As today is a rest day for the Tour de France riders, BIKEmagic decided to probe the expert opinions of Britain’s most successful road cyclist, Chris Boardman and find out what he thinks this year’s race so far. The new Eurosport commentator is enjoying his first season of retirement and is gladly watching from the sidelines, but knows exactly how hard this race can be.
“The first week was really exciting from a viewer’s perspective and it looked like a really clean Tour, with believable time gaps between the riders.”
But with the emphasis shifting towards the mountains and the yellow jersey, Chris feels that Lance’s adversaries have to take the initiative. “They have to hold a sort of weak alliance between them; one where they don’t chase each other down. They’re going to have to gamble their top five places for a shot at the top and that means taking risks. ”
Although Armstrong’s victory is definitely not a certainty, it will be difficult for the others to break his mental strength. “He’s the strongest physically, that’s for sure, but psychologically he’s the toughest and that’s crucial. It helps a hell of a lot.”
However Boardman knows that the Amercian is beatable.
“He’s human and that’s why he starts to fade at the end of every Tour.” If Armstrong’s form does take a dip in the final week, Chris feels that stage 13 – a 194km slog from Foix to Saint-Lary-Soulan with six climbs – could be the key. “It’s not got massive climbs, but it’s still very hilly and it’s really constant. If a team puts the hammer down early it could change the face of the race.”
This Tour de France has seen continuity from last year and this perhaps isn’t great for the sport. “It’s the same guys up there on the climbs and that’s a little disappointing to see. Oscar Sevilla has done well though and he’s a pleasant surprise. He did well on the climb to Alpe d’Huez and strengthened his grip on the White jersey.” Despite the apparent lack of new blood in the race, it still promises to be a fight to finish; at least that’s what Boardman and the rest of the public are hoping for.