Saturday, July 02, 2011
Three weeks. Over 2,000 miles. Twenty-two teams of nine riders each. Six ways to win something. Here are my predictions:
Yellow Jersey (overall winner): Alberto Contador (Team: Saxo Bank Sungard) though I'm pulling for Andy Schleck (Team: Leopard Trek).
Green Jersey (best sprinter): Thor Hushovd (Team: Garmin-Cervelo)
Polka Dot Jersey (king of the mountains): Contador or Schleck thanks to the new rules.
White Jersey (best young rider, 25 or younger): Robert Gessink (Team: Rabobank).
Best Team: Leopard Trek
Stage Winners: Each day of racing is called a stage and one rider wins each stage. Since there are 21 stages I will not make lots of predictions here but I will say that I expect Philippe Gilbert to win Stage 1, HTC High Road to win the Stage 2 Team Time Trial, Contador or Schleck to win the majority of the mountain stages, Mark Cavendish (the fastest man in the world at the moment) to win at least 5 of the sprint stages, and Fabian Cancellara to win the Stage 20 Individual Time Trial.
I also have high hopes for the following Americans to have a great Tour: George Hincape, Chris Horner, Levi Leipheimer, Tyler Farar, and Christian Vande Velde. George Hincape, Lance Armstrong's most reliable and loyal right hand man, has now tied the record for participations in the Tour at 16--truly amazing! He's not a threat to win anything but he's one of the most respected riders in the peleton and without a doubt the most honorable American.Chris Horner, though he's getting old (pushing 40), has the best chance for a top 5 overall finish and perhaps even top 3.
Barring a crash or some type of unexpected difficulty, this year's Tour is a two-man race. The drama is this: who will be first and second? Contador topped Schleck by only 38 seconds last year and given that he raced in, and won, the Tour of Italy just several weeks ago, he may not have what it takes to grab that first spot again. The secondary drama is this: who will finish third. There are probably 5 riders who could take that final podium position and it'll be fun to see who asserts himself and takes it. I'm pulling for the old guys, Chris Horner of Team Radio Shack or Cadel Evans of Team BMC.
Le Tour--there's no sporting event quite like it in the world and I'm so glad the 2011 edition has begun!