Thursday, July 1, 2010

TOUR de FRANCE ON THE HORIZON

"It's that most wonderful time of the year..."

Not Christmas, silly.

Yes, it's time for the Tour de France.  My annual mania is kicking in.

I've updated my special blog -- "The Tour de France for the Rest of Us" -- in time for the preview and start of this year's 3-week drama on wheels.  The Tour starts in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, on Saturday.  I'll be following it closely and, as usual, offering insights and context all along the way on "The Tour de France for the Rest of Us."

I've followed Lance Armstrong's Twitter activity over the past year (me and, oh, 2.5 million souls!). The big but not surprising news is that this will be Lance's final Tour de France.

Armstrong is a living legacy, with a record seven consecutive victories and then a 3rd place finish at age 37 after a 3-year hiatus.  Now, at age 38 (almost 39)--two years beyond the oldest Tour winner--can Lance pull the upset over former teammate and defending champion Alberto Contador?

The experts say "no."  But I wouldn't write Armstrong off.  In fact, writing him off makes him all the more dangerous. Lance Armstrong has an existential chip on his shoulder a mile wide, a proven ability to endure unbelievable pain for long periods of time, more road race savvy than anyone, a strong team and the guts to go toe to toe with the best to the bitter end.  If Armstrong is the underdog, he's in a great position for an eighth win.

Lance vs Alberto -- that's the leading story line. But it's certainly not the only one.  The field of nearly 200 cyclists is packed with contenders for the overall win, along with the best sprinters and mountain climbers in the world.  Many excellent cyclists will shine on different stages.

Given certain conditions as the race develops, I can think of 10 different cyclists who could ascend to the top of the podium for the General Classification (GC = best overall time) in Paris.  I'll name these and tell why in later posts.

Watch for carnage on the miles of cobblestones (pave) in Stage 3. Watch for a long breakaway that could shake things up in Stage 6.  See who claims the treacherous Col du Tourlamet in Stage 17.  And observe who prevails in the Individual Time Trial in Stage 19.  I think these are the four most decisive stages of this year's Tour.

It's going to be a great Tour! Enjoy the ride with my "Tour de France for the Rest of Us."

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