I can hardly believe that Le Tour is just two days away (less if you want to get really technical about it). I hate to admit that I've even gotten in on a Bike Geek office pool. I won't bore you with my picks, but it is probably a lot like most other people's...
Will he or won't he? I can't wait for that question to finally get answered so we can move on with our cycling lives. No offense to Tex, it's just that the rest of the actual race seems totally secondary now. How amazing an impact he has had on the event. When he won the first one in 1999, I never ever would have assumed that he would have such an eclipsing effect on the sport and the Tour. Lance- Congratulations on one hell of a legacy. I wish you'd been riding my bikes instead, but you done good anyway.
The podium could be a real surprise this year if Lance actually does stumble this time around. Ullrich, of course, but also Basso, Landis, Leipheimer, Mayo, Vinokourov, Michael Rogers, Bradley McGee. Notice a lot of names of English speakers in that list? Amazing, isn't it. And that's for GC contenders. There are more for stage wins too- Julich, Horner (my personal favorite- GO CHRIS), Rodriguez, Hincapie, Matt White, Robbie McEwen, Stuart O'Grady, Allan Davis. These are all guys who can take stages.
Then there are all those Euro guys who are more than a little motivated to win, as always. If the Pro Tour can make the Giro so explosive this year, what will happen at the Tour? Granted, the Tour is a different animal and is always mega-intense and competitive. I have a feeling it will be a very animated race. Look for Valverde to try to make an impression this year. I don't think he's quite ready to contend, but I have no doubt he is capable of taking a couple of stages. What is going to happen with Beloki in his return to the Tour? He's been in the #2 spot on the final podium a couple of times. Will he be there just to support Heras? Will Heras be able to take the pressure of leading his team this time?
The questions are making me a little dizzy frankly. So, though Lance's farewell gallop around France will be a spectacle due to his mere appearance in the event (is Sheryl going to be on the bus with him?), I think there are a lot more reasons than we have had in many years to watch the race.
So let the racing begin. May the crashes be few and the Champagne flow freely!