Is it possible for the UCI and the Grand Tour Organizers to get along at all? Does it even really matter? Both sides are acting like complete idiots, but I have to admit that it seems to me that the GTO's are being the bigger knobs here. The UCI's Pro Tour was not a 100% success, but it did help create some great racing this last year and I am really looking forward to Pro Tour 2006.
Anyway, there's already been too much talk about the Tour and the Giro... which of course means that it is my turn to throw around my perceived weight. As is always the case, I'm right and you're wrong... so don't come around here posting comments about your opinions. Mine are better, so there...
Giro; Climber's race? Wait a second, isn't every race with hills (lots of'em) considered on the face to be a climber's race... especially if a climber wins it? If a Simoni wins this year, then it will be a certified climber's race. However, if somebody like Savoldelli wins again, then it will be considered an all-rounder's race. By virtue of the winner, isn't the type of race decided by the type of rider who wins? Really... let's not be such idiots. If Petacchi wins, it'll be a Sprinter's race (as well as a cold day in Hell). This Giro will have a lot of great climbing going on it and the climber's will benefit from it when they are on the climbs. When on the flats, they won't benefit from the climbs nearly as much.
Here's my prediction for the Giro- the winner will be the rider who climbs the best, time trials the least poorly and stays out of trouble on the flat sprinting stages. Kinda sounds familiar doesn't it? Maybe DiLuca can pull it off this time. He's my current pick.
Tour; Ulrich or Basso? Well, I think it'll be one of them or somebody else. I'm pretty sure on this one too. Ok, so Ulrich has the most to prove after being second so many times and after getting beaten so badly by Lance the past two years. All eyes are on him to pull off the win. But wait, the past two years haven't been so good to him- 4th in '04 and 3rd in '05. Basso was 3rd in '04 and 2nd in '05. '06 would seem to point to 1st... would it not?
Ulrich keeps failing under pressure and this coming Tour is going to be crammed with more pressure than when he came back to try and win a second Tour before Lance started racking them up. I wouldn't bet all my beer money on Der Kaiser just yet.
Basso? Well, he looks to have the best chance to capitalize on what could be Jan's biggest implosion yet. Ivan the not-so-Terrible is a lot more confident now and knows that he is the smart bet to win. He cracked a bit at the Giro last year when all the pressure was put on his slim shoulders to win. Yeah, I know he got sick, but that happens when your body is screaming "I can't handle all this stress!" I have a feeling it wasn't bad pasta the night before that did him in. Sure, surviving that stress and gritting his teeth to win two stages of the Giro before going home to complete his Tour preparation gave him the courage he needed to trust he could win a real race. Can Bjarne keep Ivan cool enough to not overheat during the race of races in July? Not just as a challenger, but as a favorite? Lance's shadow is going to still be hanging over a lot people and they are going to realize that coming out of that shadow is hard to do.
George "Pretty Boy" Hincapie as Tour winner? I doubt it. Another surprise stage win? Probably not. Too many people are going to be watching his every move, so he's not likely to get enough ground between himself and the other guys who will want to win a stage. George just isn't that explosvie- not like Vinokourov.
Vino? I'd love a glass, thanks. Vinokourov? Oh yeah, that guy... he'll probably win a stage or two, but that's about all I can see happening. Manolo and the boys just can't seem to get a real break in July when in France, so I have a hard time believing that they will this year... finally.
The winner? Probably the same kind of guy who wins in Italy, but not the same guy. I do think we'll see some great racing though.
There's more to come, don't worry. The Sprinters and Climbers aren't off the hook yet.