Saturday, July 03, 2010

Tour de France 2010- here we go again, for the first time

Well kids, it's that time of year again- the Tour de France has arrived and now it is time for the cycling world to be up-ended with passion and controversy. In a few hours time, from the time I finish writing this, the Tour will begin with all of the cycling world's eyes staring at Rotterdam for the Tour prologue.

As this Tour begins, controversy again swirls and the ugly specter of doping is again in the news. Though I have not yet had the chance to read the full article, the Wall Street Journal has published a "bombshell" of allegations from Floyd Landis regarding Lance Armstrong and further unproven accusations of doping. Even before that, on the eve of the race, Cervelo Test Team suspended its rider Xavier Florencio- allegedly for breaking the team's code of conduct regarding the use of treatments containing banned substances... in this case, an ointment to treat a saddle sore. Seriously? The ass creme has so much ephedrine that he might fail a doping test? Is he bathing in the stuff or is the team A) so paranoid of bad press if something happens or 2) something more sinister is really behind this expulsion. AND we've now gotten so freaked out by drug doping that riders are resorting to mechanical doping and bikes are being scanned at this year's Tour!

Still one thing remains true; the Tour de France is quite possibly the gretest spectacle in all of sport and even with the sensational news and headlines, the next three weeks will be watched by cycling fans around the world with unmatched excitement as this year's race is arguably the most "open" it has been in several years.

We'll see what sorts of feces get tossed into the fan blades...

And now on to the teams and a few thoughts, comments and predictions.


The team of two-time winner Alberto Contador and former vampire- "no really, I'm totally clean now, this time"- Alexander Vinokourov. This is the team to beat, on paper. However, this could also be the team to have the most spectacular implosion as well. If Vino and Berto can work together and keep their team intact, then they should win the Tour. Contador is arguably the best stage racer of his generation, having already won all three Grand Tours... before the age of 30. Vino is about as predictable as a 10 year old after downing a case of Red Bull and chasing it down with one of those 3 foot long Pixie Stix. Some will say that Contador runs the risk of having to ride the race alone... but for those who do not remember the internal team polemics at Astana with Lance last year, he essentially won the Tour having to beat all the other teams AND his own.

If they keep their heads and actually work for El Pistolero, the race is his to lose.

1 Alberto Contador Velasco (Spa)
2 David De La Fuente Rasilla (Spa)
3 Andriy Grivko (Ukr)
4 Jesus Hernandez Blazquez (Spa)
5 Maxim Iglinskiy (Kaz)
6 Daniel Navarro Garcia (Spa)
7 Benjamin Noval Gonzalez (Spa)
8 Paolo Tiralongo (Ita)
9 Alexander Vinokourov (Kaz)

Team Saxo Bank

Here's the team of Bjarne- "yes I doped to win my Tour, so you can have your t-shirt back"- Riis. He's an excellent director, which can not be denied, and gets awesome results from his riders. The team is stacked with talent- including the Schleck brothers who so consternated both Alberto and Lance last year. Andy is a very good climber and can stay with Alberto when at his best, but not when it comes to the time trials. Since there is only one real TT this year, Andy has a chance to challenge. With Fabian- "I'll show you my motor"- Cancellara on the squad too, expect some additional fireworks from the team, especially on Stage 3, when they hit the cobblestones. He and Stuart O'Grady are both roubaix winners, so you can expect them to be pushing the pace and making the skinny climbers soil their petite chamois. AND with Jens- "that doesn't hurt"- Voigt, Saxo will certainly make the race hard for other teams.

11 Andy Schleck (Lux)
12 Matti Breschel (Den)
13 Fabian Cancellara (Swi)
14 Jakob Fuglsang (Den)
15 Stuart O'Grady (Aus)
16 Fränk Schleck (Lux)
17 Chris Anker Sørensen (Den)
18 Nicki Sörensen (Den)
19 Jens Voigt (Ger)

Team Radioshack

Well, what do you say about this team other than, "Lance is trying to win number 8"? Bruyneel- the team director with the most Tour wins to his credit- is a tactical genius and his biggest ace up his sleeve is Chris Horner. Horner is like a second Director on the road and in the race. He's supremely gifted at reading races and riders, so he'l; be an incredible asset to the team during the race. Lance is once again surrounded by the strongest team in the race. Love it or hate it- nobdoy else has the depth of Radioshack... aka The Shack. However, only Andreas Kloden has also had a foot on the Tour final podium and has proven his ability to be powerful all the way to the end. Levi- "I'm not actually a Hobbit"- Leipheimer is a totally likeable dude, but he's proven fragile- especially with his bones (will somebody give that boy a glass of whole milk and a block of cheese).

