With the tortuous mountains over for another Tour, the likes of green jersey wearer Oscar Freire will be looking to impress.
Warming up for the touch down
ALPE D'HUEZ // Saint-Etienne, the finish for today's stage, prides itself on being a green city and those battling for the same-coloured jersey will get a chance to shine once more. With the tortuous mountains over for another Tour, the likes of the green jersey wearer Oscar Freire will be wanting to put their mark down on the race.
And the slightly hilly terrain towards the end of the stage might be the perfect platform for the Spaniard to take a second stage win in this year's race. However, he warned: "Who knows how I'm going to feel waking up the morning after a day like Alpe d'Huez? "I'd like to go for the win but my legs might not be in agreement." Regardless of Freire's form, today will see the battle for green taking precedence over the fight for the yellow jersey and, barring a major accident, the leader of the race will stay the same until the penultimate stage time trial.
Team CSC Saxo Bank, perhaps more than any other outfit at the Tour, will be able to breathe a collective sigh of relief with the Alps now over. They set a furious pace on the last two Alpine stages and Jens Voigt, the team's powerhouse, described it as being "hell on wheels". "It's your job so you do it but I'll be pleased to not have to see another mountain for a few weeks," he said. "I'm sick of the sight of them."
Back with the green jersey competition, Freire has a commanding lead over his rivals. He boasts 219 points to closest rival Thor Hushovd's 172. Erik Zabel, a six-time winner of the Tour's green jersey from 1996 to 2001, is just five points back with 167. Zabel, who turned 37 in the first week of this year's edition, is surely in his last Tour and admitted the next two stages poses his last real chance to add to his 12 stage wins in the race and his first since 2002.
The East Berliner, known as "square hair" by some of his peers for his bizarre choice of hairstyle, said: "Sure, I'd like to get another stage win. "I'm perhaps not as quick as I used to be so I'll just have to be smart about it." @Email:firstname.lastname@example.org TV: Dubai Sports, 2.20pm