If you've never watched a bicycle race before, today would be a good day to start.
Today's stage of the Tour de France is among the most highly anticipated of this year's edition. In an homage to the toughest single-day bike race in the the world, Paris-Roubaix, a.k.a., "The Hell of the North," the Tour visits the cobbles of southern Belgium before finally heading into France. The day is sure to be hellish for any rider who suffered arm, shoulder or rib injuries from crashing during yesterday's stage.
This is the day many of the GC contenders have been dreading. Some of them could lose big time today. And that creates some interesting strategic choices for several riders. Will Lance Armstrong and Team Radio Shack look to put more time into Alberto Contador before the Tour gets to the mountains, where Contador will have a personal (if not a team) advantage? Will Fabian Cancellara, who dominated Paris-Roubaix earlier this year, seek to recover the yellow jersey, or will he be required to marshal the Schleck brothers through what could for them be a very difficult day? Will Thor Hushovd take out his anger on the field for neutralizing yesterday's stage (see the preceding post)?
Here are some predictions: Lance will attack Contador. Cancellara will be given the green light by Saxo Bank to go for the win. Hushovd will ride with unparalleled (possibly too much) aggression. But look out for Juan Antonio Flecha of Team Sky, who has finished on the podium of Paris-Roubaix on two or three occasions.