Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Pez Picks The Players

Pez Cycling News has weighed in with their predictions for the Tour de France, which starts Saturday. Who do they pick to win? You only get one guess...

Aside from The Boss, Pez also picks the top contenders, and ranks them according to their odds for winning.

1. Lance Armstrong (1.80)
2. Jan Ullrich (5.00)
3. Ivan Basso (8.50)
4. Alexandre Vinokourov (10.00)
5. Iban Mayo (20.00)
6. Andreas Kloeden (28.00)
7. Santiago Botero (30.00)
8. Levi Leipheimer (55.00)
9. Roberto Heras (60.00)
10. Oscar Pereiro (66.00)
11. Michael Rogers (75.00)
12. Floyd Landis (80.00)

I'm sure the people at are pretty good at their jobs, but as a native of Louisville, Kentucky, I know a little bit about race favorites. Just as in the Kentucky Derby, the top favorites have a track record of not winning---or at least not placing as predicted. Now, it must be said that Mr. Armstrong tends to defy that trend, his rivals surely don't. Last year was supposed to be a five-way battle between The Boss, Ullrich, Mayo, Hamilton and Roberto Heras. Of those five, only one finished on the podium and the rest had the worst (or close to worst) Tours of their careers.

For one, I have a feeling Santiago Botero is going to really be a force to reckon with in Tour 2005. With the way he's been riding, he's got the form to really be a contender. He's rediscovered his true strength---time trialing---and has been climbing with the very best of them. I think he will use Landis as a lieutenant (a role ol' Floyd is an expert at) and really make a huge impact.

Also, if Ivan Basso can keep the form he showed in the Giro---with his break-through time trial win and mountain victory---he could have a real chance of knocking off The Boss. Time-trialing was his weakness last year, but so far this year he has crushed all but his teammate David Zabriskie. He could be unstoppable if he avoids illness.

And finally, look for Ullrich to lose the leadership of T-Mobile to Vino. I could be wrong---and that's not unusual---but I have a feeling Vino is going to really attack the hell out of Lance this year, just as he did in 2003. No more free rides like Armstrong got last year, where every other team was reluctant to really put the pressure on him. Watch for Vino to go for the jugular.

Soooo, I'd say if Lance doesn't win his final Tour, look for Basso, Vino or Botero to be the new king of France. That's my two cents.