Tour de France Preview and Predictions
The 2003 Tour de France will be the centenary edition of La Grande Boucle.
dramatically during his time with CSC. His stage win and second place at the 2002 Giro, along with his victories at this year's Liege-Bastogne-Liege and Tour of Romandy, prove that Hamilton has moved to a higher level. His improvement should continue during the Tour. He is a strong enough climber to stay with the best most of the time, and his time trialing will help him to gain time on many of the other contenders. The man from Marblehead should be good for sixth place.
Levi Leipheimer (Rabobank) should move up one place from last year's eighth place. The American has good climbing skills and very good to excellent time trialing ability. His tendency to become stronger as the race goes on will work in his favor. Leipheimer should have another fine Tour.
Iban Mayo (Euskaltel) will be a force in the mountains, particularly the Pyrenees. The Basque rider won the Tour of the Basque Country, finished second at Liege-Bastogne-Liege, and won two stages en route to a second-place finish in the Dauphine Libere. He won the latter's prologue and finished second in its longer time trial. Mayo is a well-rounded rider who might finish higher than eighth.
Roberto Heras (U.S. Postal Service) will be chained to team captain Lance Armstrong. He will, however, ride very well in the mountains in support of Armstrong. Expect the Spaniard to ride well en route to a ninth place finish.
Last year, Ivan Basso (Fassa Bortolo) finished 11th in his Tour debut. He won the best young rider competition and was Italy's highest placed rider. Because he is ineligible for this year's young rider competition and because Gilberto Simoni will ride in this year's Tour, Basso will win neither distinction. He will, however, ride a strong, consistent race in the mountains. Basso should move up a place to 10th.
In the King of the Mountains competition, look for Simoni, Botero, and Mayo to battle it out. Simoni is hard to handicap after riding the Giro, but he is an awesome climber. Botero won the KOM competition in 2001 and is capable of doing it again. Mayo is an outstanding young climber who could take the competition while fighting for a GC spot.
In the points competition, Robbie McEwen (Lotto) is the man to beat. After an injury-marred early season, the Australian won two stages of the Giro d'Italia and one of the Tour of Switzerland. He is fit, and his morale is high. He should win over Erik Zabel (Telekom), who is past his prime but who can still ride consistently, and countrymen Stuart O'Grady (Credit Agricole) and Baden Cooke (La Francaise des Jeux.com).
The time for prognosticating and guessing is over. The battle will soon begin. Who will win it? Check out http://www.roadcycling.com/ and find out!
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