The stage begins at Tobel-Tägerschen where, following a brief climb, the riders can look forward to a short downhill cruise before coming to a couple of small lumpy bits with the biggest climb in the first half being just 91m over 15km, an incline so gentle the sprinters will still be at play. It's then downhill all the way to the food station at the 80km point where the climbers are going to want to hit the energy gel hard in preparation for their chance to shine later on.
|Freire fans will be seeing the last of the great sprinter today, because the race is all about climbing for the next couple of stages.|
Freire and friends get one last chance in the coming 35km, a gentle uphill incline rising less than 100m, and then the reins are handed over to the riders with the scary thigh muscles at the start of the St. Luzisteig Pass where the road climbs 198m in around 2km - an average gradient of 9.9% and a maximum gradient of 12% - and where the riders will pass an 18th Century fort still in use by the Swiss Army. If any sprinters have over-egged it today, there's a chance of someone abandoning here. Once again, the road back down is just as steep and wise riders will use it to build up some speed in an attempt to carry them through the 5km section between Luzisteig and Triesenberg during which they'll cross the border into the tiny and stupendously wealthy Principality of Liechtenstein - only Qatar has a higher GDP.
If nobody abandons on Luzisteig, expect at least one of two on Horse-Categorie Triesenberg which is the harshest, hardest climb of this year's Tour. Pay attention because the form displayed by the grimpeurs will be extremely helpful in making predictions for next month's Tour de France which this year will favour the climbers even more than ever. Contador isn't here, but you can be certain he's going to be watching to see how Andy Schleck handles the last 15km - and we should too, because if he looks like he's in trouble you might as well go out and put a bet on Bertie because it'll mean he's a definite for first place in the overall Tour de France classification. On the other hand, if Schleck looks good, Contador needs to start praying to god of snapped chains.
|A village as pretty as Malbun would be a welcome sight to any traveler, let alone who has just ridden up a 1km high mountain in the rain.|
The weather's looking good around Tobel-Tägerschen, temperatures staying reasonable until later on (by which time the riders will be long gone) when highs of 27 C are forecast. It's not looking so good for Triesenberg, however - the rain's predicted to remain light until this evening when it'll turn heavy; but we all know how quickly weather changes, invariably for the worse, in the mountains. For anyone who doesn't really want to be there, this won't improve matters at all.