Thursday, June 23, 2005

Professional Runners-Up?

The Tour de France is nearly upon us. The team rosters are now being announced and the media buzz has begun. As usual, most of the buzz surrounds Lance What's-His-Name, that guy dating that one rock star chick. You know who I'm talking about.

But also as usual, the secondary buzz surrounds Jan Ullrich, several times second to Lance and fourth last year, "Jan The Man" is primed and ready for his final chance to beat The Boss. Jan's been talking some serious smack, too, vowing to finally win his second Tour (he won his first in 1997, before Lance started his string).

Can he do it? Well, for sure he'll have lots of support.

Giuseppe Guerini, Tobias Steinhauser, Matthias Kessler, Andreas Kloden, Alexandre Vinokourov, Jan Ullrich, Oscar Sevilla, Daniele Nardello, Stephan Schreck

Team members of note are Kloden, Vinokourov and Sevilla. Kloden finished second last year despite being beaten repeatedly in the mountains by Armstrong and Ivan Basso of CSC. His form is questionable going into the Tour this year, but then again it was questionable this time last year. Sevilla is full of talent and a good climber, but unfortunately has been a bit of a let-down over the past few years. He could turn it around, but it's doubtful.

Then there's Vinokourov, or "Vino" as he's known. Winner of this year's Liege-Bastogne-Liege and the Mont Ventoux stage of the Dauphine, Vino is showing better form than ever---even better than in 2003 when he finished the Tour on the podium in third place, just behind Armstrong and Ullrich. If Ullrich chokes like he did last year, look for Vino to be the main man for T-Mobile. Oh yeah, and his explosive attacking style is just plain fun to watch.

If Lance chokes and ends his career with anything less than first place at the Tour, it would be nice to see Ullrich finally be the guy to knock The Boss off of his high horse. It would be really nice to see Vinokourov do it.