The BiciRace.com crew spends a lot of time standing around the espresso machine talking shop. Lately, the buzz has shifted from the Giro d'Italia to the upcoming Tour de France. The question on everybody's mind is, of course, who is going to win?
BiciRace.com has compiled a list of the strong and weak points of the big favorites, along with what we feel their chances are in this year's Tour. Read on and find out who stacks up and who doesn't.
After Basso's trouncing of his opposition in the Giro d'Italia, he has to be considered THE favorite to win the Tour de France. The route includes two long, non-technical time trials, as well as five days in the mountains, three of which have mountaintop finishes.
Ivan Basso is not the very best climber or very best crono man, but darn near close, plus his squad is as well drilled as they come. Did his Giro exploits cost him too much energy? We think not.
Prediction: Basso will win.
Jan has the engine to win the Tour. He showed that by winning the TT in the Giro and hanging tough in the mountains. It is just so hard to say with any certainty what Jan will do. His form is always suspect, but the German always manages something big.
His shortcomings will be tactical blunders and lack of cohesion in his team. The time trials will give him the chance to inflict some damage on his rivals, but we don't think the time gains will be enough to take to the top spot.
No-Fuss Floyd has the pedigree to win the Tour as evidenced by convincing wins in Paris-Nice, Tour of California and Tour of Georgia. Those races, however, are a week long and the Tour is a three-week affair. The big question is can l'Americano go the distance for three weeks and not buckle under the immense pressure? His time trialing and climbing skills rank him among the sport's elite. We just don't think that Landis has the ability to rally his troops and fend off offensives from the likes of CSC, T-Mobile and Astaná-Würth.
Vino had a stellar spring, but we haven't heard much from him since then. Hopefully the departure from T-Mobile and the new addition of a Kazakh title sponsor to his squadra will be what he needs to soothe his worries and focus on the task at hand.
The Kazakh can ride a good time trial, he can climb with most of the top climbers and his squadra is stacked deep with talent dedicated to Vino's cause: Tour Victory. Sure he's not a pure climber, but this year's parcours is not made for a pure climber. If he avoids a bad day in the mountains, then anything could be possible.
Levi looked great at the Tour of California, but that was February. Where has he been since then? Leipheimer can beat the best on their home turf in the big events (case in point: victory over Jan Ullrich in 2005 Deutschland Tour). He's a handy climber and is more than respectable riding against the clock. This year's route suits him well. He's proven himself in the Grand Tours, but an overall Tour victory is well beyond the Californian's reach.
Much has been said about Valverde's chances of winning the Tour de France, especially after laying to waste the best in the Ardennes Classics earlier this year. But there are two words for those that think he will win: time trial.
Valverde is a phenomenal talent, no question about it, but his TT skills are sorely lacking compared to guys like Ullrich, Basso, Landis and Leipheimer. He has also never finished the Tour de France. He will shine in the mountains and will sink in the time trials.
Ever since Hincapie won last year's Tour de France stage to Pla d'Adet the American press has been saying that he can win the overall if everything goes right. The key to that sentence is "if everything goes right", and everything for everyone else would have to go entirely wrong.
This year's course particularly suits Big George, but he always seems to make a big tactical blunder at the worst possible moment.
What to say about this guy? Rasmussen's climbing prowess in the 2005 Tour inspired awe in the tifosi. Realistically though, his best opportunity is to repeat last year's victory in the climber's classification. Rasmussen will likely take a stage or two in the mountains and will then get hammered into submission in the time trials. He's a quirky character and is good for the sport, it would be nice to see him do something special, but let's be realists.