The last time the Tour hit this legendary climb, this happened. Sunday is going to be a showdown.
The 2009 Tour will go down as Alberto Contador’s most recent win, kinda. He lost 2010 in 2011, and his 2013 isn’t looking good after losing a ton of time to Chris Froome in yesterday’s time trial to Mount St. Michel. There’s an awful lot of racing left, and Froome’s rivals are going to pin their hopes on a repeat of Sunday’s Sky no-show, with Froome isolated for 100km.
The 2009 race was odd, marked first by a strange attack from Contador to take yellow ahead of Lance Armstrong. Armstrong and the rest of the Astana team essentially rode neutral, helping Contador to the climbs and then working just as hard to defend Armstrong’s third place from Frank Schleck as to defend Contador from an on-form Andy. Contador and Schleck were head and shoulders above the rest, though the lack of constant power let one of the most legendary (and likely doped) groups to stay in touch, including the now blighted Frank Schleck in that company. Andreas Kloden was also on hand, though he may not feature nearly as high in 2013.
The climb itself is legendary. The climb to nowhere, the finish is atop a barren moonscape that is wind-blown and littered with rocks and boulders. The road switches back and forth, but holds for a series of long straightaways that go dead into the wind or whip along with a tailwind. It’s a desolate, almost empty void to climb into, dotted with pockets of screaming fans holding onto their hats.
Still, the cast of characters will be somewhat similar, with Froome joining along with the return of Alejandro Valverde, Nairo Quintana, Bauke Mollema, Joaquin Rodriguez and others. Roman Kreuziger will be invaluable to Contador to keep the numbers close with Movistar, though it isn’t impossible that he’ll be left to defend his own top ten position on the GC should Contador falter.
Wednesday’s stage winner Tony Martin also features, though he’s grown into the world’s best time trialist instead of the GC contender he was briefly touted as four years ago.