Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Tour de France starts this weekend (July 5)

This weekend is the beginning of the Tour de France. Thanks to Lance Armstrong the month of July is filled with live morning feeds and several replays throughout the day on Versus Network (formerly OLN).

The Versus Network has been heavily promoting their coverage of the Tour with a campaign called Take Back the Tour. In spite of the controversy that has surrounded the Tour I am always jazzed to watch it.

I have been trying to follow the races that have led up to the tour so that I would have an idea of who the riders are. I have to admit that I do not know anyone except for some of the sprinters and one of them Tom Boonen will be absent. I have been expecting Astana to get a last minute invite like Giro but I guess the Tour organizers are true to their word.

It looks like this could be Cadel Evans' (pictured above) year. I will be interesting to see if Robbie McEwen can win the Green Points jersey this year after crashing out last year. Of course there is the possibility that Silence-Lotto is spread too thin trying to support both a General Classification contender and a Sprinter. Last year the team was Predictor-Lotto but the pharmacuetical company Omega Pharma NV has decided to promote their anti snoring drug (Silence) rather than the pregnancy test (Predictor). Although I have always that the combination of a pregnancy test and a national lottery was the best sponsorship combination in pro sports.

Two America teams picked up sponsorship at the last minute but I do not think either team will do that well. High Road (Columbia) might get a stage win but it is going to be tough. Slipstream/Chipolte (Garmin) will do better at the Olympics where Taylor Phinney is set to rip up the track.

The primary Specialized Team QuickStep will be without the services of Tom Boonen since he was caught enjoying his free time too much. The sprinter centric team has a couple other strong riders so they could still do well in the race for the Green Jersey.

With the exception of George Hincapie all of the American riders in this year's tour will be mostly filling support roles. The teams with the strongest Americans (Astana and Rock Racing) are not invited to this year's tour. Maybe next year. Rock Racing is starting to grow on me. They definitely have more style than the other teams. Having one crazy owner is always good for a sport. While Mr. Hincapie is the road captain for High Road they are set to do better in the sprint stages and I would not expect them to be in contention for the General Classification (GC).

No matter what we are once again garanteed a first time winner. Some of the other teams that have been riding in the middle of the pack are going to have some opportunities to move up. It will definitely be the year that I learn some new names and some different sponsors.

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