Running from Saturday July 2rd to Sunday July 24th 2011, the 98th Tour de France will be made up of 21 stages and will cover a total distance of 3,430.5 kilometres. In total there will be 10 flat stages, 6 mountain stages including climbing le Galibier twice and 4 summit finishes. This year there are less time trial kilometers with 1 individual time-trial stage (42.5 km) and 1 team time-trial stage (23 km).
This year’s tour also commemorates the centenary since the first alpine climb.
The Tour de France is one of the world’s greatest sporting for spectators, either watching from the side of the road as the peloton goes by or at home in front of the TV. We are promised a gruelling race that will test the riders strength, endurance, speed and skill.
There are several contenders for this years Tour de France, and everyone is watching Alberto Contador who won the Giro d ‘Italia this year crushing his opposition. This could be his fourth Tour de France win and the most controversial, the final verdict in the ongoing doping accusations will be settled in August by the Court of Arbitration for Sport. Contador has a good chance particularly with a strong team surrounding him with Richie Porte and Baden Cooke, Spaniards Jesus Hernandez and Daniel Navarro supporting Contador in the mountains.
Both Andy and Frank Schleck from Team Leopard Trek will be marking ‘AC’ in the mountains. Whilst Andy couldn’t attack AC, AC couldn’t drop him either. With one of the strongest teams in the peloton backing the Schlecks, we can expect a showdown in the mountains.
Christian VandeVelde (Garmin-Transitions), has had solid results in 2011 in the Tour of Oman, Tour of California and Tour de Suisse and will be a rider to watch.
Bradley Wiggins (Team Sky), has been training at high altitude to prepare himself for this years Tour. We have seen him win difficult stages and stay with the best rider high in the mountains.
Ivan Basso (Liquigas) crashed on Mount Etna and required 15 stitches so his preparation may not been as good as he had hoped and he has used the Crit?rium du Dauphin? to test his legs.
Cadel Evans (BMC) has had a great start to the year, winning Tirreno-Adriatico and Tour of Romandie and his fourth second place at the Criterium du Dauphine. Team BMC seem to be completely behind Cadel to win the Tour, in previous years this was one of the criticisms he raised. BMC didn’t ride the Giro and shoould have fresh legs for the Tour. Joining Evans for the Tour de France this year and giving the squad lots of expereince on the road in Hincapie and Burghardt. To support for Cadel in the mountains in Ama?l Moinard, Steve Morabito, Ivan Santaromita, Manuel Quinziato and Michael Sch?r.
Samuel S?nchez Gonz?lez, the leader of Euskaltel-Euskadi is hoping for a top 10 positions in the general classification. Finishing fourth last year in the Tour his lead up to this years Tour has not been remarkable but I think we will see him fighting for a top 10 spot in the GC.
For the Green sprinters jersey, I don’t see Mark Cavendish (HTC-Columbia) as the favourite. And it is shakey HTC with rumours of Cav signing with Team Sky and news that the company HTC is withdrawing their team sponsorship. But the recent changes to how the Green Jersey is awarded will benefit Cav. From this July the Tour’s green jersey will be decided on the daily stage placing, as before, but also through the placings at one heavily rewarded intermediate sprint.
Australian Matthew Goss is in red hot for this season and we might see Cav and Gossy going head to head.
Thor Hushovd (C?rvelo), and current World Road Cycling Champion is another favourite showing good form winning Stage Four of the Tour de Suisse ahead of Cavendish.
If Alessandro Petacchi (Lampre) can stay on Cav’s wheel then he may capitalise on any mistakes by HTC and Cav or the rivaly between Goss and Cav going to the line.
I wouldnt discount Tyler Farrar (Garmin), or Oscar Freire (Rabobank), from winning stages during this Tour de France.
The polka dot jersey is a closely contested competition with many of the Tour favourites also contending for this jersey.
For best young rider, the white jersey certainly has a few candidtaes in 2011.
Czech rider Roman Kreuziger will be suporting Alexander Vinokourov in his 14th and final Tour de France where he hopes to secure a podium position.
Jerome Coppel is riding for little known Team Saur-Sojasun a wild card into this years Tour de France. He is one of Frances best young talents in many years with a very succuessful 2010 etching his name into cycling with a 9th overall at Paris-Nice and 5th overall at the Criterium du Dauphine (including 4th on Alpe d’Huez). Look out for him in this years Tour!
Australian Representation at the 2011 Tour de France
Cadel Evans is racing for team BMC after finishing second twice and wearing yellow last year before breaking his elbow he is likely to finish on the podium in 2011. After missing the Giro d’Italia and a team hand picked to support him this is his best year to be the first Australia to wear the yellow jersey in Paris.
Mark Renshaw riding for Team HTC-Colombia with again be supporting Cav and this year Hot Goss in the sprints.
This will be Matt Goss‘s first Tour de France and has shown he is in the inform sprinter winning the Milan-San Remo one-day classic and will be a contender for the green jersey.
Spearheading HTC’s chance for a podium finish in the General Classification is Michael Rogers. As Rogers is able to climb and time trial, this years Tour should suit him.
Simon Gerrans on Team Sky will be riding for Bradley Wiggins who will attempt to finish high in the GC. After winning the National Road Championships in June, Gerrans is in top form coming into this years tour.
In his first tour de France Tasmania’s Ritchie Porte will be supporting Contador as a super domestique. His perforamnce in last years tour, he World Championships and his support of Contador in the Giro. Not to mention his time trial on the final stage of the Giro. It is only a matter of time before Porte will be racing for a spot on the GC and podium.
Baden Cooke is riding fo the Saxo Bank-Sunguard squad and will be supporting Contador and also contending for his second green sprinters jersey.
The Tour de France starts at 10pm Saturday and Australian cycling fans can follow the race on SBS.