Johan: No fireworks till Pyrenees

Although there are nine classified climbs on Wednesday's stage, US Postal manager Bruyneel feels the

Although there are nine classified climbs on Wednesday’s stage, US Postal manager Bruyneel feels the

Tomorrow’s stage from Limoges to St Flour takes in nine classified mountain primes, and is the first real test of climbing legs for the big-hitters in this year’s Tour. After nine essentially flat stages, even some of the best climbers in the bunch are expecting a shock to their system. “Making the transition is always difficult,” said US Postal’s Chechu Rubiera, after yesterday’s stage finish in Guret. “It’s especially so after more than one week using big gears and riding so fast. I think it’s going to be really hard.” But Rubiera’s team boss, Johan Bruyneel told procycling that, despite the tough terrain, he did not expect attacks from the contenders for the yellow jersey. “I don’t expect anything special from tomorrow,” said Bruyneel. “The climbs are too far from the finish. I don’t think we’ll see any splits between the main leaders. But they are good breakaway roads.” Bruyneel is another of those in the race slightly mystified by Jan Ullrich’s current form and by what many felt was a very poor prologue back in Lige. Was he in agreement? “It’s difficult to say. It wasn’t possible to see it as either a good sign or a bad sign. Nothing is finished yet. Fifty-five seconds’ lead on him is nothing and if somebody has a problem in the mountains, that gap won’t matter.” Tyler Hamilton, on the other hand, had impressed his former directeur. “He’s still up there and I think he’s going to be dangerous,” Armstrong’s team manager said of the Phonak team leader. “I expect that from him, but I did expect that Ullrich would be a little closer. But Tyler is where I expected him to be. ” For his part, Hamilton’s confident in himself, but unsure of Ullrich’s real form, even if his prologue performance was a let-down. “I think he expected to do better and I expected him to do better,” Hamilton told procycling, “but a prologue is short and if you’re not 100% from the first metre it will show. There was no real hill, but last year there was a bit of a hill, which favours riders who go a bit better on climbs, and in Lige a lot of the pure prologue riders this year were better than last year. It’s impossible to say.” Maybe the truth will be revealed tomorrow on the steep grades of the Puy Mary, but it seems more likely that the first real body blows will come at La Mongie on Friday. “The first big showdown will be La Mongie,” Bruyneel confirmed before adding: “At least, I hope so.”