I'm out of town until tomorrow morning, so expect more coverage here once I'm behind my own computer. I wanted to lock in some quick predictions before I got back as there's not much point to making predictions after the fact -- even if that does improve their accuracy.
Much is being made of the new rules and layout to this year's course -- no time bonuses, no prologue, early but short first time trial. The peloton has been risk averse in the past when confronted with new strategic options in the past, so I'm guessing that we're going to see some pretty tame GC racing to start things off. Instead, I'm expecting the likes of Fabian Cancellara to don the yellow jersey once more by either taking stage 1 on a flier (an art he's continued to perfect this year) or winning the first time trial. Garmin-Chipotle could also try and enter the this fray. The team faded quite a bit during the Giro, so I'm expecting their strikes to come early. David Millar may not be the final 5K master that Cancellara is, but he can run a break and laydown a time trial, so early yellow jerseys are within his reach.
It won't be until stage 10 that we'll get a real look at our GC contenders, which should create trouble for teams trying to protect both GC and sprinter interests -- McEwen and Evans for Lotto, Freire and Menchov for Rabobank, Kirchen and Cavendish for Columbia, Hunter and Soler for Barloworld, and so on. Hushovd could have a nice run early on.
My crystal ball is increasingly hazy in the middle weeks but at the end I see Alejandro Valverde emerging with the overall. He hasn't had the best record at the Tour, but unlike the other big favorite, Cadel Evans, he does have a better instinct for the top of the podium. Evans always seems more content to follow and hope that the person ahead will falter. I see Carlos Sastre taking the final spot on the podium, mainly because he has that sort of consistency. I'm hoping the lack of Sastre news means he's been saving himself well for July. I'm tapping him over Menchov mainly because I see CSC/Saxo as the stronger team.
That's all the pontificating I have for now. Hopefully I've laid down enough text that I can at some point in the future pretend to have been right.