Tour de France Prelude and Predictions
English philosopher Thomas Hobbes described human life in a state of nature as "nasty, cruel, brutish, and short."
in his riding by improving his time trailing. The Italian might have won this year?s Giro d?Italia if he had not suffered a stomach virus in the Dolomites. Even so, Basso won two Alpine stages, one of them a time trial, after recovering from the bug. To win, however, the Italian must attack Armstrong, which he could not do last year.
Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) showed good form in the Tour de Suisse. The 1997 Tour de France champion won a time trial stage and held his own in the mountains. Other riders climb as well as or better than Ullrich, however, and the 2005 Tour will have fewer time trial km than previous editions. Ullrich has a good team to assist him in the mountains, but he will not be able to stay with Armstrong, Basso, and possibly others. Put the German down for third.
Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) was found wanting in last year?s Tour and abandoned. He should be better in 2005. The Spaniard is a first-rate climber, and fewer time trial km means less time lost to Armstrong, Basso, and Ullrich. Heras has a good team to help him in the mountains, although Joseba Beloki has not regained his form since crashing out of the 2003 Tour. Look for the three-time Vuelta winner to ride his best-ever Tour.
Alexander Vinokourov (T-Mobile) is a well-rounded rider who has the potential to make the podium. Unfortunately, he will not be a free agent at the Tour. The Kazakh will work for Jan Ullrich, which will limit his possibilities to excel. Still, Vinokourov is talented enough to score a fifth place for himself.
Iban Mayo (Euskaltel) overraced before last year?s Tour and wound up beaten and sick in the
Santiago Botero (Phonak) will return to the Tour after abandoning the 2003 Tour and missing the 2004 edition. The 2002 world time trial champion brings good form, having won the Tour de Romandie and the Dauphine Libere?s time trial. The Colombian brings a reputation for inconsistency as well. Look for him to win one of the race?s two time trials, probably the first. Also look for Botero to win an Alpine stage. Expect him to have a bad day in the
Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears) is one of a trio of talented stage racers on his team, Alejandro Valverde and Vladimir Karpets being the other two. Mancebo won the white jersey in 2000. It is time to show more than promise. Mancebo, however, will not do so.