Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Tour de France Preview

. Tuesday, June 13, 2006

This year's Tour de France should be much more exciting and competitive than in year's past due to the reirement of Lance Armstrong. These are the five people that I feel have the best chance of wearing the maillot jaune in Paris.

Ivan Basso (Team CSC):
Basso comes hot off his victory at the Giro d’Italia and will try to become one of the few people in history to complete the rare Giro-Tour double. Basso dominated the competition in Italy with a winning margin of over nine minutes. He has shown improved time trialing skills and should be able to limit his losses to the time trial specialists like Ullrich and Landis. Basso has finished on the Tour podium the past two years and was the only rider to consistently keep pace with Armstrong in the mountains. Team CSC has been on fire all year long and should be in great position to launch Basso into the yellow jersey Paris.

Jan Ullrich (Team Telekom):

Ullrich has been the perennial bride’s maid to Armstrong since winning the TDF in 1997. Ullrich seems to always have problems battling weight gained during the offseason and this season has been no different. Yet he always seems to be competitve come July. His spring campaign has been pretty quiet, training almost exclusively for the Tour. Ullrich showed excellent form at the Giro d’Italia by winning the individual time trial with impressive form. Ullrich will be under tremendous pressure to win this year as this is likely the last year he’ll have a legitimate chance of winning. Team Telekom has always been one of the strongest teams at the Tour and should fight tooth and nail to deliver Ullrich to Paris in yellow.

Floyd Landis (Team Phonak):

Landis is one of three Americans with a legitimate shot at winning the TDF. He finished 9th last year in his first Tour leading his own team. Landis has had a very successful spring campaign with victories at the Tour of California, Paris-Nice, and the Tour de Georgia. Landis is brimming with confidence and has gained the full support of his Phonak teammates. Landis excels in the time trials, but will he be able to keep pace with the other TDF contenders in the mountains? His performances so far this year look promising.

George Hincapie (Team Discovery):
Hincapie is the only rider to have helped Armstrong with each of his 7 TDF victories. Last year was a breakout year for Hincapie winning the queen stage (most difficult) of the TDF. He has shown remarkable time trialing and climbing skills as of late. Lance Armstrong aside, Discovery has consistently fielded the strongest team at the TDF and knows how to protect the maillot jaune. Will Hincapie be able to emerge from Amstrong's shadow and achieve greatness for himself?

Levi Leipheimer (Team Gerolsteiner):Leipheimer is the third American who could potentially win this year’s TDF and is the dark horse of the group. Leipheimer should be riding high and brimming with confidence coming off his recent victory at the Dauphine-Libere. He has finished in the top 10 two out of the past three years (he crashed out of the TDF early in 2004) and is now looking for a podium finish. Leipheimer is similar to Landis in that he excells at the time trial but sometimes lacks that final burst of energy in the mountains.

Who will win the Tour de France?
Ivan Basso (Team CSC)
Jan Ullrich (Team Telekom)
Floyd Landis (Team Phonak)
George Hincapie (Team Discovery)
Levi Leipheimer (Team Gerolsteiner)
Someone else
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