It is a given that nobody wants to win this race more than Radioshack. But can they? More importantly- can Lance?

21 Lance Armstrong (USA)
22 Janez Brajkovic (Slo)
23 Christopher Horner (USA)
24 Andreas Klöden (Ger)
25 Levi Leipheimer (USA)
26 Dmitriy Muravyev (Kaz)
27 Sergio Paulinho (Por)
28 Yaroslav Popovych (Ukr)
29 Grégory Rast (Swi)

Sky Professional Cycling Team
How do you become a Tour contending team over night? Money. Lots and lots and lots of money... and a ruthless pursuit of riders. Sky is a high profile team with great riders who were all purchased with the goal of winning this race. There is a lot of great talent on the roster, but their hopes on pinned on the affable Brad Wiggins. I like Brad because he races on the track, but was his 4th place last year a sign of things to come over the next 3 weeks or was it a happy co-inky-dink? He's proven he's got the goo between the ears to make himself ride well. Can his team support him for the duration of the race if he does have the ride of his life? Of the "contending" teams, Sky raises the most questions for me- they didn't exactly have a stellar Giro and have been erratic all year.

Can they do it and bring the Tour's final jersey to England?

31 Bradley Wiggins (GBr)
32 Michael Barry (Can)
33 Steven Cummings (GBr)
34 Juan Antonio Flecha Giannoni (Spa)
35 Simon Gerrans (Aus)
36 Edvald Boasson Hagen (Nor)
37 Thomas Lövkvist (Swe)
38 Serge Pauwels (Bel)
39 Geraint Thomas (GBr)

"No really, I didn't dope!" Ivan Basso just came off an incredible Giro win, his second, and is itching to finally win the Tour that was once thought to be his annointing as a true Campionissimo. Basso was once the guy Lance most feared in a race, but after serving a 2 year suspension for "nearly doping", he's now finally back but not as strong in the TT's as he once was. Then again, this Tour only has one real TT... so he could be in there still. BUT... his support riders at this race are not of the same level as his main rivals. They're good guys- you gotta like guys like Quinziato- but can they keep him in the hunt for 3 weeks?

We'll just have to wait and see what the boys of "leaky gas" can do.

41 Ivan Basso (Ita)
42 Francesco Bellotti (Ita)
43 Kristjan Koren (Slo)
44 Roman Kreuziger (Cze)
45 Alexander Kuschynski (Blr)
46 Daniel Oss (Ita)
47 Manuel Quinziato (Ita)
48 Sylvester Szmyd (Pol)
49 Brian Vandborg (Den)

Garmin - Transitions
Sweet Jesus... talk about fragile. Christain Vande Velde has bones made of balsa wood, or maybe posicle sticks. Poor guy... but he's tough as leather and still manages to ride hard against the odds. He managed to still make the top 10 last year, while riding support for Wiggins, after crashing and breaking a whole bunch of bones at the Giro. Still, you just have to love this team and want them to do well. Jonathan Vaughters may be a fashionable TT nerd, turned into a team owner/ director, but he's a good guy and his riders are all likeable. It's a strong team with tons of talent, so CVV should have great support, even with a contingent of the team there just to get stage wins with Tyler Farrar. Tyler is a good kid, who happens to be damned fast when he's at his best. He's now only missing a Tour win to complete his collection of Grand Tour stage wins. When you toss in Zabriskie, Hesjedal and Millar, the team looks like it can do a good job of playing potential spoiler if the main contenders spend too much time watching each other or updating Twitter.

