I'm gearing up late for this year's Tour as I'm still unpacking from a move. Here's some quick rundowns of some of the top teams in this year's Tour.
They may be pre-occupied dodging doping allegations, but their squad this year is frightening: Vinokourov, Kloden, Kashechkin, and Savoldelli. There have been a lot of Astana riders finishing a top time trial standings this year, and Vino is out for blood after settling for a Vuelta overall win when forced to sit out last year's Tour. It will be interesting to see what Vino can do in a Tour when he's not working against his team.
Pereiro wears #11 in lieu of a #1, but it's Valverde whom everyone will be watching. Of course, Valverde needs to actually finish a Tour de France to be a contender. And there are all those Puerto questions they are tired of answering. Vladimir Karpets is coming off a Tour de Suisse win and will give the other teams more to worry about.
-Basso. Levi thought Basso's situation may play out in his favor, and it did. Discovery seems to have its leader situationi sorted out this time and won't have any of the 2006 debacle. Leipheimer will have an excellent squad backing him up: Paris-Nice winner Alberto Contador, Russian TT champion/Tour de Suisse stage winner Vladimir Gusev, old stalwart Hincapie, TdF/TdG/Paris-Nice stage winner Popovych, Vuelta KOM Egoi Martinez, and so on.
+Zabriskie, -Julich, -Riis. CSC is full interesting roster shakeups. Zabriskie squeezed in at the last minute thanks to his new-found climbing skills, though it seems to have cost him some watts in the time trials. Julich appears to have lost his spot in part to his withdrawal from the Dauphine due to stomach troubles. Riis won't be in the team car due to those, um, EPO and Jorg Jacksche things. If you've seen Overcoming, you can believe that it is all a bit too much for Riis. The spotlight on CSC will shift to Sastre once the Tour starts, with Frank Schleck waiting in the shadows ready to pounce if opportunity need be. Then there's Cancellara and Zabriskie for the time trials and Voigt for the breaks. O'Grady is riding high on his Paris-Roubaix win and could pull of a surprise or two if he's not too busy in a lieutenant role.
Moreau is the buzz of the town since his dominating Dauphine win. The Dauphine isn't necessarily a good predictor of Tour success -- Levi Leipheimer's 2006 win, followed by a 13th place finish in le Tour, was a lesson that you can peak too early. Moreau has relatively modest ambitions given how much his stock has climb: a podium spot, but not #1, or KOM as backup.
Denis Menchov will have Tour de Romandie winner Thomas Dekker and KOM-favorite Michael Rasmussen backing him up as he shoots for the overall. Boogerd will be riding as their old salt and was invaluable last year with his support in the mountain stages. Rabobank will stay busy on the flat stages as they try to lineup Oscar Freire for sprint victories and Dekker may have his own chances to shoot for some stage wins and the Best Young Rider jersey. Juan Antonio Flecha will certainly want another stage win to go with his 2003 win and seems game after finishing 2nd in Paris-Roubaix.
They were the team to watch during the Giro even if it was Liquigas/Di Luca that stole the show. They're top climbing guns are sitting this one out, though Giro-stage-winner Iban Mayo hopes to make a triumphant return to top Tour de France form and David Millar is eyeing a stage win (i.e. London prologue).
Despite wearing the yellow jersey, the 2006 Tour was viewed as a disappointment for Boonen to his his lack of stage wins. He seems determined to get stage wins this year as his training was shifted to peak closer to the Tour than last year. Boonen should be helped in his ambitions by the missing Petacchi.
Cadel Evans and Robbie McEwen are their big guns as Predictor-Lotto will try to manage the balance between placing a rider in the overall and making sure McEwen gets his sprint victories and green jersey. I'm looking forward to what Chris Horner may bring to this Tour, even if the '06 Tour was a bit of a disappointment.
-Petacchi. How strange the role of doping in cycling is that admitted doper Erik Zabel gets will get the sprint leadouts but top-gun Petacchi will sit out for abusing the asthma medications. It will surely make things easier for McEwen to put some on the scoreboard.
~Rogers +Grabsch -Barry -Guerini. Michael Rogers pulled out of the Tour de Suisse 2 weeks ago due to knee problems, but now they say he'll be fine for the Tour. Kim Kirchen and Patrik Sinkewitz are their other overall standings cards to play, though T-Mobile has relatively modest goals of a top 10 finish and stage win. Eisel or Cavendish may squeak out a sprint victory for them. Michael Barry was ruled out in June due to pneumonia and Grabsch took Guerini's spot after Guerini came down with stomach problems.
Gerolsteiner is riding for the stage wins and perhaps a Best Young Rider jersey for Bernhard Kohl. Their main focus will be on the sprints with Förster and Krauss. Schumacher, with his Amstel win and otherwise excellent spring classics performance could get a stage win or two, as could Fabian Wegmann.