Tour de France 2009

Well the cycling team presentations got underway today in Monaco. This year's Tour De France is shaping to be one of the best with a huge number of riders in the running to win the overall.

A 180 riders will take on 21 days of solid riding, taking on 3,500km. There are 2 individual time trials, the first being the opening stage in Monaco and 1 team time trial which Garmin Slipstream will be looking to take back after Columbia won in the Giro. There is 7 mountain stages altogether with the riders taking on the incredible Mount Ventoux on the penultimate stage. Mount Ventoux is the highest point in Provence, with the riders climbing over 1,800 metres. Mount Ventoux is so vicious that it even has it's own micro climate and claimed the life of british rider Tom Simpson. Never before has a mountain appeared 24 hours before Paris, and could potentially decided the Tour there and then.

Just before the start, Cervelo launched a new cycling team kit, a refreshing white in the baking summer heat of France while Mark Cavendish's Columbia Highroad announced a new sponsor, mobile phone manufacturer HTC. They are now called Columbia-HTC. Sad news that promising climber Dan Martin had to pull out with an injury.

So who to win?

My call is on Astana's Alberto Contador. He looked sharp in the Giro and also Paris-Nice, he has improved on his time trialling which with his exceptional climbing will really help him. He has a very strong team behind him with Armstrong and Leipheimer, who could also be potential winners themselves.

Last year's winner Carlos Sastre returns this time with the Cervelo Test Team. He has fantastic equipment, a nice team behind him and would be one to watch out for going solo on Mount Ventoux.

Cadel Evans has come second twice now, he looked strong in the Giro but he suffers from a bad temper in the field and has no strong support from his team. He has incredible drive and determination and he could do it albeit on his own.

And then there is Lance Armstrong, back from the dead to take a record 8th Tour de France. Can he do it? He has improved considerably but I don't think he can. I can't see him matching it against Contador, Sastre and Evans on the climbs. He will give it a good go, I just hope he supports the real contender in his team first, Contador.

It will also be interesting to see how Andy and Frank Schleck get on in their Saxo Bank team, definately ones to watch in the climbs.

And Mark Cavendish? It is told that he won't be challenging for the green sprinters jersey and going more for stage wins. I believe he can win the green jersey, he is looking fitter than ever, made good decisions throughout the season (such as to pull out of the Giro) and he will get to France.

Also watch out for British riders Bradley Wiggins and David Millar who are look very strong. I'll be keeping an eye on Bradley Wiggins who has improved dramatically and looking very lean. Incredible time triallist and may spring a surprise on the climbs.

All in all this year's Tour de France will be incredible. The full list of riders and teams can be found here. Footage everyday on Eurosport and ITV 4.

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