The Exergy Tour starts this evening with a blistering 3K prologue through the streets of Boise. The Exergy Tour is a reincarnation of love and dedication that the folks up in Idaho have demonstrated for the past 3 decades and this years $100K Exergy Tour is looking to be one of the strongest editions of Idaho stage racing ever.
The race favorites can be counted on one-hand, but anything can happen out in the windy wilds of Idaho, so Ill be fairly glued to the TourTracker internet coverage. The huge favorite is K.Amstrong as she has returned to her dominating form of years past, and its her home-town turf. Her Exergy squad is strong and ready and theyll need every ounce of strength and preparation to defend what could be Armstrongs leaders jersey from start to finish.
The prologue win will be a big feather in a teams cap and the favorites to grab a win over Armstrong have to be Clara Hughes, Amber Neben, Evie Stevens, Alison Powers, Ina T, Tara Whitten, and Megan Guarnier. Im sure theres a couple euro biscuits who could bake themselves a nice prologue result but, Im saying that these riders will be stacking the top-end of things after the nights prologue.
Leading the Exergy Tour into first rade stage will be an honor, but also a massive burden for any team. With a large, attacking field there will be a break up the road for Fridays 75 mile slog and the question is, will it be a GC break, or a contingent of upstarts forcing the GC team on the defensive? There will be winds, heat and tough, punchy climbs that will break legs and spirits. Its hard to think of this stage not ending in a field sprint because Armstrongs team will want to keep her well positioned for the important Time Trial the following day. However, if the field remains hungry and attentive, I could definitely seeing a small group of GC contenders leaving the main field behind in the final 30miles of this stage.
Look for the European riders with a lot of experience in winds to put less experienced riders in the gutter, and the hurt wagon.
Prediction? I reckon Ina will win this stage for Specialized-LuluLemon. The size and composition of the lead group will be very, very interesting to see.
Time Trial the Olympic Selection Showdown
All eyes will be on the huge battle between Armstrong, Neben, and Stevens for the time trial in the Olympics. Megan Guarnier and Shelley Olds have shown their road racing credentials over the past year, each winning major UCI events. The final selection of Olympic riders for the US womens team will fascinating and cause no shortage of arm-chair quarterbacking. A rider of quality will be left off the US team it is what it is.
The TT at the Exergy Tour is non-technical and power-oriented. Clarah Hughes is the biggest rival to Armstrong when it comes to the clock but, there is no way Ill ever bet against Amber Neben or E-Stevens. These are two phenomenal athletes – with Stevens yet to reach her potential, and Im not sure Ive come across a tougher cat than Neben. Neben is the consummate professional slaying herself for her team, or winning outright. For any rider looking to gauge what it takes to be a modern professional study Amber Neben.
Predictions for the TT: 1) Armstrong 2) Hughes 3) Neben 4) Powers 5) Stevens
Queen Stage short but brutal stage
The final two days of the Exergy Tour will be a grinding mill for whatever team holds the leaders jersey. Optum Health, NOW, and the Euros will be attacking like their lives depended on it for the final two stages. Its unlikely that these teams will have a victory by then and each team will be under a lot of inspiration, hunger, and pressure to provide a lot of TV coverage and get results. The climbers and sprinters jerseys could be a HUGE battle on these days and look for breakaways to be chock-full of riders looking to score points in these competitions.
The GC will be defined on the heavy, hot climbs on Stage 3. The climbing comes early and never ends for this decisive stage, but the real action occurs on the oppressive Beaver Creek climb where whatever early break will have to survive the rush of speed from the GC contenders. With a descending final few miles into the finish, its quite possible that a rider with a couple minutes of cushion could jump away from the GC riders and solo in for a superb win. In fact, thats what Im hoping for
Prediction: Armstrong defends jersey; Sprint win out of small leaders group: NOWs Beth Newell takes her first big road win.
Exergys Finale no walk in the park, folks
The last stage is a punchy, back breaking circuit that will show what teams have the endurance and who want it the most. Riders will shoot around a tough circuit three times before diving back into Boise for the finish. With the Europeans being shut out in the first stages (bias!), I anticipate a lot of pressure on the non-North Americans to put on a show and get results. Personally, I think this is a perfect stage for Clara Hughes to flex her bike handling, speed, and grittiness. I could definitely see Hughes away and crushing all hopes. I still think Armstrong has the jersey going in to the final stage and it will be hard for Hughes to not have an Armstrong caboose every millimeter of this final stage – but, thats why we cant email results in it will be decided on the road. Hughes is an exceptional tactician and is on great form right now. But Armstrong will have a set of goliaths at her disposal look for workhorse extraordinaire Ali Tetrick to be a quivering mass of muscle – at the front all day long, every day. And thats just one of Exergys big talents ready to defend Armstrong.
Prediction: Bronzini survives the climbs and takes the final stage win in a mid-size group sprint as Armstrong’s team reels in the breakaway on the road into Boise.
Its going to be a corker!
Exergy Tour (2.1)
May 24th: prologue – Boise, 3.2km
May 25th: stage 1 – Nampa, 120km
May 26th: stage 2 – Kuna TT, 17km
May 27th: stage 3 – Crouch to Idaho City, 93km
May28th: stage 4 – Boise, 75km
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