With the gaps in the GC up pretty high, the biggest challenge is that a lot of teams are now looking to get into the breakaways because there is more chance for the overall contenders' teams to let breaks go.
This makes for pretty hard racing at the beginning, waiting for a break to establish that teams are happy with. Today we rode really hard for the first hour and a half. I think we averaged over 49km/h in the first hour of racing and that included 13km of climbing, so it was pretty tough.
When big breaks go there is always a chance that someone makes it into the break that could be dangerous on GC if it gets too far up the road. Today Astana was really smart to put Vino in the escape. It meant that the pressure was on Saxo to ride pretty hard all day to keep the gap low. They had to use a lot of valuable energy that they'll really miss in the Pyrenees.
Stages like today don't really look all that hard on paper but they're the ones that really stop the recovery process. You have to spend a lot of energy to stay in the bunch and it's really hard to recover from that.
Only the fittest will survive and get through to the Pyrenees in reasonable shape. The lighter-framed guys will do a little better because they have to expend less energy than the sprinters or the guys who ride the flats.
Grabschi had a tough day today. He crashed pretty hard when the bunch was in full flight; losing a minute at that time makes it impossible to bridge. He chased for a long time and paid the price. Especially after yesterday when he rode so long on the front. But Grabschi's a tank. He'll keep plodding away and he'll come back I'm sure.
I'm going alright. I'm tired today. I certainly hope I can keep it together and find a stage when I can go in the break in the Pyrenees. Everyone suffered from the heat again today. It's been relentless and it doesn't look like it's going to cool down at all in the Pyrenees but we can always hope.
Tomorrow's stage could be a sprint. It has a hard little climb in it near the finish and I have bad memories of it as I think it's the same course we raced in 2005.
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