It’s that time of the year again. The 2005 Tour de France begins on Saturday and Lance Armstrong will fight for a record breaking 7th Tour victory. Will he do it? That remains to be seen. Will it be exciting to watch? Absolutely! This year’s Tour de France may be more exciting than any other. Here’s why...
Lance has dominated the Tour for the past 6 years and has consistently shut down all comers. But after announcing he will retire immediately following this year’s race speculation is running high that Armstrong may not be as motivated as in previous years. He also performed poorly at both the Tour de Georgia and the Dauphine Liberte. The thing to remember is that something happens to Lance at the Tour that transforms him from a good rider to the Great Champion that we’ve seen for the past six years. If he shows up ready to fight and win, expect nothing less than an all-out Armstrong victory.
After winning the Tour as a young rider in 1997, Jan has gone on to place 2nd five times. He has been frustrated by Lance at every turn and has never been able to better the Texan’s ability and toughness. Most people are expecting this year to be the biggest Lance / Jan showdown yet but I’m more skeptical. I think Jan is past it and will pose a much lesser threat than others are expecting. I think the real threats are all in the younger crowd. Which brings me to…
This guy is the most exciting rider to watch since the emrgence of Lance in the late 90’s. He’s a young, super-talented rider, and is also a full of charm and respect. His 3rd place overall finish last year was punctuated by a tremendous attack and stage win against Lance at Col d’Aspin. He comes to the Tour following a good showing at the Giro d’Italia where he displayed super time trialing ability and climbing skills but where he ultimately fell flat due to a stomach virus. I’m going to go ahead and predict that Basso will at least finish 2nd place overall this year and if Armstrong doesn’t give it his all Basso will be this year’s champion.
If Ullrich doesn’t show up to be the contender people are predicting expect Vino to take advantage of the situation. I expect him to show up and to maybe even pull a Cunego, which I would be happy to see.
I believe in Iban Mayo more than any other Spaniard riding right now. He’s hungry for victory and he’s in top form. I’m positive that he’ll be in the top five and fairly certain he’ll threaten the podium. Expect to see this guy tearing it up in the Pyrenees.
The former Lance protégé’s:
All these guys rode for Lance at one time or another. They know his style, the way he trains and what he is capable of. I don’t expect any of them to threaten G.C. though. Heras was nowhere man last year and Floyd and Levi both might not be up to the full challenge of leading a team through the Tour. All three should probably be a factor this year. Landis and Leipheimer are especially looking good right now. Heras needs to at least finish in the top 10 to prove he’s still got it.
With a field this strong and determined to take advantage of their last chance to Beat Lance, some exciting racing is sure to occur. I’ll be posting updates and commentary as all of the great stages and wild events unfold. I’m so excited I can barely contain myself. It’s going to be another great July. See you in the peleton! Or well maybe just at the bar to watch.