2011 Tour de France Prelude and Predictions
The 2011 Tour de France will consist of 10 flat stages, six mountain stages with four summit finishes, one individual time trial, and one team time trial. A look at the stages of the 2011 Tour de France and Roadcycling.com's predictions for the final general classification.
Tour de France? Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank) should win, provided that he has recovered from the Giro d'Italia. The Spaniard was not originally scheduled to ride the Tour de France because of the ruling against him regarding last year's clenbuterol controversy. However, his suspension has been stayed pending a ruling from the Court of Arbitration for Sport, and Contador will ride the Tour. Regardless of the controversy that this episode has generated, Contador is the greatest Grand Tour rider of his generation, and he will burnish his reputation in the Tour.
Andy Schleck (Leopard-Trek) has as much climbing ability as Contador and a team that is at least as strong as the Spaniard's. However, Schleck does not time trial as well as Contador. Moreover, as his performance in the finale of Liege-Bastogne-Liege demonstrates, his tactics leave something to be desired. He will be the Tour runnerup again this year.
Levi Leipheimer (RadioShack) should finish third. Leipheimer is a strong climber, although he cannot shift gears the way Contador and Schleck can. He is a first-rate time trialist, and he has Johan Bruyneel, a master tactician, as his manager. Moreover, the American has Chris Horner, Janez Brajkovic, and Andreas Kloden working for him. Leipheimer is a good bet for the last podium spot.
Bradley Wiggins (Sky), the winner of the Dauphine Libere, cannot be dismissed. He is not quite victor's material, but the Briton can hold his own on most climbs, and he can time trial as well as any GC contender. Look for him to make his mark in the time trial at Grenoble and to finish fourth and perhaps higher.
Cadel Evans (BMC), like Leipheimer and Wiggins, can hold his own on most climbs. He shines at time trialing, however, and the Australian will have something to say at the Grenoble time trial. However, Evans's team is not particularly strong, and neither is his tactical sense. Fifth is a good expectation for him.
Robert Gesink (Rabobank) is a very good climber who finished sixth at last year's Tour. However, his time trialing, which has improved, is still an unknown quantity. The Dutchman has a strong team for the mountains, but perhaps not for the team time trial. Look for the Rabobank man to finish sixth.
Tony Martin (HTC-Highroad), the winner of the 2011 Paris-Nice, is ready to be a GC contender at the Tour de France. He has demonstrated that he can tackle serious climbs, and his time trialing is second only to Fabian Cancellara's (Leopard-Trek). Moreover, HTC-Highroad will be a factor in the team time trial. One potential hindrance, however, will be the team's work for sprinter Matt Cavendish. Will HTC-Highroad use so much energy for the Manxman that it cannot give the German what he needs? Martin is a good bet for seventh.
Samuel Sanchez (Euskaltel) is a consistent climber, and he has a very good team for the mountains. However, the Spaniard is a good time trialist, not a great one. Moreover, his team will lose time in the team time trial. Pencil him in for eighth.
In other competitions, Matt Cavendish will win the green jersey, and Andy Schleck will take the polka dot jersey. Stay with www.roadcycling.com