The Tour's final day, stage 8, will give the riders' tired legs another final test. The 21-mile (33km) circuit contains the Mulholland Highway climb, which takes the peloton up 1,000 feet.
The course, to be ridden a total of four times, will start at "The Oaks" shopping mall and covering 4.8 miles (7.6km) on a neutralised section before starting on the circuit. The peloton will turn on to the Mulholland Highway about a third of the way into the course, and there they will face steep climbs and numerous switchbacks.
After about six miles, they will start descending a dangerous and technical descent on Westlake Blvd., before setting off again on the course. Each lap is expected to last anywhere from 45 to 55 minutes.
The stage, and the Tour, end on Townsgate Road in Agoura Hills, where the 2010 winner will be crowned.
With a 1,000ft climb each lap for four laps, this isn't going to be a stroll in the park, at all. I don't imagine whoever wins the battle on stage 7 will win by much, so the war will still be open on stage 8.
Since there is absolutely nothing to lose, as on Monday we don't race, the attacks will be hard. The leader's team will be pushed in a way that is atypical for a final day of racing, but it should be exciting. The stage will probably be taken by a strong opportunist that isn't in the GC running, but has recovered well from the week of racing.
So, who wins the overall? My three picks are Nibali, Leipheimer, and Zabriskie . They are all riders that fight for the win in smaller races, whether they are getting ready for the Tour or not. They all climb and time trial incredibly well, and they all have stated they are focusing on this event.
The darkhorses? Robert Gesink, for sure an incredible talent, but he'll need to time trial better than he's ever done on a course that isnt suited to him. Michael Rogers will be stronger than in 2009, but will need to have a bit more pop than he is known for on the hills.
Then there is Lance Armstrong, not really a darkhorse in the typical sense, but I imagine he will be more focused on the Tour and supporting Leipheimer.. And finally? Tommy D. the real darkhorse, for sure.
I'm sure I have missed a few folks that will make their names known as the season progresses, but that just makes it more captivating. My crystal ball only works so well in the middle of winter...
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