51 Christian Vande Velde (USA)
52 Julian Dean (NZl)
53 Tyler Farrar (USA)
54 Ryder Hesjedal (Can)
55 Robert Hunter (RSA)
56 Martijn Maaskant (Ned)
57 David Millar (GBr)
58 Johan Van Summeren (Bel)
59 David Zabriskie (USA)

Française des Jeux
Well... long, long ago, in a far away galaxy, the French teams actually had a chance of winning the tour... or at least managing to get out of their own way. Managed by former Roubaix winner marc Madiot, FdJ is a perennial fan favorite. They sometimes manage to get stage wins, but their chances of winning the Tour are marginally better than my own. Made up of awesome support riders and breakaway workers, they lack a leader and can only pray that they are gifted a win. There are worse teams at this Tour, but only barely. I wish them luck because they're under dogs and I've met the owner of Lapierre- the bike sponsor- and shared an awesome dinner and conversation with him. It would be nice to see one of his bikes win a stage.

61 Christophe Le Mevel (Fra)
62 Sandy Casar (Fra)
63 Rémy Di Grégorio (Fra)
64 Anthony Geslin (Fra)
65 Matthieu Ladagnous (Fra)
66 Anthony Roux (Fra)
67 Jérémy Roy (Fra)
68 Wesley Sulzberger (Aus)
69 Benoït Vaugrenard (Fra)

Team Katusha
"I can haz vodka now?" Sponsored by a bunch of Russian companies and the Russian cycling federation, this is a team that is made of some great riders with lots of potential and some truly tough dudes. NEVER underestimate the ability of the Russian riders because only Jens Voigt can handle as much pain as they can. They eat broken glass with every meal and then chug down some good vodka to make them numb. Sadly though, they can't win the Tour with Vladimir Karpets. Vlad has dropped his famous mullet, which held the key to his power, and is not really a threat. The other Russians- Brutt, Ivanov and Kolobnev- are seriously capable of stage wins, especially if the field gets lazy and lets them escape. Robbie McEwen is a little long in the tooth for a true Tour sprinter... but the pocket rocket is one of the best riders in the world when things get dicey in the final meters of a race. Can he still win a stage? Maybe. The Green jersey... not likely.

Expect fireworks from this team and if that doesn't work, just hold on to your drinks at the after party.

71 Vladimir Karpets (Rus)
72 Pavel Brutt (Rus)
73 Serguei Ivanov (Rus)
74 Alexandr Kolobnev (Rus)
75 Robbie McEwen (Aus)
76 Alexandr Pliuschin (Mda)
77 Joaquin Rodriguez (Spa)
78 Stijn Vandenbergh (Bel)
79 Eduard Vorganov (Rus)

AG2R La Mondiale
No. Chance. In. Hell.

Nicolas Roche- sone of Stephen Roche- and Rinaldo Nocentini, who shocked folks by wearing yellow for several days last year, are the stars of this team of otherwise unknowns. Largely a team of French riders, they are possibly even less well equipped to win than FdJ. I'm pretty certain they can all ride better than me, but their chances are relegated to a hopeful stage win from the very classy Roche. Otherwise, they're chasing podium girls in Paris when things are all done.

81 Nicolas Roche (Irl)
82 Maxime Bouet (Fra)
83 Dimitri Champion (Fra)
84 Martin Elmiger (Swi)
85 John Gadret (Fra)
86 David Le Lay (Fra)
87 Lloyd Mondory (Fra)
88 Rinaldo Nocentini (Ita)
89 Christophe Riblon (Fra)

Cervelo Test Team
Carlos Sastre is an underappreciated rider and former winner of the Tour. He's a quite and humble guy- likeable in most respects- which dooms him most of the time. Can he win again? Not likely. Can he get away for a stage win and save his pride? Maybe. The other only real power on the team is in the tough speed of Thor Hushovd. Thor is a Norwegian sledgehammer and will crush most other riders in a sprint after a hard day in the saddle. He's won Green before and can do it again... if his other rivals don't win more consistently. The team is made of guys who are almost all capable of getting away in a break and then winning a stage. Well... except for the guy with the sore ass and plain ticket back to Spain. Will the team be distracted by the issue? I would guess a little, but they're going to be more focused on how they try to get some wins.

