Handicapping Le Tour
In the absence of Basso and Ullrich, the new Tour favourites include Spaniard Alejandro Valverde, Alexandre Vinokourov of Kazakhstan, Lithuanian Yaroslav Popovych, Australian Cadel Evans and Americans Floyd Landis, Levi Leipheimer and George Hincapie.
That sounds about right now that some of the other favorites are out. I don’t know that I’d include Vinokourov or not simply because his team has been through a lot of controversy and may not be as emotionally prepared for the tour.
Who gets the nod for Discovery this year? Popovych or Hincapie? Popovych was a great young rider last year, but Hincapie has the edge in experience. Who rides for whom? That could leave both of them out of the running unless one or the other comes out ahead by a large margin during the trials.
Leipheimer did well by winning the Dauphine Libere last month. That’s generally been a decent indicator of tour performance. He’s had his moments in previous tours but was not able to consistently perform day in and day out. Speaking of Americans, David Zabriskie rode well early on last night, but faded fast in the mountains.
For my money, I’ll be pulling for George Hincapie. He did well last year riding for Armstrong and Discovery. If the team rides for him this year, I think he could finish on the podium easily. He’s a decent time trialist and he could hang in the mountains with the team looking out for him. If he fades early, I’ll pull for any of the Americans that are in contention. Barring that, I’m pulling for Popovych since he rides for Discovery.
I really was looking forward to the drama this year, but that’s been a little dulled by the suspension of the top contenders. I was really looking forward to watching Basso and Ullrich compete no matter what. I don’t know that anyone could’ve beaten Basso. He was just so strong in the mountains last year. I guess there will still be drama, but with the top contenders out, the whole tour has changed for me.
A good account of the latest cycling doping scandal can be found here.
Update I was just looking through the list of riders on the Tour website and started to wonder, now that Basso, Mancebo and Ullrich are out, who will lead their respective teams?
Basso rides for CSC. With him out, American Bobby Julich becomes the best bet to win the general classification. Okay, scratch that. Carlos Sastre might have a better chance. Stuart O’Grady also rides for CSC so maybe they change their strategy and race to get him the green jersey. David Zabriskie, also an American, wore the yellow jersey for a few days last year after a great prologue and it’s conceivable that the team could ride for him if he starts strong again.
Mancebo rides for AG2R Prevoyance. I am not too familiar with most of their riders, but Christophe Moreau put in some yeoman’s work in the mountains last year and the team could ride to get him into the top 5.
Ullrich rides for T-Mobile. I’m guessing Andreas Kloden becomes the GC threat with Ullrich gone. Michael Rogers from Australia could compete for the sprinters jersey, but Kloden finished second in the GC in 2004 and could be a threat again this year.
My gut tells me CSC rides for whomever has the best chance to win the GC going into the mountains. AG2R rides for Moreau and T-Mobile rides for Kloden. Somebody has probably already figured this out, but it’s entertaining for me to try to figure it out on my own.
‘Cause I have to show off my super-geek cycling knowledge.