Friday, July 3, 2009

And So It Begins - 2009 Tour de France

The Tour de France is set to start off tomorrow in Monaco with a technical 15K Time Trial. The length of this starting stage, much longer than the traditional Tour start Prologue of 5 - 6K, should see most of the race favorites and the obvious Time Trial specialists up at the top of the standings from the get-go.

This year's Tour de France, is shaping up to be perhaps the most dramatic and exciting in years. The unusual start, will make it even more so. Normally after the Prologue, there are a string of reasonably flat to rolling "Sprinters" stages in the first week. The real action not coming for a number of days - often with some unknown rider, a Time Trial specialist or a sprinter in the Yellow jersey. This year should, and with the stages that are coming up this week and into next weekend, the main protagonists for the Yellow Jersey will be right down to business.

Naturally much of the talk has surrounded the return of 7-time Tour de France Winner Lance Armstrong, and in particular what is going to happen on his Astana team with so many former Tour de France Podium placers and the best Grand Tour ride in the World and the 2007 Tour de France champion, Alberto Contador - all on the same team. There has never been a team coming into the Tour de France with so much General Classification( GC) fire-power as Astana has. But Armstrong proved repeatedly in his 7-Tour wins that GC- fire-power was not essential to winning the Grande Boucle. What's key, is having a team totally focus and in many cases sacrifice themselves, for one supreme team leader. That is the model that has the most success at the Tour de France. So, much of the drama will be seeing how things un-fold for Astana - who will be the leader, who will help and what will happen.

Back to defend, his win from last year will be Spaniard, Carlos Sastre. Once again Sastre will be aboard a Cervelo bicycle.( See picture above). This year Canadian and Toronto based Cervelo is the sponsor of a team in the Pro Tour - the Cervelo Test Team - another first for Cervelo, a company that just keeps going from great to greater. More than a few had written the team off, but the Cervelo team as acquitted itself well this season with some significant wins, and podium finishes at many of the key bikes races of the year as well as, great support for Sastre's 4th place finish at the Giro d'Italia - which was really a training junket. Cervelo co-founder Gerard Vroomen was interviewed on CBC radio this morning about what he though both Sastre and the teams chances were. Vroomen comments seem surprising given the cut-throat nature of sport at this level. Listen to the interview with the CBC's Matt Galloway here. Sastre will have his hands full over the three weeks of the Tour, but as he proved in the Giro, big stage racing can often come down to one, key stage and one key move - that's what did it for Sastre last year at the Tour de France and as well as at the recent Giro. The rest of the time it's about staying in the game or limiting your losses where you are not as strong.

Following the Tour de France has never been easier. In most parts of the world there will be same day live coverage of each stage. As well, there are many web sites to track and follow whats going on. A selection I have listed below: - TV Coverage in Canada - TV coverage in the U.S. - the bible of pro cycling news coverage - Outstanding stage by stage pictures

Cervelo Test Team

Cervelo Test Team Twitter

Lance Armstrong Twitter

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