91 Carlos Sastre (Spa)
92 Xavier Florencio Cabre (Spa)
93 Volodymir Gustov (Ukr)
94 Jeremy Hunt (GBr)
95 Thor Hushovd (Nor)
96 Andreas Klier (Ger)
97 Ignatas Konovalovas (Ltu)
98 Brett Lancaster (Aus)
99 Daniel Lloyd (GBr)

Omega Pharma-Lotto

Stage wins, plain and simple. This team is built around the Belgian classics, not stage race- which is why Cadel Evans left them at the end of last year. All of the riders are top notch and can do great things... but mostly in long single day races. Nobody expects more than stage wins from this Belgian super team... well, nobody who is familar with the team anyway. They are stacked with talent and will certainly be a factor in the race for stage wins, but not the overall GC. They lack a leader because 3 weeks in July are not as important in Belgium as the Classics months during the Spring.

101 Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel)
102 Mario Aerts (Bel)
103 Francis De Greef (Bel)
104 Mickael Delage (Fra)
105 Sebastian Lang (Ger)
106 Matthew Lloyd (Aus)
107 Daniel Moreno Fernandez (Spa)
108 Jurgen Roelandts (Bel)
109 Charles Wegelius (GBr)

HTC - Columbia
Mark Cavendish, Mark Cavendish, Mark Cavendish. Now you know the entire story of Columbia-HTC. Sure, they throw in Michael Rogers for good measure, but it's really all about the Manx Missile. Especially if you ask him. Tony Martin could win a TT stage again, but they just really don't have GC riders. Given that Cavendish won 6 stages last year and has had a crappy season this year, you can expect there to be a lot of pressure on the "Boy Racer" when things come to a field sprint. On his best, he IS the best sprinter in the world- period. I'd dare say, he's even faster than me. They have tons of talent built around Cav', so he should win if he's got the form. If not, they have enough talent to hunt other ways to win stages... but no chance to win the overall. None.

111 Mark Cavendish (GBr)
112 Bernhard Eisel (Aut)
113 Bert Grabsch (Ger)
114 Adam Hansen (Aus)
115 Tony Martin (Ger)
116 Maxime Monfort (Bel)
117 Mark Renshaw (Aus)
118 Michael Rogers (Aus)
119 Kanstantsin Siutsou (Blr)

BMC Racing Team
Cadel is only marginally better off with BMC than he was with Omega Pharma-Lotto. His best help will come in the form of George Hincapie. George has been around France a few times, even picked up his wife there, and has an impressive list of Tours he helped Lance win. Cadel will rely on his experience very heavily... well, if he's smart he will. Evans has been a class act this year as World Champion. He's been on the steps of the Tour podium before and has been tantalizingly close to finally winning a Tour for Australia... but there is always that "bad day" or similar implosion. If he can avoid the usual meltdowns, he's got the best support he's ever had and should have his best shot to date at winning. But can he? Can Cadel really win?


121 Cadel Evans (Aus)
122 Alessandro Ballan (Ita)
123 Brent Bookwalter (USA)
124 Marcus Burghardt (Ger)
125 Mathias Frank (Swi)
126 George Hincapie (USA)
127 Karsten Kroon (Ned)
128 Steve Morabito (Swi)
129 Mauro Santambrogio (Ita)

Quick Step
Like Omega Pharma-Lotto, this is a Belgian Classics team. And without Boonen this year again- though not because he likes a little cocaine, this time- the chances for wins are diminished. Again, like their countrymen, this team is stacked with awesome talent for single day races and stage wins, but they lack a leader capable of contending for 3 weeks. Look for them to make the racing hard, either with breakaways or just good old fashioned Belgian toughness. They need to win something... anything. Sylvain Chavanel- once the next great French hope- is still capable of doing some good things... just not winning the Tour. Ever. On this planet.

131 Sylvain Chavanel (Fra)
132 Carlos Barredo Llamazales (Spa)
133 Kevin De Weert (Bel)
134 Dries Devenyns (Bel)
135 Jérôme Pineau (Fra)
136 Francesco Reda (Ita)
137 Kevin Seeldrayers (Bel)
138 Jurgen Van De Walle (Bel)
139 Maarten Wijnants (Bel)

Team Milram

Here's another team you just have to like. A great team from Germany that has talented riders who can win races, especially tough ones, but they lack a leader who can contend for 3 weeks. Gerald Ciolek would LOVE to finally beat Cavendish in a head to head sprint at the Tour... but can he? So far... no. This is a hungry team looking to prove a point since they are losing their sponsor next season, so they need to win to help find a new paycheck for the team. I have several good friends who work for Focus USA, so I'd be happy to see the Moo Team win a stage or two. But who can do it?


