Ivan Basso (Team CSC) Photo copyright Fotoreporter Sirotti.
Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile). Photo copyright Fotoreporter Sirotti.
Santiago Botero (Phonak). Photo copyright Fotoreporter Sirotti.
Levi Leipheimer (Gerolsteiner). Photo copyright Roadcycling.com/Ben Ross/www.benrossphotography.com.
Tour de France Prelude and Predictions
English philosopher Thomas Hobbes described human life in a state of nature as "nasty, cruel, brutish, and short."
English philosopher Thomas Hobbes described human life in a state of nature as ?nasty, cruel, brutish, and short.? At 3,604 km, the 2005 Tour de France will be all of these except short. The race will feature three mountaintop finishes, 74 km of individual time trials, a 67.5-km team time trial, and 20 Category 2, Category 1, and Hors Categorie climbs. La Grande Boucle will not end soon enough for those who start it.
The 2005 Tour de France will not begin with a prologue. Instead, the riders will tackle a 19-km individual time trial from Fromentine to Noirmoutier en l?Ile. Lance Armstrong (Discovery Channel) and Bobby Julich and Ivan Basso (both from CSC) should excel in the race of truth.
Stages 2 and 3 should end in sprints, with the second stage running from Challans to Les Essarts and the third going from La Chataigneraie to <?xml:namespace prefix = st1 ns = "urn:schemas-microsoft-com:office:smarttags" /?> Tours.Erik Zabel (T-Mobile) and Alessandro Petacchi (Fassa Bortolo) will not ride the Tour, but look for Robbie McEwen (Davitamon), Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole), Tom Boonen (Quick Step), and Magnus Backstedt (Alessio), among others, to battle for stage wins.
Stage 4 will be the race?s first test of strength for the teams. The stage will be a 67.5-km team time trial from Tours to Blois. Expect Discovery Channel, CSC, T-Mobile, and Phonak to end the day at the top of the heap. Look out for Gerolsteiner as well ? the team recently won the team time trial in Eindhoven.
Stages 5 to 8 will be stages for flatlanders. Stage 5 will go from Chambord to Montargis, and Stage 6 will take the riders from Troyes to Nancy. Stage 7 will begin in Luneville and will end in Karlsruhe, Germany. Stage 8 will begin in Pforzheim and will return the riders to France, ending in Gerardmer. Expect bunch sprints to be fought out among McEwen, Boonen, Robert Hunter (Phonak) et al.
In Stage 9, the Tour will enter the Vosges mountains. The 170-km ride from Gerardmer to Mulhouse will feature six climbs, including the Ballon d?Alsace, which was the first mountain ridden in the Tour (in 1905). The Ballon, however, is the day?s last climb, and the riders will breast it 55 km from the finish. Expect a break with riders such as Axel Merckx (Davitamon) or Juan Antonio Flecha (Fassa Bortolo) to stay away. After the stage, the riders will transfer to Grenoble, where they will spend their first rest day.
After the rest day, the riders will take on the Alps. Stage 10, a 192-km ride from Grenoble to Courchevel, will take the riders over the Cormet de Roseland en route to the finishing ascent. This stage will shake up the standings. Stage 11, a 173-km ride from Courchevel to Briancon, will take the riders over the Cols de la Madeleine, de Telegraphe, and du Galibier. In Stage 10, expect the heads of stage to overhaul a break containing riders such as Pietro Caucchioli (Credit Agricole) or Sylvain Chavanel