Sunday, June 25, 2006
2006 TdF COUNTDOWN
Answer #1: Not soon enough!
Answer #2: What?!
Answer #3: Saturday, July 1st...just a few days from now.
UNADULTERATED ENTHUSIASM. Excuse me if I get a bit weird over the next few weeks. July is the one month out of the year that I express unadulterated enthusiasm, caring less about who scoffs, rolls their eyes, criticizes, dismisses, or makes fun of me. I go in for the Tour de France like some folks go in for the World Cup or NASCAR or the World Series. This 2,000+ mile race from July 1 to July 23 grabs my heart and I follow it ever so closely.
POST-ARMSTRONG FREE-FOR-ALL. Even without the phenomenal American cancer survivor Lance Armstrong riding the TdF, I am anticipating the thrill of this year's spectacular race, one stage (day) at a time. Every Tour develops different dynamics and race leadership can change dramatically. Without one dominant rider now, there are about ten world-class cyclists--including three Americans--who can take the lead or stand atop the podium in France. It could be a free-for-all.
FOR THE REST OF US. Contrary to what you read elsewhere, understanding and following the Tour de France is not difficult. My Tour de France updates and commentary are intended to spare readers of insider cycling verbiage, that's why I call it "The Tour de France for the Rest of Us." Feel free to check here daily for easy-to-understand Tour information and updates, links and comments, reviews and projections.
FAVORITES AMONG MANY CONTENDERS. There are many contenders who could win this year's Tour de France. A contender is one who has a record of recent wins or high placements, a strong team, and a balance of abilities in time trialing, mountain climbing, and aggressiveness. My favorite to win? Ivan Basso. This Italian finished second to Armstrong in last year's Tour. He was the only rider to consistently stay with Armstrong last year. He has proven himself strong in spring racing, winning the Giro d'Italia going away. He is supported by a solid team. Basso is a mountain climbing specialist, but he is just above average in time trials. A total of 116 kilometers of individual time trials may be too much for him against the power of Ullrich.
Other possible winners:
- Jan Ullrich, the only previous Tour winner in this year's race; Jan is reported to be in great shape, highly motivated, and is riding with a great T-Mobile team. He is an individual time trial monster.
- Alexandre Vinokourov, the ever-aggressive Khazak (if his team is permitted to start the race).
- Floyd Landis, the former Armstrong teammate and American waiting in the wings.
- Levi Leipheimer, the Montanan who will bide his time on the flats and make his moves in the mountains.
- Cadel Evans, the Aussies' great hope.
- And, as a long shot, big George Hincapie, the ever-faithful and always capable Armstrong lieutenant; question: who will lead the multi-talented Discovery Channel team? Hincapie? Paolo Salvodelli? Yaroslav Popovich? Tom Danielson?