader at the beginning of the day Evgeni Berzin (Gewiss), 40 second gain. Riis would wear yellow all the way to Paris. With the climbs of the Iseran and Galibier avoided, Jonker explained that it changed the course of his entire race.
"I was able to recover a bit more and eventually that's what propelled me into the top 15 [ed. Jonker finished 12th] in the overall classification," he said. "I'm a good climber on Cat. 1 and 2 climbs but not 3 and 4 climbs so taking out the Galibier was a great advantage to myself, just as it would be for Voeckler who's also not a specialist climber."
Jonker, who's been watching the Tour from his home in Adelaide, believes that it's up to Cadel Evans, the Schleck brothers and Alberto Contador to make their biggest gains over the wily Frenchman over the next three days.
"I would put all my money on Cadel Evans to win the Tour de France but he will need to have some help from Contador and the Schleck brothers to crack Voeckler. If Voeckler's got two minutes going into the time trial then he has won the Tour de France.
"At the moment I'm thinking it's a two-man race between Cadel Evans and Thomas Voeckler because I don't think the Schleck brothers are able to make up the time – anything can happen but the way they rode on stage 16 was poor. Contador was attacking yesterday but then we saw Cadel then go over the top in front of him by a few seconds."
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