141 Linus Gerdemann (Ger)
142 Gerald Ciolek (Ger)
143 Johannes Fröhlinger (Ger)
144 Roger Kluge (Ger)
145 Christian Knees (Ger)
146 Luke Roberts (Aus)
147 Thomas Rohregger (Aut)
148 Niki Terpstra (Ned)
149 Fabian Wegmann (Ger)

Bbox Bouygues Telecom
Another French team with no chance in hell of winning the race. None whatsoever. Thomas Voeckler was the gutty defender of the Yellow jersey several years ago during Lance's first reign of terror at the Tour. Now the team is far more likely to get a win out of Pierrick Fedrigo, who won a stage last year in grand fashion. Personally, I'd like to see Japanese rider Yukiya Arashiro win a stage- which is almost as likely as me winning. He's a good rider and he'd be the first ever Japanese rider to win a stage. Since I have lots of rfiends in Japan, that would be cool. Plus, I have friends at Colnago as well and would be happy for them if the team won a stage. Though this is a French team that is way better at picking a good wine or cheese than they are winning races, they don't appear to be jerks.

They've got that going for them.

151 Thomas Voeckler (Fra)
152 Yukiya Arashiro (Jpn)
153 Anthony Charteau (Fra)
154 Pierrick Fedrigo (Fra)
155 Cyril Gautier (Fra)
156 Pierre Rolland (Fra)
157 Matthieu Sprick (Fra)
158 Sébastien Turgot (Fra)
159 Nicolas Vogondy (Fra)

Caisse d'Epargne

Can you remember the days when Moreau was supposed to be the next French Tour winner? Yeah... seems like it was a million years ago to me too. Well, he's old enough now that his usual implosion will seem less dramatic and even more expected. This French-sponsored Spanish powerhouse team is capable of making things happen with Luis Leon Sanchez Gil (WHY FOUR NAMES?). The team uses more letters in their names than all the other teams combined, which I am not sure is not somehow a race tactic- I just hear the team directors of the other teams trying tell their riders who is up the road in the break and finally just giving up when they can't say the whole thing! Like all Spanish teams, they do best in the mountains. Stage 3 and the cobbles should have them collectively dreaming of paella and sangria in Madrid or Barcelona, but hopefully they manage to stay upright... for a change.

161 Luis León Sánchez Gil (Spa)
162 Rui Alberto Faria da Costa (Por)
163 Imanol Erviti Ollo (Spa)
164 José Ivan Gutierrez Palacios (Spa)
165 Vasili Kiryienka (Blr)
166 Christophe Moreau (Fra)
167 Mathieu Perget (Fra)
168 Ruben Plaza Molina (Spa)
169 Jose Joaquin Rojas Gil (Spa)

Cofidis, Le Credit en Ligne
All French, all the time. This is a team that has taken losing races to an art form. So much potential, but so few results. All of the riders are French and they will be turning themselves inside out during the race... just to survive... in hopes of making something magic happen. And they need more than magic, they need a miracle. They also need a new sponsor next year, so expect them to be looking for ANYTHING to brag about in the sponsor hunt. The last time Cofidis saw a Tour podium up close was in 1998 when Bobby Julich stepped on the podium for third. Don't expect that to happen this year, unless 188 other riders drop out.

171 Rein Taaramae (Est)
172 Stéphane Auge (Fra)
173 Samuel Dumoulin (Fra)
174 Julien El Farès (Fra)
175 Christophe Kern (Fra)
176 Sébastien Minard (Fra)
177 Amaël Moinard (Fra)
178 Damien Monier (Fra)
179 Rémi Pauriol (Fra)

Euskaltel - Euskadi

Who doesn't love these guys? Seriously, they just try so damned hard! Olympic champion Sammy Sanchez is a classy rider who can win lots of races, but he's not truly likely to contend at the end of three weeks. Only the Basque can find a way to use as many X's and Z's in their names as the Belgians. These mountain-loving lung freaks are supreme climbers, as a team, but still manage to fall short at the Tour. On paper, in theory, they should "own" the Climber's jersey... but never seem to be able to keep things under control.

