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Big Bear finish anything but cuddly
The GC contenders will likely have been resting their legs on the previous day for this Queen stage to Big Bear Lake. With over 10,000 feet of climbing, the sixth stage will likely see the sprinters form a "gruppetto" not far from the start as the contenders for the overall wage war on the first ascent out of Pasedena.
The climbing begins shortly after the start at the Rose Bowl and continues at an unrelenting grade for nearly 7000 feet of elevation gain to the highest point of the Tour at 7900 feet - that's nearly 80km of climbing!
A long and potentially dangerous descent should the winds be high follows, but fortunately a few brief climbs will break up the descent and bring speeds down. The riders will lose nearly 5000 feet of elevation as they head to the valley floor before beginning the next big ascent to Big Bear Lake.
The greatly anticipated mountaintop battle may prove to be a bit of a let-down, as the race does not finish at the summit, but continues along the valley for 10 miles before the finish line.
There's been a lot of talk about the stage 5 finish as being the first mountain top finish ever in TOC, but honestly, I don't think this day will be that crucial amongst the top 5 on GC.
The gradual climb up to Big Bear, with lots of little downhills and a flat final 10kms seem to make this day less important than stage 3 when it comes to the overall.
Of course, this is going to be a very hard day, the longest and toughest of the race, even harder if your team is having to defend the race lead, and I imagine there will be attacks all day long, as those strong riders who arent in contention for the GC have nothing to lose anymore, so conserving energy isnt a priority.
It's a bit too tough for the sprinters, so their teams won't be helping either. So, all in all, I see a day where the race leaders' team is pushed to the point of cracking all day long.
However, if they don't lose their cool, its another day where a group of 20 or so fights out the finish, or a lone survivor from an earlier breakaway comes in for the win.
Since the jetlag will be out of the system, I'd say a strong European rider wins on this day. Maybe Jakog Fuglsang from Saxo Bank?