It’s with great pleasure that I will have once again the opportunity to provide you with my feedbacks on the race everyday.
I can’t remember how many Tour de France I have watched (I do remember how many I raced) but what is sure is that it doesn’t matter if you are a pro cyclist, a weekend warrior, or even a former yellow jersey like me, you are always super thrilled when it’s about to start.
This Tour de France looks very exciting with lots of interesting finishes. I have had a good look at the course the other day and I must confess that I would love to do it. Special credit goes to this massive third week with the Alps stages, the Ventoux on Saturday and all its drama before the final run to Paris. I can’t wait!
Because of this “hilly” third week, I think that the winner of this Tour will have to be a climber.
Thing is that even if you do a great third week in the Alps, you get the Ventoux on Saturday and still have one day to go to get to Paris. And I know from my experience that anything can happen in the Ventoux. Climbers will have their shot at it this year for sure. So don’t miss that day, check you calendars, book the whole night and watch this live. It will be one of these great days in the Tour’s history.
So here we are, we have a great course, with a fancy start in Monaco, then, you look at the athletes engaged and you become even more thrilled about this 2009 Tour de France: Contador, Cadel Evans, Sastre, the Schleck brothers, the Astana team and its phenomenon Lance Armstrong! What else could you ask for?
The Tour is already the greatest cycling event on the planet but with Lance’s comeback, you just get it all at once…and this is going to last for 3 weeks! When you think about it, Lance is by far the only superstar cycling has ever had and having him coming back, this is almost too much! Seriously, Lance’s come back is one of the greatest things that has happened to the Tour since he won his titles. Coming back with no ambition than just enjoying the sports, helping his charity Livestrong, it just shows the world what a great man he is.
You may not realize how tough a Tour de France is for your body, but it really is one of the toughest effort you can do in today’s sports. So you have to realize that you can’t just say “Well, I’m back” and expect to have fun or even finish it. It’s not like a golf player who is willing to do a comeback. This is serious work to get back in a shape to feel confident to take the start and it requires even more work to get enough trained to perform well even if your name is Lance Armstrong! This is a former yellow jersey telling you that. I never thought about coming back, just for that one reason. Lance is even fitter than he used to be in 2005 and he has taken back his 2005 position on his bike. The guy is going for it, I’m telling you.
Talking about Lance and because it’s my first post, most of you will be waiting for my favourites (I hope). I won’t make you wait any longer, so here they are: Contador, Evans, Sastre, Armstrong, Andy Schleck and Leipheimer. I don’t think Menchov is a real threat; he will be tired off his great Giro and shouldn’t have enough resources to make it.
If I had to pick one among these athletes, I would go for Andy Schleck because cycling needs some fresh blood I think and Andy looks like a great sportsman with a true cycling heritage. Fingers crossed!
So, regarding tomorrow now, here is my first insight of this year’s Tour. Astana is going to have Lance starting the prologue in first and Contador finishing it. You know that usually, you would launch your best shot at the end but Astana has been in Monaco for several days and so have I. You notice that everyday is very sunny except during the last hour of the afternoon where you can even have some light rains. I think Astana wanted to get Lance going first to make sure he is got he ideal conditions to perform and put the pressure on the other teams.
This prologue is like the Team time trial. This is not just a very nice stage, great for the public and all that, it’s almost the perfect setup to put pressure on your competition. So don’t look at the prologue or the team time trial just like a great day of cycling with athletes riding the nicest bikes in the world, a lot of strategy is taking place during these moments and tomorrow it starts with Lance going first!
Finally, I would just like to write a note about Boonen who has finally been accepted on the Tour this year after two positive controls. Some will say that it’s once again a shame for the sports and I could understand that but I will argue the opposite. I think it’s good for cycling that Boonen got in. We need all the pros on the line tomorrow to make this Tour de France one of the greatest. Boonen made a big mistake during “this party” and I’m sure he has already paid the price for his mistake. It wasn’t doping to perform better and I think Justice should have been clearer and more strict from the beginning. With all these changes, it’s the whole legal process that lost a bit of credibility here I think…but we will have other opportunities to talk about doping in later posts…
I’m looking for a lot of great moments of sports during the three upcoming weeks and am truly happy to be able to share them with you. So feel free to contact me if you have any question as it’s always a pleasure to share my passion of cycling with all of you.
To a great Tour de France!
Ronan Pensec participated eight times in the Tour de France and wore the yellow jersey in 1990 while racing for Greg Lemond's Z team. He now operates Ronan Pensec Travel, an official Tour de France operator hosting VIP cycling tours for recreational cycling enthusiasts.