Look for the orange jerseys to be at the front on the climbs, at least for awhile. Well, if they manage to make it off the cobbles in stage three in one piece.

181 Samuel Sánchez Gonzalez (Spa)
182 Inaki Isasi Flores (Spa)
183 Egoi Martinez De Esteban (Spa)
184 Juan Jose Oroz Ugalde (Spa)
185 Alan Perez Lezaun (Spa)
186 Ruben Perez Moreno (Spa)
187 Amets Txurruka (Spa)
188 Iban Velasco Murillo (Spa)
189 Gorka Verdugo Marcotegui (Spa)

The Giro and Tour are two totally different races. Denis Menchov won last year's Giro and then was too gassed for the Tour. This year he has saved himself for the Tour in hopes of finally proving his right to be considered a contender. It's not a gamble likely to work, simply because he's not a rider for the steeper climbs and there are not enough TT kilometers for him to make up time. Still, this Dutch wunder team is likely to find a way to win a stage with riders like Lars Boom, Oscar Freire, Robert Gesink and a few others. Rabo' is another one of those teams that should have a Tour win to their name, but don't. They'd like to fix that problem with either Menchov or Gesink...

... but it won't likely happen this year.

191 Denis Menchov (Rus)
192 Lars Boom (Ned)
193 Oscar Freire Gomez (Spa)
194 Juan Manuel Gárate Cepa (Spa)
195 Robert Gesink (Ned)
196 Koos Moerenhout (Ned)
197 Grischa Niermann (Ger)
198 Bram Tankink (Ned)
199 Maarten Tjallingii (Ned)

Lampre-Farnese Vini

Alessandro Petacchi was once the best sprinter in the world and signaled the end for Mario Cippolini as greatest Italian sprinter of thier time. Damiano Cunego was once the next Coppi, after winning the Giro several years ago. Both are still capable winners, but the Tour is full of better riders this year. Cunego could get a win, but Petacchi is unlikely to be able to find a way to beat his younger rivals this year... but I won't count him entirely out because his rvials likely will and he can take advantage of that foolishness. Lampre is a team with great history and they deserve to be in the race every year, but they are not a team one should look at for more than a couple classy wins.

201 Damiano Cunego (Ita)
202 Grega Bole (Slo)
203 Mauro Da Dalto (Ita)
204 Francesco Gavazzi (Ita)
205 Danilo Hondo (Ger)
206 Mirco Lorenzetto (Ita)
207 Adriano Malori (Ita)
208 Alessandro Petacchi (Ita)
209 Simon Spilak (Slo)

Well, they have gold team kits and ride Fuji. That's about all anybody knows about this team of "what's his name" riders. No, they don't flat out suck and have won a few races this year, but they are kinda like Cofidis- a team of riders who have almost no chance of winning unless there is a serious confluence of luck. The team will certainly want to do something to prove they deserve to be in the race and the tour is often kind enough to reward the smaller teams with a little something they can be happy about. Maybe, just maybe, these guys will be "that team" this year. If not... don't say I didn't tell ya.

211 Eros Capecchi (Ita)
212 Jose Alberto Benitez Roman (Spa)
213 Manuel Cardoso (Spa)
214 Arkaitz Duran Daroca (Spa)
215 Markus Eibegger (Aut)
216 Fabio Felline (Ita)
217 Iban Mayoz Echeverria (Spa)
218 Aitor Perez Arrieta (Spa)
219 Rafael Valls Ferri (Spa)

And there you have it! The Tour starts in a few hours, so I am going to bed so I can see a little of the prologue before I go out and pretend I'm a Tour rider with a few friends with shaved legs and Lycra.

Prologue report is next on the menu.

1 comment:

Ric Garrido said...

Absolute favorite team summary I have read for the Tour. Quite entertaining and actually insightful read.

After two days of watching VS tv coverage I am astounded that Vinokourov seems to be on the blacklist for name dropping even while the commentary is focused so much on an Armstrong-Contador feud.