This year the Tour will be once again a very interesting affair. The start is in Rotterdam before the race returns to its native France via Belgium and through Brussels and Spa. One of the most important stage stop overs is Arenberg. Even the first week of this year’s race promises to deliver first-rate cycling. On the flat stages there is always the danger of cross winds which could allow several riders to start breakaways. In the Wallonian hills the classic specialists will try to take their chances in a small breakaway group and the cobbled sections promise to create mega excitement. It’s possible that the race will spring one or two surprises. I experienced all this during my own career on the bike and was there when Iban Mayo had to give up his dream of victory following a crash just days into the Tour. The big question is whether the favourites will get through ok or lose time. Even if there aren’t any surprises, I think it’s great that these sections have been included in the Tour route this year. The cobbled sections pay tribute to cycle racing and its roots.
The second half of the Tour will be tough with the stages in the Alps, including four in the Pyrenees. Then a long time-trial in Bordeaux before the riders reach the long-awaited Champs-Elysees in Paris. The third week is very difficult and the stages in the high mountains are sure to leave their mark on the riders. However, in my opinion there isn’t one specific stage that will be decisive in the outcome of the Tour as there will be a sequence of highlights. My favourite for the Tour is, not surprisingly, Alberto Contador. I believe that when he comes through the race unscathed and everything goes according to plan, he’ll be the strongest rider in the peloton. However, the strong Radio Shack team will certainly have something to say about that, and we shall see if the team with its togetherness can pull Contador down a peg or two. The Tour 2010 is rather more suited to climbers than to time-trial specialists and therefore plays right into Contador’s hands.
We and the HTC-Columbia team with Mark Cavendish will be aiming for stage victories as well as good performances in the general classification and king of the mountains competitions. We have a great squad with Michael Rogers, Maxime Monfort and Kanstantsin Siutsou. In addition, we have yet another strong and talented young rider in Tony Martin. If he doesn’t show any weaknesses, he could have a really great Tour. Last year he experienced a day where it didn’t go so well and he lost 30 minutes. If that doesn’t happen this year, then he’ll be right up there at the front this year. However, Tony has got his whole career in front of him and his paramount aim is to ride a good Tour – the result is of secondary importance.
See you soon,