Besanéon, France – With two more stages to ride before the peloton moves into the Alps, Tour de France riders must be wary of the change in temperature, says Team Sky manager Dave Brailsford.
Most of the opening 10 stages were ridden in rainy, windy and cool conditions but now the temperatures are rising towards the 30C barrier.
“The temperatures we’ve had up until now have been quite cool, we’ve not really had any hot days yet,” said the British cycling chief.
“It’s coming and it can be a shock to the system. Some riders can take a day or two to adjust.”
To prepare, Sky have a stationary exercise bike in a hot room in their team truck.
Consequently, on Tuesday’s rest day, Sky’s riders spent half their time training on the hot room bike and the other half riding outside.
It’s not just the Anglo-Saxons from cooler climates who notice the change, however, Frenchman Thibaut Pinot said ahead of Wednesday’s hilly 187.5km 11th stage from Besancon to Oyonnax, that he’s concerned.
Asked what he fears the most in the second half of the race, Pinot said: “The first heat wave. It’s been a while since I’ve had those.
“I’ve had a lot in training but not much in races. That’s perhaps my only weak point. We’ll have to see how my body reacts.”
The first Alpine summit finish at Chamrousse arrives Friday but before then there are two undulating stages.
Vincenzo Nibali leads by 2min 23sec overall to Australian Richie Porte, with Alejandro Valverde third at 2:47.
Sky’s Porte said it will be up to him and Spaniard Valverde to start taking the race to the Italian Astana leader, who has proved a cut above the rest so far.
“Anybody’s beatable, he’s in a great position, he’s got a good team, they’ve controlled this race really well having had the jersey for so long,” the 29-year-old said of Nibali.
“But we’ve seen this Tour throws in surprises everywhere. It’s not over until Paris.
“We have to attack him now. It’s our race to take up to him. I’m sure Valverde, and all these guys (will attack) come the Pyrenees, close to Spain. I’m sure we’re going to see some exciting racing.”
While Nibali will be forced to mark the likes of Porte and Movistar’s Valverde, it may give other riders the chance to go on the attack unmolested.
Frenchman Romain Bardet, 23, is fourth at 3:01 and he says Nibali can’t cover everyone.
“There will certainly be opportunities (to gain time). Even though Astana are very strong and Nibali is on high alert, they can’t go chasing after everyone, there will be some chances,” said the AG2R rider, who is targeting a top 10 finish.
“They will be forced to let some people go.”
Bardet said he and team leader Jean-Christophe Peraud, who is eighth at 3:57, will probably bide their time in the Alps and wait for the Pyrenees.
And he doesn’t believe that Nibali will launch another attack like he did on the last climb Monday.
“I think Nibali will just look to control things, he doesn’t need to attack any more,” said Bardet.
“On the first summit finish he landed a blow to all his rivals.”
Pinot, 24, who is sixth at 3:47, says he is more interested in a stage victory than trying to crack Nibali.
“I’m a long way from the podium, there are some great riders above me and there’s a 55km timetrial which could be a banana
skin,” he said.
“I have some ambition but you’ve got to be realistic. Already I’m happy with what I’ve shown so far in this Tour.
“Now we’re getting to terrain I’m more suited to. I’m thinking first and foremost about winning a stage rather than the overall standings.” – Sapa-AFP