Tour de France 2011

The 2011 Tour starts this weekend (how quickly has that come round?!), celebrating it's 100th anniversary in the Alps the riders will tackle 3,430km over 21 stages.

The route only includes one individual Time Trial this year on the penultimate day and a Team Time Trial on the second day. This could be problematic for Alberto Contador who uses them to gain seconds if not minutes on his rivals. The Team Time Trial shouldn't cause too many problems early on in the proceedings, although watch out for teams missing changes and dropping riders, as we've seen in the past minutes can be lost so easily.

The first week is pretty settled, all flat with a couple of lumps and bumps. The first week will suit the sprinters and "punchy" Spring Classic specialists such as Philippe Gilbert, Thomas Voeckler and I would also have a punt on Sylvain Chavanel too. Hopefully we will see Mark Cavendish in Green!

From the second week onwards it is all about the mountains, with only one or two gentle stages until Paris. The second week sees the riders taking on the Pyrenees, stage 14 will be tough with six big tests but nothing like stage 12 which features the Tourmalet and finishes with the Luz-Ardiden.

Nothing, however, can prepare you for the final week in the Alps. The riders will be on their knees. Stages 18 and 19 are simply horrendous. Stage 18 takes on the Agnel, d'Izoard before completing the highest ever finish in Tour history on the Galibier. The next day stage 19 takes on the Telegraphe, the Galibier again and finishes on Alpe d' Huez. Just incredible. Kev & Eleanor Underhill in the club are tackling exactly the same route in the Etape sportive. I have a huge amount respect for that and wish them all the best.

Ones to Watch

I think favourite for me has to be Alberto Contador, he had a terrific Giro and looked very strong. He has doubts over how fresh he is compared to other riders who avoided the Giro such as the Schlecks but I think he will be fine. I see him attacking on a big mountain stage, maybe stage 12 and carrying a 3-5 second lead into the Alps allowing him to sit in the wheels.

A lot has been said about Andy and Frank Schleck. I'm not sure, they have had a terrible built up to The Tour. Andy was non-existant at the Tour of Switerzland and Frank lost a podium place due to a terrible Time Trial. Andy does have the ability to pull it out of the bag at The Tour though so we shall see.

My money is on Cadel Evans. He had a great Dauphine and did well in the Spring Classics. He looks strong: the typical Cadel Evans fighting spirit is there and looking he is determind than ever.

And then there is Bradley Wiggins. His build up has been perfect, first place at the Dauphine and now our British National Road Champion too. He has learnt a lot from last year. He has tweaked his training and from listening to his interviews he seems relaxed and fresh. He seems to have his spark back which was missing last year and I feel he will have a good Tour. I would love for him to get on the podium in Paris. Come on Brad do the jersey proud!

Green jersey. Can only be Mark Cavendish!

No comments: