The Tour de France usually consumes my entire month of July…everything is planned around viewing of this race. Since this year’s race is only days away, it’s time to pick a favorite and some predictions down. The sport’s taken a crazy turn over the past year. Guys that would normally be favorites: Basso, Landis, Ullrich….all out of the sport on drug-related charges. It’s rather unfortunate. All of these seemed like stand-up, genuine nice guys…that was their image. They were easy to root for, and it was hard to believe they’d be cheaters. Same goes for Tyler Hamilton, a guy that was a contender…an Olympic Gold Medal winner, and a guy that pulled off a 4th place finish with a broken collar bone in the 2003 Tour.
If pressed to pull for an American, I guess I’d have to go with Levi Leipheimer. He’s been a top 10 finisher and a solid racer his entire career. Despite solid credentials, he’s never pulled off a remarkable stage in the tour…seems pretty boring. He does have a good chance at a podium finish. Discovery has a strong team, probably much better than his old Gerolsteiner team…this should help Levi with a stronger finish.
My pick this year is going to be the Kazakh rider, Alexandre Vinokourov. This guy has been impressive over the years. He’s an aggressive rider that’s taken stage wins and has placed high in the GC. In his last tour in 2005, he looked like a much stronger rider than Ullrich. He probably could’ve been on the podium if he was the team leader, with Jan working for him as a domestique. His aggressiveness always makes the race much more interesting to watch. Too bad that his team was caught up in the doping scandal last year and he didn’t get to start due to them having only 5 riders. Now he has a Kazakh sponsored team…probably a first for the Tour. If he wins, he’ll do more for Kazakhstan than Borat…well, at least in Europe anyway. Most Americans forgot about the tour after Lance retired.