It’s Tour Time Baby

Posted: July 2, 2010 in It's All Important Stuff

July is here again! Le Grande Boucle is the greatest sporting event ever conceived, embroiled in controversy, guided by tradition and fought by modern gladiators.  The General Classification hits you in the face as the most obvious place to look.  But, the nuance of team rivalry, old debts to settle, pride, and the other prizes pique the intrigue in sometimes unexplainable ways.

I hope you will indulge me for the next month as I rant, ramble and explain the 2010 Tour de France.

First, a note to Christian Prudhomme, Director of Le Tour – Where is the Team Time Trial???  The fans love it.  Yeah, it puts riders from crappy Spanish and French teams out of the race on day 3, but The Fans Love It!  Bring it back.

My Take On The favorites:
Alberto Contador (SPN/Astana)
This is Contador’s race to lose.  He is clearly the most explosive climber in the world and one of the best time trialists, as well.  Contador totally dominated the tour last year and was very impressive at the Dauphine Libere a few weeks ago.  Apparently he did have a case of the flu in June.  We will have to see if that sets him back.  To be honest, I don’t like Contador.  He is kind of a big immature whiner.  He is the kind of guy, who you would totally love to smack up the Jack Benett climb, just because, but is also that guy whom you can never beat.  That sucks for us.  His team is also full of tools, especially Alexandre Vinokourov, who I just can’t stand.  So, come on Andy, Lance, and Cadel, one of you has to man up and beat Contador.

Andy Schleck (LUX/Saxo Bank)
The junior Schleck was Contador’s closest rival last year, and that is likely to remain the case. The hope for many cycling aficionados is that the 25-year-old from Luxembourg will have improved more since last year than his rival, and that the battle for the yellow jersey will be a more tightly contested affair. Andy is lousy at time trialing and lost a bunch of time at the Tour de Suisse.  Last year Andy killed Liege-Bastogne-Liege in the run up to the tour.  Perhaps he is holding back a bit this year and focusing on July.  I would love to see Andy Schleck win.  He is a good guy and has those crazy big ears that make you want to hug him.

Lance Armstrong (USA/RadioShack)
Brett Favre, I mean Michael Jordan, I mean Lance is absolutely going to retire after the race this year.  Hey the man made the podium last year.  He has a legitimate chance to win this year, if Contador breaks a leg, or Astana is caught with drugs on the bug, or Contador crashes off the side of the Tourmalet (either trip up).  Lance was sick off and on all spring, he crashed out of the Tour of California.  He says he is on track and hey he got second at the Tour de Suisse.  That ain’t bad.  He has the best team, the best director, the best support system ever.  I bet he finishes on the podium, just not the top step.  Lance is tough.  But, he is short – girls who rave about Lance’s hotness, did you know that he is only 5′ 9″??  How hot can he be?

Bradley Wiggins (GBR/Team Sky)
Sky is paying a fortune for this Brit.  He has real pressure to perform at the Tour. What constitutes a good performance for Wiggins was turned on its head last year, where he stunned himself and everyone else by finishing fourth, and missing out on a spot on the podium by just 37 seconds. Wiggins now weights 123 pounds – and he can still ride.  He looks skeletal.  His preparation has been meticulous, examining all the climbs and vital stages closely, and his Sky team have thrown unprecedented amounts of cash at kit, equipment and facilities for the riders. Now 30, this may be Wiggins’ best shot at winning the yellow jersey, which he has publicly stated as his objective. It is difficult to see him taking time off Contador in the hills, however, and the Spaniard even beat him at both ITTs last year. A top-three finish would represent a fantastic achievement.  Oh, and Wiggo looks like the singer in Oasis.

Robert Gesink (NED/Rabobank)
We know Gesink is good, but we’re not entirely sure yet just how good a grand tour rider he is. Last year he crashed out of the tour on stage five, then finished sixth at the Vuelta.  Gesink’s showing at the Tour de Suisse last month had Dutch fans frothing. He was amazing on stage six, riding away from a group of favourites that included the Schleck brothers and Lance Armstrong on the tough Albulapass, though did lose his lead on the GC when rolling in 2’19” down on stage winner Tony Martin in the final time-trial. At just 24, this Tour may have come a year or two too early for Gesink to challenge for yellow, though he looks every inch a future winner.  We can’t count him out this year.

Cadel Evans (AUS/BMC)
Cadel is no longer a wheel sucker?  Cadel has the best team support of his career this year.  The interaction between Radio Shack and BMC will be interesting – will they cancel each other out or help each other?  In 2008 Cadel was unwound with a superb attack from Carlos Sastre on Alpe d’Huez, and a year later many started to write him off when he rolled into Paris 45 minutes off the pace. Since then, Evans has managed to turn his career around. First he bounced back with a fantastic performance at the Vuelta that may well have seen him win it had he not suffered the most untimely of punctures in grand tour history, and then he became world champion in Mendrisio when he finally attacked. He railed Contador on the Mur du Huy at the Fleche Wallonne.  Will all of this will give him the confidence he needs to win?  I think his marine jaw will overcome his Mike Tyson voice this year and he will finish on the podium.

Ivan Basso (ITA/Liquigas)
Like David Millar, Basso has managed the rare feat of winning back popularity following a doping ban, and his victory at the Giro this year was even cited by some as a sign of a relatively clean race. That Giro win is likely to remain the highlight of Basso’s year, as even fewer riders (seven, to be precise) manage the feat of capturing both pink and yellow jerseys in the same season. Marco Pantani in 1998 was the last, and had Jan Ullrich not forgotten to eat on the Galibier then we’d probably have to look further back to Miguel Indurain in 1993. He’ll be ably supported by an excellent Liquigas squad, but is more likely to end up working for Roman Kreuziger if his efforts in May take their toll.  Basso is good for a top 10, not a podium this year.

My podium predictions are:
1. Contador
2. Evans
3. Armstrong

Enjoy the ride.  It is going to be an awesome Tour de France this year.

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Comments
  1. Jonathan says:

    Todd,

    What is wrong with 5’9”? I know you are like 6’11” but some of us are not blessed with such height. 5’9” or even 5’8” can be a good height. Just think about how much less weight I to deal with going uphill than you.

    Your short friend,
    Jonathan

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