Saturday, July 4, 2009

Tour de France 09

In theory Alberto Contador has to be the favourite for this year's race – climber's course, strongest team, blistering form and almost perfect preparation.

Will it all go according to plan though? I have my doubts. The team is riven into two clear camps by the presence of Armstrong, Bruyneel seems unsure of what he is doing and where his loyalties lie, the financial problems, the intriguing political maneuvering and the reappearance of our old friend Vinokourov all point to a team more likely to implode in shower of overheated egos than put riders on to the podium. One thing's for sure though: it should be fun to watch.

Could all this play into the hands of our local hero Cadel? I would like to hope so, but I suspect there is too much climbing, not enough time trialling and that his team won't be strong enough to either support him in the mountains or not lose time in the team time trial.

Astana's problems are more likely to benefit the other strong teams like Saxo Bank, Columbia and possibly even Garmin, playing into the hands of a canny operator like Bjarne Riis.

Sastre doesn't have the team to back him up this year and I suspect the best we will see from him are a couple of solo mountain wins in the Alps when he is already out of overall contention. He'll probably pick up the maillot à pois rouges for his efforts though.

And what about Menchov? He could well end up on the podium, but I have a feeling that he won't have totally recovered from his Giro efforts and will end up losing time somewhere on one of the big mountain stages.

Mark Cavendish should make it to Paris this year and I would be surprised if he doesn't have the green jersey on when he takes his first win on the Champs-Élysées. The last minute reinstatement of Tom Boonen should make things more interesting, but I can't see anyone challenging Cavendish in a straight-up sprint. His team is too well organised and he is just too fast. The margins won't be as big this year, but they will still be more than enough.

So here they are, my predictions for all three jerseys. Feel free to add your own in the comments or just tell me where I've got it wrong. And if anyone fancies a shot at picking their own team try the SBS Fantasy Tour and see if you can beat CDMC Racing ...

1 Alberto Contador
2 Andy Schleck
3 Cadel Evans
4 Lance Armstrong
5 Carlos Sastre

1 Mark Cavendish
2 Tom Boonen
3 Thor Hushovd

1 Carlos Sastre
2 Andy Schleck
3 Alberto Contador

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