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Stage 17: Open wounds

17/07/2013
Today’s time trial finishing in Charges has not resolved many things so the feared Alps will be dictating the sentence in this centenary edition of the Tour de France.  The victory of Froome has been more decisive than the scarce margin of seconds he has obtained, but he had to race with rain and hail in more complicated conditions than the others did, who did not have to risk in the curves.
Stage 17: Open wounds

However, the truth is that tomorrow and Friday there will a hard fight.  Those behind the Sky cyclist are courageous people and with the exception of Mollema, I do not doubt that Contador, Kreuziger, Quintana and Purito are going to try to make the solid yellow jersey rider work hard.  Because in sports there are many open wounds, but also in that which is physical.  There are many unavoidable falls, fruit of bad luck, but there are others because other riders and directors take too many risks.  Something happened in the time trail that should make us think of the convenience of risking to the limit, of a cyclist risking himself when his conditions are not adequate for competition.  The Frenchman Peraud, ninth overall, went to the ground and has had to abandon the race.  The problem is that he started the 32-kilometre race in poor condition because when he went to recognise the course he fell and fractured his collarbone.  He had some X-rays and between all they decided he could do the race, but evidently he was not in good condition and the movements of his back were not adequate.  Peraud not only raced to finish, he also wanted to defend his overall position and risked in every curve, but it was perfectly obvious that his routing was dangerous due to a lack of agility motivated because a part of his body did not respond as it should due to the early morning mishap.  Unfortunately, the worst has happened:  a fall, total breakage of the collarbone and abandon.  Truly we are in the best race of the world but human health is much more important that nay victory and to heal wounds first they have to be closed. 

Many factors intervene in a three-week race, some are controllable, but others are not and in this last case, there was the weather problem that sometimes can give a hard time.  One of the most stressing moments I remember in the career of Miguel Indurain was in the last-but-one stage of the 1994 Tour, a mountain time-trial finishing in Avoriaz.  The man from Navarra had won the race because of the great difference with his rivals, but Piotr Ugrumov had two impressive days in the Alps and was in outstanding condition.  We had inspected the route on several occasions and Miguel personally knew it very well so everything seemed to be under control.  However, that day, when the man form Villalba was participating, there was a spectacular hailstorm and during one kilometre, Indurain was practically stopped, while in front, Ugrumov was going like a rocket because, as well as taking risks, he was not fully affected by the storm.  During the first part of the route, the man from Latvia gained one minute over the Banesto man, and the climb up the feared mountain had not started. I realise that in the car there was much stress because the differences were so great and the references we were receiving were bad.  Clearly, it was impossible for Miguel to lose the race by time, but we were fearing that the hailstorm would last the entire climb because the Slav was not going to stop but fortunately it stopped and although the Gweiss man obtained 3 minutes over the man form Navarra, there was no problem in arriving in Paris with the yellow jersey.

We suffered that day and the riders will suffer as from tomorrow in the colossal Alps.  The first date will be in Alpe d'Huez, known as the "mountain of the Dutchmen", one of the mythical peaks of the “Grande Boucle”. Here there have been many legendary feats of the Tour de France since when Fausto Coppi won there for the first time in 1952.  The names of identical winners are written in its 21 curves along the 14-kilometre climb.  As well as the Italian, other mythical figures like Hinault, Zoetemelk, Bugno or Pantani have won at its famous peak.  However, the climb I most remember is that of 1987, when Fede Echave was the first Spaniard to write his name in such prized award.  It was his birthday and he fixed that stage in his mind.  He attacked very early, at nearly 100 kilometres from the finish and it seemed to be crazy, but this man did not seem to worry the important overall riders and had a margin for manoeuvre.   He was strong, he knew how to keep his advantage and he won with the BH jersey, the team that at that time was one of the important ones in the pack.  What is more, his teammate Anselmo Fuerte came second.  It was a spectacular day because behind them there was a true fight for the leadership, with a great climb by Perico, Herrera y Fignon who managed to leave Roche behind.  The Alpe d'Huez legend says that the one wearing the yellow jersey after the climb wins in Paris but that 1987 the tradition was broken: Delgado was leader at the end of that day, but Roche won in the Champs Elysees. 

We will see if tradition is broken or not this year.  We will know that in a few days, but what we do know is that tomorrow there is going to be a lot of public because there are two climbs and it will be a memorable day.  The two climbs will be very hard but take care with the descent because rain is expected and it can be dangerous.  There no protections and falling on a curve will mean falling directly into a ravine so the riders have to be very careful to not suffer any harm.  Tomorrow we only want to talk about another epic day. 

That is all my friends. Greetings from the Alps!



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