Friday, June 28, 2013

Le Tour de France 2013: Predictions

What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? An explosion. The 2013 Tour de France pits Chris Froome and his fellow Sky People against some of the strongest teams the Tour has ever fielded. There ought to be fireworks, and not the pathetic little sparkler show we witnessed last year.

Yellow Jersey

  1.      Froome
I cannot execute proper reason without predicting Froome as the winner of the Tour de France. His condition is just as good (if not better) than in last year’s race. Like the Wiggins of 2012, the 2013 Froome has dominated the weeklong stage races, and just like the Wiggins of 2012, the Froome of 2013 has not “peaked out”. He does not need an army of Sky People in order to win. I believe that he is the best climber in the race and arguably the best time trialer (certainly among the contenders).
Froome’s testing ground will be in the “transitional” stages, not in the mountain top finishes. He lost Tirreno-Adriatico on a hilly day, and Wiggins collapsed in the undulating first week of the Giro. Katusha, Movistar, Saxobank, and Garmin need to attack on stages 2 and 3. The more entropy, the better.

      2.      Contador
He’s strong and feisty, and his team is better than ever, but I can’t see him winning. I think Froome will mark him in the mountains, and the time trial is no longer an area of advantage for Alberto. Contador will hold nothing back, and a second place finish will not satisfy him. I’m so excited to watch the Spaniards throw everything they have at Sky.

He is so underrated. He podiumed in two grand tours last year, removed from the Vuelta win by one bad day. I expect him to win a mountain top finish. I wish that there were punchy stages in the race, but unfortunately, ASO (the people who make the route) don’t really understand the concept of a punchy/hilly stage. J-Rod will get along just fine, however. Katusha’s squad is built around him, and he is extremely motivated. I think his time trialing will not bother him too much. The flat TT shouldn’t cost him more than 2 minutes, he will go top 10 in the mountainous TT, and Katusha will contend for the win in the team time trial. If he wants to win the Tour, he will need to climb at an even higher level.  

       4.      Porte
Last year he finished 30th in the service of Wiggins, but his job is different now. He’ll be doing what Froome did last year, being the last domestique remaining to set the pace on the final climb. I think Froome and his main challenger will put a bit of time into Porte on the mountain top finishes, but Porte will consistently finish in the top 10. His time trialing will restore him to a top 5 position. I don’t think there will be a Sky controversy. In terms of strength Froome was closer to Wiggins than Porte is to Froome. Richie accepts his place.

       5.      Valverde
I picked Valverde to win the 2008 Tour and later vowed to never do that again. Last year, I picked him to finish 8th, and he completely fell apart. He did, however, win a stage and strut his stuff at the Vuelta. The Green Bullet has the support of Movistar, and he should perform similarly to Rodriguez in the TTs. History has taught me to distrust Alejandro Valverde, but the 2012 Vuelta taught me to never discard him.

       6.      Van Garderen
I would first like to say that winning the Tour of California means very little. Very very little. I’m sick of the hype NBC Sports gives him, but I know that I cannot let my emotions run me. Tejay has performed consistently this season (Paris-Nice, Tour of Cali, Tour de Suisse, Criterium Int’l, etc.), and his 2012 Tour performance gives him further credibility.  However, when the poop hits the fan in the mountains, he won’t hang with Froome.

       7.      Quintana
A  completely focused Nairo Quintana would podium at the Tour de France. During the final week, he will be climbing and time trialing with the best. The question is, will he do that during the second week? I think he will make some sacrifices for Valverde.

       8.      Schleck
I believe in Andy Schleck. His performance in the Tour de Suisse was the same as it always is. Although he struggled to finish some races, Schleck’s 2013 season has been similar to past years: based around the Tour. He will match the big guns in the mountains, but I don’t think that will be enough for a podium.

        9.      Pinot
He claims that he cared more about Suisse than the Tour de France, but that is irrelevant. He was a last minute call-up to the Tour in  2012, and he still pulled off a top 10 and a stage win. He has a much shorter leash now, so he’ll have to gain time by fighting mano-a-mano in the mountains. I don’t think he will rise to the top this year, even though he may do so in the future. The time has not yet come.

        10.  Van den Broeck
He has to be the most underrated GC contender. He has finished 4th in two different Tours, but people are embarrassed to support him. He focuses on the Tour like Andy Schleck, so you can’t judge his season until July is over. While VDB looked awful in the Daupine, I think there’s still something there.

         11.  Talansky
I believe that he will be the most consistent rider on Garmin. While he may not climb as well as Hesjedal or pack the punch of Martin or race aggressively like Hesjedal, Talansky’s time trialing is superior to that of his teammates. His performance in last year’s Vuelta assured me of his durability, and his exploits at Paris-Nice and other shorter stage races have revealed his potency.

         12.  Fuglsang
He time trials well and climbs decently enough. Furthermore, he has a strong Astana team around him. 12th place would be an incredible accomplishment for Fuglsang, considering all of the strong riders taking the start. Ultimately, he won’t climb well enough to make a significant mark on the race.

          13.  Evans
Cuddles will ride safely in the first week and go into the first rest day incredibly close to the Maillot Jaune. That’s how he always does it. However, I think Evans will fade on Ventoux and following mountain stages. His Giro-Tour double won’t cause him to fall apart as he did in 2010, but it certainly will limit him.

          14.  Moreno
As the leader of Katusha, he could ride into the top 10. However, he is perfectly content to sacrifice for Rodriguez. The sacrifice may manifest itself in Moreno attacking, leading to the possibility of Moreno winning a stage. We will see how Katusha plays it, but they need to keep Moreno in GC contention so that his attacks will put pressure on Sky and give J-Rod an advantage.

           15.  Mollema
I don’t trust him fully, but I think he is improving as a GC rider. With the full support of Belkin and the hopes of his country, Mollema will do his best to fight it out in the mountains. However, I just don’t see him as a serious contender.

Green Jersey
            1.      Sagan
It’s simple. His competitors can’t compete with him on the transitional stages. He’s going to take the jersey by a landslide.

            2.      Greipel
He was able to best Cav last year, and this year brings similar circumstances. Greipel is far more rested and focused. His leadout train is just as good.

             3.      Cavendish
He will manage three stage wins, but the thing with Cavendish is that he’ll either be first or twentieth. That does not bode well for consistency. Plus, riding the Giro was not advantageous to his Tour de France preparation.

             4.      Kittel
Kittel is due for a stage win, but last year’s Tour reminded us of his fragility. He struggled with a stomach bug, well before he reached mountains. This year, I believe he will struggle to survive the time cut.

              5.      Ferrari
He has demonstrated the ability to knock off top sprinters (figuratively and literally). Lampre will support him with riders like Malori, Cimolai, and Favilli.

Polka-Dot Jersey
                  1. Cunego
             2. Jon Izagirre
             3. Gadret
             4. Clarke
             5. Hoogerland

Cunego needs to come away with something. I think he can take this competition if he makes it a serious objective.  

White Jersey
               1. Van Garderen
               2. Quintana
               3. Pinot
               4. Talansky
               5. Jon Izagirre