Tour de France contenders battle Pyrenean weather
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Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Tour de France contenders battle Pyrenean weather

by Jered Gruber at 2:55 AM EST   comments
Categories: Pro Cycling, Tour de France
 

Robert GesinkMay is often the month for intensive Tour de France mountain research: it's a perfect spot in the racing calendar, but still a dicey time in terms of weather. Belgian Jurgen Van Den Broeck is set to head to the Pyrenees to do some pre-Tour reconnaissance this week, just as Robert Gesink and Laurens ten Dam were forced to abandon their plans and head back home to Holland.

Robert Gesink and Laurens ten Dam returned to Holland on Tuesday after snow falling as low as 700 meters kept them from their research of this year's Pyrenean climbs. The duo hoped to ride the difficult fifteenth stage on Tuesday, which includes the climbs of the Portet d'Aspet, Col des Ares, and Port de Bales. The final climb of the Bales reaches an elevation of 1700 meters. Unfortunately for the two Dutchmen, the snow was falling at around 700 meters.

Team director Adri van Houwelingen was still pleased with what they did managed to glean from France's southern mountain range: "The two cols, the Port de Pailhères and the arrival in Ax-3 Domaines, were both completely new to Laurens, and Robert saw the final climb for the first time. That was a useful day for sure."

On Monday, van Houwelingen notes that, "There was some snow, but it definitely was not problematic, and the passes were open as usual. We came to two thousand meters on the Pailhères. So at that point it looked good." Tuesday, however, brought the bad weather. When the two riders and manager looked out their hotel window and saw snow covered roads, the trip was effectively over. The trio cut their losses and headed home to Holland to give it another go at a later date.

Meanwhile, Belgian Grand Tour hopeful, Jurgen Van Den Broeck begins the second phase of his season with his own trip to the Pyrenees on Thursday, following a reasonable trip through the Ardennes two weeks ago with 20th, 20th, and 19th. He will be accompanied by team manager Herman Frison and a mechanic for his adventure into this year's crucial mountain range.

"Frison has all the routes mapped out in detail. A trip like this can help me a lot with my progress," notes the 27-year-old.

Following the training camp in the Pyrenees, Van den Broeck will head to the Alps and then pay a visit to the cobblestones of northeastern France. Van Den Broeck is in no way unfamiliar with the cobbles and is confident about his passage over them: "I am not scared of the cobblestones. In the past, I have also raced the classics like Waregem (Dwars door Vlaanderen) and Harelbeke (E3 Prijs). The team has sufficient expertise to get me to the cobblestones and across unscathed."

Van Den Broeck finished a credible 15th place overall in his debut Tour de France in 2009. He hopes to move forward this July into the top 10: "I'm aiming firmly for the top 10. There is nothing wrong with ambition, right?"

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