Results tagged “prediction” from spare cycles

Contador-Armstrong.jpg

It didn't hit me until the middle of this week at the Tour is starting on Saturday. After shooting Lance at the Astana Training Camp, Tour of California and the Nevada City Classic, you'd think that I'd just be counting down the days, but shooting the American Velodrome Challenge and Manhattan Beach Grand Prix in one weekend has a way of keeping you distracted.

When I first saw Lance at the Astana Training Camp I thought, "No way." He looked different on a bike, he looked... fat (for a cyclist). Then I saw him at the Tour of California on a TT bike, and that only reinforced the fact that he looked fat. Then I saw him a couple of weeks ago at the Nevada City Classic and he looked thin.

Does this mean that I think he can win? No. But whereas I thought in February he was certain to realize this and be forced to work for Contador, I now think he's strong enough to cause more than enough trouble for the Astana squad -- with Vino back in the picture, is there any team under more stress right now? Another way to think of it is: Armstrong won his final Tours largely on the strength of the team supporting him; now there's little chance that the entire team would ever support him.

That's not to say Armstrong hasn't been trying to build his own mini-squad. Armstrong has spent a good portion of this year cementing his relationship with Levi Leipheimer, burying himself to help Levi win the Tour of California and luxuriating him in the world of private-jet travel. And he did well enough by Horner than Horner was sniping at Contador for getting left off the Tour squad, not at Armstrong for giving Contador more than seven reasons to think about wanting more allies on the squad.

I still think Contador is the best overall rider of this generation and is stronger than Armstrong, but Armstrong may cause just enough discord to provide an opening. The worst thing that can happen, and could easily happen, is that Lance and Levi beat Contador on Saturday's stage. Levi we know can beat Contador in a TT and who knows what Lance will bring. Or maybe even worse is that Contador overly focuses on establishing his primacy with his team on this opening stage and leaves himself open to harm the rest of the Tour. No other team has as much riding on the very first stage.

As for other contenders, Bjarne Riis is obviously salivating at the opportunity to exploit the conflict and has enough weapons to force Astana to figure out who they're protecting. Silence-Lotto's Cadel Evans is also just boring enough to slip in during all the fireworks and run off with the prize. It's harder to drum up support for Sastre. I feel bad not rallying behind the reigning champion, but as good as Cervelo Test Team has been, can they really help him win the Tour? Not likely.

NOTE: I've decided not to do my normal Tour link roundup this year around, and my summaries may be infrequent. When I first started blogging about the Tour in 2003, there weren't that many sites out there blogging about it, there was no Twitter or Facebook, and I had not yet embarked on my cycling photography career. Perhaps I'm faking my memories, but back then I felt it was necessary to blog about the Tour because it was a beautiful event that needed many more voices in the up-and-coming blogosphere. Now there are many voices out there and the return of Lance has turned the dials back up to 11 for this event. I also find that I'd rather shoot bicycles and ride bicycles than write about bicycles, so look for me this month at events like the San Rafael Twilight Crit. Rest assured that I will still be up every morning at 5am to watch the Tour.

Landis and Leipheimer chatting during warmups

It's time to lock in picks. According to Cyclelicious, the favorites are currently Kirchen, Vande Velde, and Leipheimer. I personally don't really see Kirchen winning it -- sure Columbia is motivated on US soil, but I don't think it's a coincidence that the Tour of California has only been won by Californians. Motivation counts. Garmin already seems to be discounting Vande Velde's odds based on the fact that he's their horse for the Tour de France and isn't in prime form.

Leipheimer is certainly motivated as a two-time winner. He also doesn't have to worry about the rest of the season as much: with Contador and Armstrong on his team, this is really the one objective that he'll have the team pushing him as the leader for.

But for my pick I'm going to go with the inaugural winner of the Tour of California: Floyd Landis. He may not have many races in the legs recently, but the Tour of California still favors strong time trialers. There is that whole hip thing, but from what I hear Landis is fit. Team OUCH will have a hard time battling Astana's guns, but it's not something Landis isn't used to and the old HealthNet guys know how to do battle on North American soil. I predict a comeback.

Stage 10 prediction

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I'm going to run with my horse Valverde, especially given Cadel Evan's fall today. They've both had falls this week, but footage of Evan's post-race yesterday make his seem worse. Valverde has to win this Tour in the mountains, while Cadel Evans will probably pursue his "strong TT + follow wheels uphill" strategy. Valverde needs to gain at least 3 minutes on Evans (1 minute for Stage 4 and 2 for Stage 20) before going into stage 20's time trial and this is his first chance.

Caisse d'Epargne has been running strong all week and, whether or not they're burning too many matches, I think they're going to sense blood in the water. They just have to break Popovych and they'll have Evans isolated. We can bet that the CSC trio of Schlecks+Sastre will also come out to play on this mountain stage as well as Euskatel's Sanchez. It should be good TV.

This is one of the the decisive stages of this year's Tour (stage 17's Alpe d'Huez finish is another) and there's a rest day on Tuesday to recuperate. The Tour organizers have done their best to keep the overall standings close to allow lead changes, but honestly that's bored me a little. I want to see the real players duke it out, instead of the "let Ricco have his fun" conservativeness of Stage 9.

Super-Besse Prediction

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letour.jpgMy wishy-washy early predictions did alright. Now that we have a more proper stage tomorrow, it's time for another prediction: David Millar in yellow.

Of course, Kim Kirchen seems equally positioned and likely, but I think that Millar has less to lose with an all-out effort. It's really Schumacher's to lose as he is capable of defending.

As for the stage winner, I'm going to have to say: Valvedere. Evans won't be too motivated to follow. Others will, so we'll see.

The chance of both of my predictions coming true is small, which is why I make more than one ;)

Checkout http://velo.kwc.org/race/tdf2008/stage6/ for some stage 6 preview chatter.