The 2006 Tour: Who will seize the day?

News & Results

07/2/2006| 0 comments
by David Cohen
Floyd Landis (Phonak Hearing Systems - iShares). Photo copyright Fotoreporter Sirotti.
Floyd Landis (Phonak Hearing Systems - iShares). Photo copyright Fotoreporter Sirotti.

The 2006 Tour: Who will seize the day?

On paper at least, this year?s Tour de France will bestow its favours on those riders who excel at the individual time trial.

On paper at least, this year?s Tour de France will bestow its favours on those riders who excel at the individual time trial.


In addition to today?s 7-km prologue, which went off splendidly in sunny Strasbourg, there will be a 52-km ITT July 8 in Stage 7 which goes from Saint-Gregoire to Rennes and another ITT will run on the penultimate day of the Tour, July 22, when riders will go 56 km from Le Creusot to Montceau-les-Mines.


It was not for nothing that the punters looked favourably at Jan Ullrich as a good bet to win this year?s Tour. The man can time-trial; he was reported rounding into top shape (certainly his performance at the Giro indicated this); and he seemed to have the unambiguous support of his team.


But, alas, there is no Jan Ullrich in this year?s Tour.
Nor Ivan Basso. Nor Francesco Mancebo. Nor Alexandre Vinokourov (nor for that matter the whole Astana-Wurth team). No several others?. The dragon known as Operation Puerto ate all these worthies on Friday, the tumultuous day before today?s race start.


So, the players have changed, but the official route of the 2006 Tour de France remains the same. Who are our remaining ITT gunners and, incidentally, can they climb?


Answer: we have several, and they can climb. This may indeed be a very interesting year for the Tour de France in spite of Friday?s Sturm und Drang.


Let?s start with American George Hincapie.
He finished second to
Norway?s Thor Hushovd by less than a second.

 


Hincapie can climb as was evidenced in last year?s Tour, when he took the mountain stage at St.-Lary Soulan and finished 14th overall. He also won two stages, including the prologue, at the Dauphine Libere.


What can George Hincapie do without having to do soldier work for Lance Armstrong? Even he, apparently, doesn?t know.


And there is this ambiguity in Hincapie?s situation.
His teammate, Paolo Savoldelli, who finished eighth today, just over 8 seconds behind Hushovd, has to be considered a legitimate contender. Savoldelli has great all-rounder credentials, having won the Giro in 2005 and coming a creditable third this year.


Who will emerge the Discovery Channel?s leader? Both Salvodelli and Hincapie appear on form. We shall see.

 


Floyd Landis, even though he was delayed in showing up at the starting gate for the Prologue and lost 9 seconds before he began to ride, rode splendidly and conceivably might have taken the honors today had he not been delayed.


The plus for Landis is that he is the unambiguous leader of his strong Phonak team.


And then there?s 26-year-old Alejandro Valverde, who finished fifth today, just under five seconds slower than Hushovd. Valverde won the 10th stage to Courcheval in last year?s Tour and looked like he might give Lance Armstrong something to think about until a knee injury knocked him out of the race after the 13th stage.


Valverde also has the unambiguous support of the Quick Step Team.


Hincapie, Salvoldelli, Landis, and Valverde have to be ranked as contenders.


But the outcome

Pages

Your comments
Your comments
sign up or login to post a comment