2012 Tour De France Route Analysis: Who Are the Winners and Losers?
The route for the 99th edition of the Tour De France was "released" in Paris last week. This came after the embarrassing incident where Tour organisers, ASO leaked the route days before.
The last few years have seen a greater emphasis put on the grandstand mountain finishes, giving opportunities for pure climbers to have serious assaults on the Maillot Jaune. Next year will see a change in this pattern with only three mountaintop finishes.
One man who would've been smiling when the route was announced is reigning champion Cadel Evans. If the Australian succeeds in staying in the wheel of the better climbers as well as he did this year then Cadel could once again finish in yellow.
After crashing out this year, Bradley Wiggins will be looking to make amends. The course looks ideal for the former track specialist. Pundits have pointed to the extra time trials as the reason for Wiggins as a favourite.
In Britain, much of the coverage has focused on how the course will suit Wiggins. Based on his strong showing in this year's Vuelta (with little preparation), he will start among the favourites. Yet it will be a tough task for the Brit, as there are a lot of riders vying for the podium in Paris.
Although there are not as many mountain stages in next years Tour, the climbs that have been included are extremely steep. For example, stage 11 contains four large climbs on the way to the summit finish at Les Sybelles. It is here that both Wiggins and Evans could struggle.
This could give the Schleck brothers the advantage they need to challenge for the Yellow Jersey. While Andy claims his time trialing is improving, the time that both brothers will lose racing against the clock means that attacks in the mountains will be inevitable.
The announcement of a merger between the Leopard Trek team and Team Radioshack creates what is possibly the strongest Grand Tour squad. Joining the Schleck brothers in the Radioshack-Nissan team will be strong support in Jens Voigt and Fabian Cancellara.
This talent will be under the guidance of director sportif Johan Bruyneel. During his time with U.S. Postal, Discovery and Astana, Bruyneel oversaw nine Tour De France wins.
Let us not forget three-time Tour winner and former Bruyneel charge Alberto Contador. In my eyes, the Spaniard has to start as favourite for the yellow jersey. After a 2011 tour blighted by niggling injuries, Contador will be looking for revenge in 2012.
When he is at his best, he has the ability to dance away from his rivals in the mountains, and hold his own in the time trials as well. The combination of time trials and steep climbs could make Contador unbeatable.
One major doubt surrounding Contador is whether he will be in the race at all. He is currently sweating on the decision to be made in November by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. A ban is possible and would make Contador's rivals breathe a collective sigh of relief.
Two time trials mean that World Time Trial Champion Tony Martin should be making an appearance on the podium at least once. While not a real threat to the yellow jersey, Martin can be a useful climber. The time he gains in the TT's could see him looking at a top 10 finish in Paris.
Despite the fewer number of summit finishes in the 2012 tour, next year's route promises to be extremely competitive. Could there be a surprise contender? Who do you think starts as the favourite? Leave your comments below.
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