2008 Tour de France Preview
Some have called this year's Tour de France parcours "classic."
he looked good finished second at the Dauphine Libere. Evans is a logical favorite to win the Tour.
Alejandro Valverde is a good bet for second. The Spaniard can climb very well, and as he showed in winning the Dauphine Libere, his time trialing has improved dramatically. Valverde finished sixth in last year's Tour, and if he can avoid the climbing meltdowns that he sometimes has, he is certain to improve on last year's result. If his climbing and his time trialing are sharp for all 21 stages, he could win the Tour de France.
Carlos Sastre (CSC) has four top ten finishes in the Tour de France. His climbing keeps him in the race, but his time trialist lets him down. Moreover, at age 33, Sastre has probably peaked. The Spanish veteran should make the podium, but he is not a strong enough rider to rise higher than third.
Denis Menchov (Rabobank) has been picked for Tour success for a number of years. The Russian has always climbed well in the Vuelta a Espana, but the Tour is a different race. In addition, Menchov is a rather indifferent time trialist, although this year's Tour will have fewer time trial km than usual. Fourth place would be a reasonable result for him.
Frank Schleck (CSC) is the second half of a powerful one-two punch for CSC. The Luxembourger is a strong climber but a weak time trialist. His weakness will keep him off of the podium this year.
In 2004, Damiano Cunego (Lampre) won the Giro d'Italia, his first Grand Tour. Since then, he has not won another, but he has won tough climbing classics such as the Amstel Gold Race and the Giro di Lombardia. The Italian has acquired maturity; indeed, the only thing that he has not acquired is time trialing proficiency. The failure to acquire that will put him in sixth place.
Mauricio Soler (Barloworld) is an excellent climber. The Colombian, however, is a weak time trialist, and his team is not strong enough to support him. He is only 25, and he might win the Tour someday. He will not do so in 2008, however.
Kim Kirchen (Team Columbia/High Road) is a strong all-arounder. The Luxembourger has won the Fleche Wallonne and has ridden strongly in the Tour de Suisse. Although his time trialing has shown signs of improving, it is still not strong enough to worry the GC contenders. Pencil in Kirchen for eighth.
The absence of Alberto Contador and Levi Leipheimer will leave a large gap in this year's Tour de France. The Astana pair were excluded from the race when the Societe du Tour de France excluded the team because some of its now former members failed drug tests. The justice of the exclusion has been debated from that day to this, but the pair finished first and third last year and could have been expected to do as well this year.
In other competitions, Thor Hushovd will win the points competition for the second consecutive year, and Soler will take the King of the Mountains competition. Check out the sprint wars as well. People such as Mark Cavendish (High Road), Daniele Bennati (Lampre), and Oscar Freire (Rabobank), will battle