We’re now just about ten days away from the start of the Tour de France, one of my absolute favorite times of the year. (Seriously, it’s better than Christmas!) Over the course of the next week or so, we’ll likely begin to see more and more Tour previews, predictions, and of course profiles of Lance Armstrong, who will be going after his 8th victory in the world’s biggest cycling event, at the venerable age of 38.
Lance’s Team RadioShack announced their starting line-up today, and there weren’t any major surprises really. The team has been built to give Lance the best opportunities to contend in the race, with a number of big names helping him to that goal. The nine person squad will consist of Andreas Kloden (Ger), Levi Leipheimer (USA), Chris Horner (USA), Janez Brajikovic (Slo), Sergio Paulinho (Por), Yaroslav Popvych (Ukr), Gregory Rast (Swi) and Dmitriy Muravyez (Kaz), and Armstrong of course.
This year’s race will get underway from the city of Rotterdam, located in the Netherlands, on Saturday, July 3rd, with an 8.9km (5.5 mile) prologue through the city center. This is the first time in three years that the Tour has begun with a prologue, and the real racing will get underway on Sunday, July 4th, with a 223.8km (138.8 miles) sprint from Rotterdam to Brussels in celebration of the 65th birthday of cycling’s greatest rider, Eddy Merckx.
The real interest in this year’s race will likely be the showdown between Lance and Alberto Contador, who rides for Team Astana. Last year, the two were teammates, and there was obvious infighting over who should be the lead rider, with Contador eventually standing atop the podium, while Lance claimed third place behind Andy Schleck. With the shackles off this year, there will no longer be a need for the two riders to place nice with one another in the press, and they can go all out against one another.
Heading into the race, Contador has to be the odds on favorite to win again. He’s young, strong, and essentially a machine on his bike. But that doesn’t mean that he and Lance won’t have some epic duels, especially when the race hits the Pyrenees and the Alps.
I for one, can’t wait!
Oh, and speaking of Lance. His cycling shop, located right here in Austin, Texas, is called Mellow Johnny’s, and they’re going to be holding a hell of a TdF Start Party. Anyone else want to come with me?
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