2006 Tour de France Preview and Predictions
The 2006 Tour de France will be the first Tour of the post-Armstrong era.
He appears to be peaking at the right time. Earlier this month, the man from
Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d? Epargne) had a great classics season, winning
Floyd Landis (Phonak) is a good bet for the podium and possibly the top step. The American has won Paris-Nice, the Tour of California, and the Tour of Georgia in 2006. However, Landis, who finished ninth in the 2005 Tour, has not won anything recently. Has he peaked too soon? We will have the answer to that question in three weeks.
Iban Mayo?s (Euskaltel) climbing legs have returned. The Basque rider won Stage 6 of the Dauphine Libere, and he says that he is ready to stand on the Tour podium. Mayo, however, is no rider against that clock, and the two long time trials should keep him off of the podium.
Cadel Evans (Davitamon) finished eighth in last year?s Tour, and he won the 2006 Tour of Romandy. He has battled allergies for much of the season, however, and his performance at the Tour will depend on whether he get the allergies under control. The Australian finished 10 th at the 2006 Tour of Switzerland, which suggests that his health is coming around.
Carlos Sastre (CSC) is a well-rounded stage racer. During the Tour of Italy, his climbing ability made him Ivan Basso?s lieutenant. Look for the Spaniard, who is now free to ride for himself, to snare a mountain stage of the Tour, as he did in 2003.
Gilberto Simoni (Saunier Duval) finished a well-beaten second at the Tour of Italy. At the Tour de France, however, the Italian will not have Lance Armstrong or Ivan Basso in his head. Simoni should be good for a strong showing in the mountains, and he might win a stage, as he did at Loudenvielle in 2003. Pencil him in for seventh.
Yaroslav Popovych (Discovery Channel), Discovery Channel?s Lance Armstrong-in-training, has the potential to be a great stage racer. The Ukrainian is a very good climber. His time trialing needs work, but with Armstrong gone, Popovych should be able to show some of his potential.
Chris Horner (Davitamon) won a stage of last year?s Tour of Switzerland and of this year?s Tour of Romandy. The American will ride consistently