One of my favorite sporting events of the year, the Tour de France, gets underway on Saturday when riders take to the road for the Tour’s Prologue, which consists of an individual time trial through 15.5km (9.6 miles) of Monaco. That stage will no doubt favor the sprinters and the time trialists, while the real race will get underway on Sunday, with a 187km (116 mile) ride from Monaco to Brignoles that will mostly be flat and fast.
Over the course of the following three weeks, the real contenders will begin to emerge, starting most likely on the 10th of July when the Peloton enters the mountains for the first time, riding 224km (139 miles) through the Pyrenees, which will hit them with a sudden force. That first mountain stage includes a Category 1 climb and a Beyond Category finish at 2200m (7217 feet) that is amongst the highest finishes for any Tour stage ever.
So, who will begin to make their move at that point of the race? It’s tough to say at this point, but Outside Online has posted a great article that takes a look at the top contenders in this year’s Tour, minus Lance Armstrong. Outside calls this year’s Tour field one of the deepest ever, and looking at this list, you’ll know why.
The five riders that they figure are the best bets to be in Yellow on the Champs Elysees at the end of July include Alberto Contador (labeled the Man to Beat), Andy Schleck (the Upstart), Carlos Sastre (Defending Champ!), Levi Leipheimer (the Dark Horse), and Cadel Evans (Man on a Mission).
So what about Lance? Well, lets be honest it has been three years since he’s ridden in the Tour, and he is 37 now. While it would be an amazing story to see him take another win, I personally think it’s highly unlikely. On the other hand, I wouldn’t bet against Lance very often, and he is still in tremendous shape and a great athlete. He’s proven that his comeback isn’t just a publicity stunt, as he has ridden well, despite suffering a broken collarbone several months back. Should he win an 8th Tour, I’ll be the first one to admit I was wrong, and I’ll be cheering him all the way.
Can’t wait for the race to get underway in a few days time.
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