Tour de France Preview and Predictions
The 2004 Tour de France will provide no rest for the weary.
sixth Tour de France triumph in what I believe will be Armstrong's valedictory.
As was the case last year, Places 2, 3, and 4 are hard to handicap. Jan Ullrich (T-Mobile) has won his annual Battle of the Bulge, and his stage win at the Tour of Germany and his overall victory at the Tour de Suisse indicate that he is ready to give Armstrong a ride for his money. However, Tyler Hamilton (Phonak) and Iban Mayo (Euskaltel) are also ready, and both the American and the Basque have been in shape and racing well all season. Hamilton won the Tour de Romandie, and Mayo took the Dauphine Libere and claimed that he has much room for improvement. Ullrich should finish second, however, and Hamilton should edge out Mayo for third.
Ivan Basso (CSC) will finish fifth. He climbs well and has good time trialing skills. Roberto Heras (Liberty Seguros) has excellent climbing skills, but he does not time trial as well as Basso. He will finish sixth.
Levi Leipheimer (Rabobank) has recovered from his injuries in the Stage 1 crash in last year's Tour de France. He won Stage 4 of the Catalan Week, and his preparation has gone well. His climbing and time trialing skills should get him seventh place.
Francisco Mancebo (Illes Balears) will finish eighth. He is a very good climber whose only advantage over Oscar Sevilla (Phonak) is that he is a team leader, while Sevilla, who will finish ninth, will be chained to team leader Tyler Hamilton.
Haimar Zubeldia (Euskaltel) will ride well for his leader, Iban Mayo. He will not ride as well as last year, however, because Mayo will probably need him more. Pencil him in for tenth.
In other competitions, either Baden Cooke (La Francaise des Jeux.com) or Stuart O'Grady (Cofidis) will win the green jersey, and Richard Virenque (Quick Step) will take the polka dot jersey. Don't miss the action! Check in at http://www.roadcycling.com/ to keep up with the battles for the golden fleece as well as the green and polka dot jerseys! Visit our 2004 Tour de France section today!