Friday, June 26, 2009

2009 Tour de France Preview

Twitter has rendered most blogs pointless lately, but with the Tour starting I thought 140 characters couldn't do it justice.
First the predictions:
It wouldn't be Tour season without doping; I've almost become immune to this nonsense. This is mostly because baseball doesn't seem to care, so why should cycling? I don't think Contador is a doper, after all Garmin was courting him, however, I feel like the French have it in for him. He could meet the same fate Floyd Landis did in 2006. Since I can't put my finger on anyone who looks doped up right now (every rider has had a bad day it seems), I will have to go with the conspiracy theory.

Best Team: This one seems easy, because Astana is a hellish Cerberus of cycling powerhouses, however, I have little faith in Lance bettering his Giro performance. Also, Levi is the best in American stage races, but he is not going to be able to take advantage of a depleted tour field like he did in 2007, when he podiumed. That said, I'm going with the Schlecks and Saxo Bank - Playitas for team classification.

Green Jersey: I don't want to pick Cavendish, so I won't. I appreciate his track heritage, but I race bikes for the spirit of competition. I hate to think that now we have no competition in bunch sprints. I'm going to go out on a limb and pick Tyler Farrar for the green jersey. Garmin is feeling the heat for their lack of success, as evidenced by their talks with Contador, and Farrar has shown he has the kick to beat Cav in field sprints. Garmin will have to support Farrar instead of Christian Vandevelde because CVV is still not 100% after recovering from breaking vertebrae in his back at the giro. Garmin will have to make a a strong effort to salvage their Tour with stage wins and hopes of snatching the Green Jersey from Cavendish (who can be beat).

White Jersey: With Rabobank working for Dennis Menchov, you have to wonder if Robert Gesink's chances at white will be slim. He will have his hands full helping Menchov tackle the stronger teams. Liquigas could benefit from the GC tussle and have one of their two guys get away with the white jersey, its hard to say which one. I'll pick Vincenzo Nibali, only because he looks stronger than Roman Kreizinger this year (from what I've seen at least).

Polka Dot Jersey: as a natural non climber, I should be more excited about the Green Jersey, but there is nothing more impressive than winning the Polka Dot Jersey. Bernard Kohl had to dope to keep it from his peers. I will always be more impressed with Jaun Maricio Soler taking the Polka Dot Jersey in 2007 than I will be with Alberto Contador being gifted the Yellow Jersey. My pick for this jersey this year foreshadows another pick coming up. I see Carlos Sastre being the man at the top more often than not. He is just as strong as last year, as shown by his two stage victories in the Giro (a training ride?). He is out to prove that he can out climb the Schlecks just to make his old boss Bjarne Riis look bad.

Yellow Jersey: Alberto Co... I mean Carlos Sastre. Contador will never win again on a Johan Bruyneel led team. He needs to be with his countrymen and will win many more grand tours, just not this one. Carlos Sastre must have been involved with the course design of this years race; there are going to be few chances to take time on Sastre in the time trials this year, and there are plenty of climbs for him to eat into the likes of Cadel Evans and Lance Armstrong.

Final Podium: 1st Sastre, 2nd Contador, 3rd Evans

Other Story Lines: Fabian Cancellara cane be in yellow for almost a week if he wins the prologue and the field doesn't let breaks get away. Looking at the course profile we could see Fabian living in yellow again, just like in 2007 (when he surprised the sprinters and Fabianed the whole field, to Fabian a race is to attack in the last 1000 meters and hold on for the win).

Sylvain Chavanel will have a break out Tour with Boonen on the sidelines.

Lance Armstrong will not make the top 10. I will admit he is strong enough to warrant a professional cycling contract, he is not, however, strong enough to win the tour. I don't think he will ever be able to win the Tour again. Perhaps he should have swallowed his pride and fought Ivan Basso for the Vuelta a EspaƱa

I'm always excited for the Tour. Last year Vino broke my heart, who will do it this year?

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