Tour de France Update #2
One week has now gone by in the Tour de France and today’s rest day is a good place to reflect on the first week of the Tour, track the contenders and look at the upcoming week.
The biggest event of the Tour’s first week was the emergence of Robbie McEwen as a sprinter clearly superior to Tom Boonen. There haven’t been any mishaps for Boonen, McEwen has simply been faster. Look for that superiority to continue all the way to Paris and for McEwen to end the Tour in the Green Jersey.
The second biggest occurrence of the first week was the crashes. Crashes took out Alejandro Valverde and Bobby Julich. Never underestimate the importance of being able to keep the bike upright for three weeks in a grand tour. Armstrong managed to avoid crashing all through his reign except for one noted mountain crash in 2004, and that one actually helped him.
Also notable during the first week was team CSC’s attempt to get into every breakaway. With Basso and Julich gone, the strategy of trying to get one man into every breakaway is a bit mystifying. If CSC really wants a stage, get 2 or 3 men in the break and make it work. If they are going for a high placing for Carlos Sastre with their other GC riders out of the race, then it would have been good tactics to let the team rest up for the week and ignore the breakaways. As it was, the team did a fair amount of work and has nothing to show for it.
For the GC contenders other than staying out of trouble the main focus of the first week were the two time trials. These two time trials were chances to gain time and some succeeded while others failed badly. The big disappointment in the long TT was Levi Leipheimer, whose 5 minute loss to Floyd Landis effectively eliminated him as a contender. Leipheimer could still rally in the mountains, but it is much more likely that whatever made him slow in the time trial will make him slow in the mountains.
The other big losers in the TT’s were Iban Mayo and Michael Rasmussen, both of whom are now down more than 5 minutes to Landis. While both men will contend for some mountain stages, their losses in the first TT and their inevitable losses in the final TT means that we will likely see them instead focus on other goals. Rasmussen will probably be going for mountain points and the polka dot jersey for best climber. Mayo will go all out for L’Alpe d’Huez stage while his Euskaltel teammate Haimar Zubeldia looks for a high placement.
The big winner in the long TT was Floyd Landis, who in spite of trouble in both the prologue and the long TT succeeded in putting nearly a minute between himself and most of his rivals for the GC entering the mountains. It is Landis that has emerged from the first week as the favorite for the overall. Several other contenders, however, remain close and in the hunt.
T-Mobile’s Michael Rogers, eight seconds back of Landis, is an underrated climber whose time trialling ability will likely keep him in the top 10 until the end. His teammate Andreas Kloden, who is now free to go for the overall win with Ullrich out, is the closest of the pre-race favorites to Landis and only 50 seconds back. I think Landis will be able to out-climb him in the coming week. The real threats are probably from a group of riders still within 2 minutes of Landis. This group contains Vladamir Karpets, Denis Menchov, Christophe Moreau, Cadel Evans and Carlos Sastre. These men are all capable of out-climbing Landis in the right circumstances, and can time trial well enough in the final TT to keep any time they can make up in the mountains. Look for one or more of these men to attack Landis in the mountains and exploit any weaknesses they can find. My picks are for Evans and Moreau to be the ones to challenge. aroslav Popovych and Haimar Zubeldia are both only about 2:30 back of Landis, but Floyd would have to falter badly for them to overtake him and make it hold up to Paris.
As for Discovery Channels riders, Hincapie remains close but should lose ground when the mountains begin. Paolo Savoldelli is also close, but I think Discovery will use him as a support rider for Popovych and give him chance for a breakaway stage win on a stage like the mountainous stage seventeen.
For the coming week, the real mountains begin on Wednesday. This stage will be unlikely to eliminate any of the GC contenders, but could possibly deprive Sergei Gonchar of his yellow jersey once and for all.
If Wednesday’s stage doesn’t do the trick, Thursday’s will. This stage should establish the pecking order for the contenders, and look for Floyd Landis to take control of the race. His excellent time trialing has left him in an enviable position. He can pick and choose when to attack and when to react, or if the stage is raced conservatively he may choose to simply sit on and let others do the work. In addition, his Phonak team has made it through 1/3 of the Tour without doing any work. This should leave them well rested to assist Landis as is needed in these first Pyrenean stages.
So that’s it for now. Floyd Landis is now the favorite, and Thursday’s stage will tell all. If Floyd can deliver the goods on Thursday, he will be very difficult to beat. If, in addition to having out time-trialed the others, he can out-climb the others on Thursday, he may even have time to attend a certain child’s birthday party. [editor’s note: my friends Ted & Wendy are big bikers and race fans. They’ve already taught their almost two-year old son to love the sport. Says Wendy “We know that he loves to look at bikes, but we didn't know how much he was actually following what was going on. However, this weekend I was talking to him about inviting some of his friends over for his birthday party. He asked if Floyd Landis was going to come. Floyd was also on the front cover of this month's issue of Bicycling, which we usually look at with him while he eats breakfast, so he's heard the name several times. Anyway, I thought it was pretty cute. I will go ahead and send Floyd a Bob the Builder invitation and see what happens."]
Posted by BVBigBro at July 10, 2006 02:15 PM
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|# July 11th, 2006 6:20 PM kris|
|The Chicken's take on the upcoming stages. He thinks that tomorrow's stage won't have a long break and that Thursday's stage is the one where we might see that dramatic solo breakaway. |
|# July 12th, 2006 10:05 AM kris|
|Drat...i thought Landaluze might pull out the win today. looks like that's not going to happen now. |
|# July 13th, 2006 4:32 PM Speaker|
|As of today, Thursday, your prediction seems spot on. Landis takes the Yellow jersey. |
|# July 13th, 2006 8:46 PM kris|
|I think Menchov is going to win. Team Rabobank looks awfully strong. |
|# July 14th, 2006 3:18 PM BVBigBro|
|Landis can put anywhere from 1:30 -2:30 minutes into Menchov in the final TT. This means Menchov will have to do something special to win. The man who will yet be on the podium is Leipheimer. |