Note: This is my half of a joint TdF preview written with Marco De Luca for Sportingo.com. The full version can be found here.
Predictions in cycling are never a good idea. No matter who lines up at the start of the Tour De France on Saturday, there is no guarantee that they’ll finish in Paris, three weeks and several thousand kilometres later. Anything from unpredictable injuries to disgraced exits after failed dope tests can affect the riders, who will have been gearing their preparations towards this race all season.
Predictions are nevertheless good fun - as long as you don’t look at them again after the event has finished. Here, then, are my tips for this year’s race, and feel free to remind me about them when they all go wrong!
Podium: 1: Alejandro Valverde; 2: Alexander Vinokourov; 3: Carlos Sastre
Green Jersey: Robbie McEwen
King of the Mountains: Michael Rasmussen
White Jersey: Markus Fothen
Outsider: Vladimir Karpets
Prologue: Fabian Cancellara
Key Stage: 16 Orthez-Gourette.
I haven’t picked everybody’s hot favourite Alexander Vinokourov. Assuming that he gets to Paris in three weeks time then of course he’s a good bet, but with so many clouds hanging over him I’ve had to go for the 'not entirely above suspicion but slightly less likely to be rumbled in the next few weeks' Alejandro Valverde, the best all-rounder in the race after the Kazakh. This may be Robbie McEwen’s last chance for the sprinter's jersey, and he’ll be even more aggressive than usual. I can’t see anybody holding on to the tails of Rasmussen when he launches his big attack, and Fothen looks unstoppable for the young rider’s jersey, particularly with last year’s winner Damiano Cunego not racing.
I didn’t choose Brits Millar or Wiggins for the Prologue in London, but it’s hard to see an on form Cancellara being beaten. I will however make a concession to national chauvinism and tip Mark Cavendish to make a big impact in his first Tour.
Whatever happens when the riders reach Paris, I hope it is for the sporting action rather than the doping that this year’s race is remembered. With last year’s winner Floyd Landis due to learn his fate this weekend, we may even know the identity of the winner of the 2006 edition of the race by the time 2007's rolls out on Saturday!