Cycling: Alpe D'Huez finish will test Pereiro's mettle

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It is symptomatic of the huge degree of uncertainty surrounding the outcome of this year's Tour that a mere two dozen journalists turned up for race leader Oscar Pereiro's press conference in Gap yesterday.

Speaking on the Tour's second rest day, the Spaniard none the less insisted that even if he had gained the yellow jersey in bizarre circumstances - after a seemingly insignificant break gained half an hour's advantage on Saturday - he was as likely an overall winner as the next man. "I am lucky to be in yellow, but right now I wouldn't even dare predict who will be on the podium in Paris," he said.

The 28-year-old Galician, who lies 1min 28sec ahead of the American Floyd Landis, said his combination of caution and ambition neatly sums up the predicament of all of the contenders - for whom the triptych of Alpine stages, starting today, will be a voyage into the unknown. Just one, German Andreas Klöden, has stood on the Tour podium before.

According to Pereiro's team manager, Eusebio Unzue, today's summit finish on the Alpe D'Huez should at least partly lift the fog of general uncertainty. Race legend says whoever leads the Tour on Alpe D'Huez will win overall.

However, in a race that has had unpredictability as its leitmotif since it left Strasbourg two weeks ago, even that tradition seems likely to be broken.

Alasdair Fotheringham writes for 'Cycling Weekly'