x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

Hautacam a key stage for leaders

It is worth noting that whoever has been wearing the yellow jersey when the Tour de France has left Hautacam has gone on to win it.

A bruised and battered Cadel Evans after his crash during stage 9 of this year's Tour de France.
A bruised and battered Cadel Evans after his crash during stage 9 of this year's Tour de France.

It is worth noting that whoever has been wearing the yellow jersey when the Tour de France has left Hautacam has gone on to win it. The Pyrenean town has hosted the Tour on three occasions. In 1994, Miguel Indurain was the man wearing yellow, two years later Bjarne Riis marked the end of Indurain's reign there and, on the Tour's last visit in 2000, Lance Armstrong ended the stage leading the way.

In fact, it proved to be the day Armstrong won the 2000 Tour as he made four minutes on Jan Ullrich in bad weather conditions. Today, Hautacam will welcome the shattered remnants of the peloton at the end of stage ten, which takes in one of the Tour's most infamous climbs on its route, the Tourmalet. It is a fairly standard, rolling but slightly uphill start to the 156-kilometre stage before two hors-category (literally without category) climbs, which is as hard as it gets in professional cycling.

Despite the history books, Spain's Alejandro Valverde believes the race will be a long way off being decided following the Pyrenean stages. The sixth-placed Caisse d'Epargne rider said: "We will try not to lose time in the Pyrenees and arrive in the Alps in very good condition because I believe that they will decide who will be the winner of the Grand Boucle." The Australian Cadel Evans, meanwhile, said he was looking forward to today's stage with "interest and a little bit of anxiety".

He added: "I just hope it doesn't rain following a wet opening to this year's Tour." A further twist to what will be a tortuous day in yellow is the fact that today also marks Bastille Day, so expect all manner of Frenchmen to break for glory. The last French winner on Bastille Day was David Moncoutie, the 15th Frenchman to achieve the feat since the Second World War. But after a Ukrainian and a German stole the limelight on France's national holiday in the last two years and, with a raft of nationalities still represented, today's result remains wide open.

The route of the tenth stage has already played a part in this year's race, with the course providing the route for the Etape du Tour on July 6, when amateur riders annually test themselves over a Tour stage for the day. @Email:sports@thenational.ae TV: Dubai Sports, 2.50pm