The 136-mile race goes from Adge to Ax-3 Domaines; the highlight being the 9 1/2-mile Port de Pailheres climb with an 8% average grade — this after 105 miles of riding.
It gets harder on Sunday, a 127-mile stage with 4 “Category 1” climbs and a Category 2. CyclingNews figures Stage 15 has nearly 24 miles of climbing at an average 7.96% grade.
Jan Ullrich says in this T-Mobile diary that hot temperatures in the Pyrenees will play into his and teammate Alexandre Vinokourov's hands:
“The mercury is supposed to hit 39 degrees in the Pyrenees – something that suits both of us.
Lance (Armstrong) seems to have experienced the most difficulties in really hot weather – like at a 2003 stage. Then the day after, it was ten degrees cooler – and he was firing in all cylinders again.”
According to Dan Osipow in The Paceline, Armstrong was asked at a press conference Friday about the “myth” that he's not strong in the heat, specifically the time trial he lost to Ullrich in 2003 where he suffered dehydration:
“That impression really came about in 2003 because we did have an incredibly hot summer.” He admitted to not knowing the answer. “I think that everybody's performance suffers in the heat, the data will show you that, but some riders, of course, handle it better than others.”
Lance said much depends on how you prepare the night before and the morning of. “Hydration is critical…it's my job to start now…knowing that tomorrow will be 40 degrees and we have 200 and something kilometers. Yeah, it makes me worry so I have to be extra careful.”
But Robbie McEwen, the head of the Davitamon-Lotto squad and Friday's stage winner, told the BBC that Armstrong is just toying with the peloton and most of the challengers have conceded defeat.
“They're no idiots. They see how easily he's riding. Most of them know he'll go along with whoever attacks and mark everyone.
“And, when it gets steeper, he'll put the hammer down and smash everyone.”
You might be able to catch Saturday's action live in the morning at movie theaters as bicycling clubs and the Tyler Hamilton Foundation are sponsoring fund-raisers that televise the stage at theaters across the country.
If not, there's always OLN.