I’ve been back and forth on this one. Tomorrow is the first mountain stage but it is very early in the race. I’ve landed on yes but it is not a “no brainer.” Here is a peek in my internal debate.
Do not attack:
- It is only stage 7. If you attack and get the yellow jersey then the odds are you will need to defend it for two weeks. That is a long time to defend. If Astana has a weakness, it is too strong a team. What I mean by that is if you think of the old US Postal/Discovery teams, they were very strong. The key difference is they were 8 domestiques working for one leader. There was no ambiguity in that regard. With Astana, there are three and possibly 4 individuals who may think of themselves as the leader. With that ambiguity, do you really think Levi Leipheimer will sit on the front and ride tempo for kilometer upon kilometer across a flat stage? Will Lance Armstrong turn himself inside out to pull back a break. For that matter, will Andreas Kloden fetch water and food for Contador? I tend to doubt it. Having 8 individuals who do not care about placings or time gives you 8 strong men who will do whatever is necessary to deliver a victory to the team. If Contador takes a strong lead tomorrow, what will happen when the true domestiques tire in about a week. Who will defend the jersey during the all-important last week?
- Second, this climb does not fully suit Contador’s style. This climb is for the power climbers. There is not a lot of changes in gradient and ultra steep sections for a pure climber to gain a lot of time. Contador may spend a lot of energy for very little time gains. That could make him vulnerable.
- If you don’t some else will. Evans and Menchov need time. A lot of time. They need to attack everywhere they can. This is a good finish for Evans to attack and possibly gain time. In the end, he may just end up pacing the true contenders up the climb.
- Contador needs to stamp his authority on Astana first, then the rest of the Tour. Look for an early attack at Astana’s pretenders to the throne. I think if there is a pause, Leipheimer may go. Once a teammate goes up the hill, Contador will need to remain in neutral with the pack. Normally sending a teammate up the road is a very effective way to soften up other teams. In this case, there will be other motives.
- It is who Contador is. Alberto Contador is an attacking personality. He needs to ride to his strengths. If you hold back a thoroughbread, you risk losing the race.
There is my brief synopsis. I’d love to hear yours.