25 July - Going into the second rest day at this years fantastic Tour, we will take a look at the early predictions and which if any have played out. Is Schleck destined to be this generations Poulidor?
While everyone wants to talk about the Schleck vs. Contador rivalry and "Chaingate," this year's tour has so much more to offer. Here are 11 predictions of what could and likely will make this a memorable race.
Johan Bruyneel will yet again be a difference maker in the final outcome of the Tour. With Levi Leipheimer, Chris Horner and Andreas Kloden, he has three legitimate podium finishers, and only Horner has yet to make that result. At the very least, Radio Shack wins the team competition. Don't expect to see any unauthorized kits this time around.
With all the crashes and bad luck encountered by this years squad, it is likely the Shack brings a far different team to the 2012 Tour. Bruyneel is still a Master, but when you are without a healthy GC rider, there is not a lot that can be done from that seat..
Now we see just how good Bruyneel really is as a director. Yet, this could all blow up a la Bianchi and the era of Vino, Klodi and Jan Ullrich. This one is a trifecta or epic failure.
Van Garderen wins the white jersey going away. This could be the first real third generation Grand Tour contender to show his talent on the big stage. Yes, we have Tyler Farrar and to a lesser extent Taylor Phinney showing their talent, but neither of these riders are ever going to win a Grand Tour. Taylor may have the most success as a Classics rider with two wins in the U23 Paris-Roubaix to his credit already, and multiple rainbow jerseys on the track show him to be a talent that can take what George Hincapie has accomplished and leap into Fabian Cancellara territory. For now, it is Tejay Van Garderen's time to become the next great American Grand Tour rider.
Pierre Rolland has finally shown waht he promised over hte past few years. Is he the next Hinault...well, no. But who is? Tejay, is still a year or two away...
French riders have the best tour since the late Laurent Fignon lost to Greg LeMond by eight seconds in 1989. Several French riders are capable of standing on the podium but probably won't. However, unlike most of the last quarter century, we won't see the French as only breakaway artists looking for a stage victory or the mountains jersey. There are legitimate French contenders for the first time in over a decade. Sylvain Chavanel, Thomas Voeckler and Samuel Dumoulin can all play roles in the outcome this year.
With Thomas Voeckler's incredible ride this year to a top 5 the tide may be turning for the French. I have felt like Voeckller was the best French hope and a top 5 was definitely within his ability...but could he finish on the podium. Well, not quite, but if he prepares for a Podium next year it is in his ability to be there. And Pierre Polland, could be the next French Hope for the future.
Lance who? For the first time in over a decade, the Texan will not only be a sidebar, but even Americans will go out of their way to avoid mentioning him. Of course, many a casual Tour fan came to the sport because of his story but even those are now looking to the other stars of the sport. Even Phil and Paul will keep the Lance worship to a minimum.
Thankfully, Lance wa a sidebar at best this year. Not slathering over his every movement, and the race was exciting enough day after day to keep Liggett away from his mancrush.
Belgian Jurgen Van den Broeck will win the climbers jersey and challenge for a podium position in Paris. Not since Lucien Van Impe won the last of his six polka dot jerseys in 1983 has a Belgian won the competition, but that run ends this year.
Sammy Sanchez proved to be the man, and won a well deserved Polka Dot Jersey, but Jelle may be the mountains rider for the future...
Tyler Farrar wins his first Tour Stage. That one is not really a bold prediction, but with Big Thor Hushovd and Mark Cavendish looking for the green jersey, Tyler could learn a lot from Thor this year and in helping the big Norwegian win another green jersey take important points from the other all-around sprinters.
Thor and Tyler had victories for Garmin, but it is truly the Cav show for Green. Cavendish making it to Paris and winning his 20th stage could be a telling sign for the future. Not only is the Stage wins record in jeopardy, but so to is the Green Jersey string by Eric Zabel.
Christian Vande Velde has not shown anything like his 2008 results the past two Tours de France, but he is also coming into the tour in top form, not recovering from yet another crash resulting in broken bones. Vande Velde is one of my dark horses for the podium this year. The Contador/Schleck² could result in a surprise or two in the top five. Christian Vande Velde is one of those, along with opportunistic Radio Shack rider Chris Horner, who proved in California he can be among the best if given the support.
Epic Fail here...VDV finally came around towards the end of the Alps, but his GC days may be over for Garmin, however with a Team Classification win for the Argyle Army, he is still a major piece of their puzzle.
Someone will be excluded from the start and that could be Contador. If it is, the Spanish reign at the tour will end at least for 2011.
That one was wrong, and I can say being wrong here is a good thing
Contador, despite his record in Grand Tour's, has unlike Armstrong and Indurain not been dominant, and the races have turned on small events, or at least small time bonuses. He is very beatable and if Schleck can improve his time trialing by one minute over the entire Tour, he can beat Contador and remove the myth of his invincibility. Don't think for a second that "Chaingate" will not play a role in Leopard Trek's tactics. There will be no quarter given for any mechanical or hiccup by Alberto this time around.
Contador never looked like Contador, and his attack on Alpe d'Huez while impressive early, faded and saw him lose yet again. A Giro, and crashes may have robbed him of another Tour victory, and with the way his rivals rode this year, he may end on 3.
My final prediction for the podium and jerseys:
Not a bad selection, my biggest miss was Frank not being there. I think if he works for Andy the entire race, and if Andy doesn't wait on Frank, Andy wins this tour, but Cadel deserved it and is a deserving champion.
GC top 5
5th: Alberto Contador
4th: Samuel Sanchez
3rd: Thomas Voeckler
2nd: Andy Schleck
1st: Cadel Evans