Lance Armstrong X Tour de France - Part 01
This will be an amazing year for cycling.
And one of the drivers will be the Lance Armstrong bid to win his Tour # 8.
At the eve of 39 years old, when most of the riders are gaining fat and watching TV on retirement, the man decides he wants to win Tour de France # 8.
Well this will be not only a remarkable physical milestone for all sports and pro athletes but a great show of cycling tactics. A Xez match at high speed on bicycles.
To win it is a mission.
The american will face not only his physical skills limited by age (what he kind of felt last year although he came 3rd), beside the whole tactics of the race that may be played against him.
Well possible he does not win it but he will be a factor and a huge one. If the other riders/teams allow it, he can make it.
They have to gang-up against the american and his Radio Shack team.
How it will be played?
First beauty I see is that he has great part of his former Motorola and US Postal teams, teamed together at BMC Team (betting they will receive a wild card to go to the Tour - as a Pro Continental team the are not automatically selected as the Pro Tour teams). BMC carries in their roster the two times TDF runner-up and currently World Champion, Cadel Evans. Also the former World Champion, the italian Alessandro Ballan, and the power house Geroge Hincapie, currently US Road Champ, former strong man of Lance's previous 7 wins at the french race. And the team is presided by the former 7 Eleven and Motorola mentor, Jim Ochowicz, a Lance Armstrong mentor as well. The team has deep knowledge of the american tactics and skills.
To put more pepper in the whole thing we have the english based and funded team, SKY with a strong roster that includes some of the best english speaking racers of this era, including the TDF 2009 4th placed Bradley Wiggins also bidding for a Tour podium. The base of the team, is the successful Olympic British cycling team, the most dominating of past two games.
And the return of the Garmin team that has performed top 5 at the Tour the last two races once with Bradley Wiggins (yes the same one with SKY in 2010) and with Christian Vande Velde in 2008.
In a first glance four teams from non traditional cycling nations disputing the limelight of the sport in the english speaking world. Deadly important for the sport development, globablization and for the respective sponsors for that mather.
If not enough, looking at the other contenders, Andy Schleck from Saxo Bank team, and the current tour champ, Alberto Contador.
That all makes for 06 teams directly fighting for victory with plenty conditions and talent depth.
Also some other contenders that have not been at the top of their game lately but can be back or at least being important factors, as the Spanish Carlos Sastre (2008 winner) and the russian Dennis Menchov from the dutch Rabobank team.
First thing to guess is which team will have responsibility to control the race in the flats, before the mountains. Armstrong's Radio Schack, Contador's Astana (defending champion) or any of the others?
All the other teams have to avoid Armstrong's known tactics of controlling in the flats.
They have to trap him there and possibly gain some time on him.
Problem is that few of them have the power to make it while the Tour goes through the cobbled roads of nothern France, except, BMC with the greatest talent in depth for that kind of roads among their roster.
Astana with Contador will have to follow, but cannot lead at this point, Saxo can pull Schleck through it using their Spring men including the worlds fastest man, Fabian Cancellara. The Rabobanks can do it as well and then wait for Menchov to play it in the mountains after that.
I wouldn't bet against BMC if they are there. This may be Cadel chance. The Aussie has joined his talent with a strong team this time and they can put him to fight for the win in the mountains from a very confortable position.
Lance? I never bet against this guy and his teams, even with aging factor.
Schleck, second strongest man in stage races nowadays backed for one of the strongest teams. Contador no need to say, he is the Lance Armstrong of current days, the strongest stage racer; despite with a lesser team, his talent more than makes-up for that.
Will be certainly the best Tour we will see in years with a huge number of protagonists and this is a reflex of the evolution of the sport, its globalization and growth.
I do not disregard the spring classics, the first part of the cycling season, but this year the heroes and loosers will be more than ever the ones made in France in July.
Thanks Lance, thanks Greg Lemond, thanks UCI, thanks US and UK sponsors, thanks British Cycling and thanks Tour de France. Many more I did not mention, that are making it global.
I wish my home country which hosts a world cup and an olympic summer games in the next 06 years can emulate such good job.
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