The race started a couple of hours ago, but still just enough time to get my predictions for this year's Tour de France. It is going to be an interesting race this year: no prologue, Pyrenees in the first week and, of course, no defending champion. Lots of rumours and intrigue flying around about the real reasons, but undoubtably it can only make life easier for the hot favourite, Chris Froome, and Team Sky.
Froome's form is superb and his results this year point to him being the man to beat, so can he take the one hundredth Tour de France as his first ever grand tour win? Well, it is the Tour and plenty can and will happen between here and the Champs Elysees, but basically the answer is yes. Same as last year his closest rival looks to be his Sky teammate Richie Porte and I reckon they will both be on the podium. Joaquim Rodriquez is a bit of a long shot and he has been pretty invisible this year, but the course has plenty that he will be looking forward to and I hope he can give Froome a run in the mountains. Mainly because I can't see anyone else being up to the job.
Evans and Contador will both be strong and consistent, but I can't see either of them getting onto the podium. Evans is going well this year, but the course doesn't really suit him and he just doesn't have the motivation that Froome and Porte have. Contador doesn't look anywhere near his best form, whether that is to do with a lack of chemically enhanced steaks or just the result of all the upheavals over the last few years, and I don't think he will really challenge. He has a strong team and may make the top five, but to be honest he looks like a relic from a past era already.
I am looking forward to the green jersey competition this year and can't believe anyone will get close to Cavendish. The course will make it difficult for Peter Sagan to challenge, although I bet he gets a stage or maybe even two, and I reckon Cavendish's closest challenger will be Andre Greipel.
And the maillot à pois will stay in France, although little Tommy will have to hand it over to Pierre Rolland. I hope Rolland makes top five, but the mountains jersey will be a nice consolation even if he doesn't manage it this year.
Right, the TV coverage must be about to start. See you in three weeks for the post-mortem. Oh, and don't forget to get your fantasy tour teams in here or here (my team is still called Green Wedgie and we have a league going on the SBS one called Green Wedgie vs the World – let me know if you want to join).
1 Chris Froome
2 Joaquim Rodriquez
3 Richie Porte
4 Cadel Evans
5 Alberto Contador
1 Mark Cavendish
2 André Greipel
3 Peter Sagan
1 Pierre Rolland
2 Thomas Voeckler
3 Joaquim Rodriquez