95th Tour de France Preview

by Jack  

First, let me say happy 4th to all of the Americans and happy Friday to the rest of the world! I'm writing from Philadelphia, the birth place of America, today as we're here to visit some friends and just be tourists for the weekend. Of course, I do have the DVR set to record the first 2 stages of this year's Tour and will anxiously follow cyclingnews' live commentary on my phone. (My wife's rolling her eyes now.)

Before I get into the Tour, let's recap the poll that has been running on the right side of this page. The poll asked, "Who do you like better?" between the 3 American winners of the Tour de France. (Yes, Floyd was included.) The winner by only 4% is Greg LeMond. Lance Armstrong followed with Floyd trailing in for 3rd. I was particularly surprised with Greg coming out on top because of his recent spats with Lance and Trek. I think the reason may be because all of us will always remember the first American Tour winner and the dramatics that Greg provided through all of his 3 wins. Sure, Lance won a record 7 times, but bar 2003, it was relatively "routine". So now we have it, unscientific of course. It's time for a new poll. Who will win the Tour? Now on to the preview.

So on the eve of another Tour de France, the 3rd after the Lance Armstrong Era, the world of cycling awaits to crown a new winner since there will be no defending champion again. This year's Tour is wide open. There are the obvious contenders in Cadel Evans (Silence-Lotto), Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d'Epargne) and Denis Menchov (Rabobank) and then there are the "if everything goes right and the top 3 contenders falter, I can win" contenders such as the Team CSC boys of Carlos Sastre and Frank and Andy Schleck and Damiano Cunego (Lampre).

For many reasons, I will stick my head out on the line and say Damiano will do much better than others (including Lance) have suggested. I think this "kid" has so much talent and just needs to have the focus needed to do well in France. Sure, he sucks in time trials but this year's course has relatively few kilometers. If Cunego can climb like he should, he can be a force to be reckoned with.

Because there are much fewer time trial kilometers in this year's Tour, I don't see Cadel Evans winning. His skills in this discipline are not heads over heals above others anymore. People like Valverde have improved significantly in order to limit their losses to Cadel. But as we saw in the Dauphiné, Valverde might just take time away from his rivals. Now that the time trial has neutralized itself between these two, I believe Cadel still lacks a bit of a punch in the mountains to set himself apart from the likes of Valverde or Cunego.

Denis Menchov is a bit unpredictable. Menchov is Pez's pick for Tour glory but that's going out a limb. I appreciate them coming in from left field though. Thanks to a new program that included the Giro, Menchov could be coming in with the form that won him his Vuelta's. He certainly can time trial with Evans and can hold his own in the mountains. His one downfall is his consistency. He has always had that one bad day. If he can avoid that this year, I will be happy to see him on the podium.

For the CSC boys, I give them no shot. Sastre has never proven that he can time trial and even with the light kilometers this year, he should lose his Tour there. The Schlecks (in particular Andy) have a bright future. If they stick with stage wins and gaining experience, we can see them make a run for the top step in a few years.

So who's my pick for Tour glory? Before the Dauphiné, I would have surprised everyone by picking Damiano Cunego (probably because I actually like the guy). But after seeing Valverde's mastery of the time trial, confirming his abilities in the mountains and his poise that he showed in the Dauphiné, he is my pick.

STL's Top 3:
1. Alejandro Valverde
2. Cadel Evans
3. Damiano Cunego

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Comment from: CRX4 [Visitor]  
CRX4
4 stars

Hello Jack.

I’m new to cycling (well, last rode, for transport and recreation, in 1986 when I was 17) and am looking for insight and info in blogs and anywhere else online.

I’m enjoying your blog and I will confess that I voted for Cadel Evans in the current Poll. This is bias on my part as I am an Australian, but also due to the local/national media broadcasting about Cadel as though he is the broadly accepted favourite.

Please keep up the good work.

Kind Regards, Newby (CRX4)

07/11/08 @ 01:15
Comment from: [Member]
Jack

Thanks for your kind words, Newby!

This has been an exciting first week for the Tour and Cadel looks strong. Stay tuned for a week 1 recap shortly.

Jack

07/11/08 @ 13:19


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