A Prologue to the 2012 Tour de France

28 Jun

lacarteIt’s Tour de France time again!

The 2012 version of the Tour starts up Saturday, June 30th in Liege, Belgium – 23 days and 2,148 miles later it will end on the Champs E’lyse in Paris.

In between will be:

*9 flat stages

*9 mountain stages with 3 summit finishes

*2 individual time-trial stages

*prologue (time-trial)

*numerous crashes

*unparalleled sports drama

*and countless displays of courage and athleticism

Relative to the 2011 Tour, this Tour will challenge less through climbing and more through the time-trial abilities of the riders. There will still be plenty of tough climbs obviously in the Pyrenees and Alps, but less grueling than last year.

Which is to say, the climbs will be tortuous but less so than last year. Right…

From my perspective, with two of the best climbers and overall GC contenders out this year (see my TDF Guide for definitions and info on how to follow and understand the Tour) it takes away something from the Tour. Andy Schleck is out because of injuries to his spine sustained in the Criterium du Dauphine when he was blown off his bike during the individual time-trial by a gust of wind. And of course, Alberto Contador, winner of is out because of doping. How is that for bad luck, Schleck’s nemesis on the bike is not allowed to race the Tour this year due to a doping suspension and Schleck can’t take advantage of it due to injury.

Speaking of doping, French team Europcar, is being investigated by French officials for possible doping in last year’s Tour. They are the team of Thomas Voeckler, my favorite Frenchman and one of my very favorite bike racers. Voeckler has been dealing with a knee injury, but is supposed to compete in this year’s Tour along with teammate, Pierre Rolland, who in the not too distant future could be a serious contender for the Tour – something France has not had for a long time – other than Voeckler. Before you laugh, remember Voeckler finished 4th last year.

Pre-race favorites are last year’s winner Cadel Evans, Bradley Wiggins, Vincenzo Nibali, Frank Schleck, Robert Gesink and Ryder Hesjedal among others. One rider that is an American favorite that could figure into the mix for overall GC is Levi Leipheimer. Speaking of Americans, George Hincapie will be racing in his last Tour, a record 17th.

Wiggins looks to be strong and peaking at the right time with a strong team to match. Evans hasn’t had as noteworthy an early season as Wiggins (no one has) but he has as strong a team as Wiggins if not stronger. Both Wiggins and Evans are strong time-trialest too as well as elite climbers.

This year’s Tour seems to be more wide open than in previous years which could make for added excitement. There is always unexpected drama in every Tour and this one will certainly be no different.

Hopefully it will follow last year’s Tour and center around the racing NOT doping.

Always interesting is how the race unfolds, favorites can get injured and go out (Wiggins last year) or a racer you wouldn’t expect to contend for the overall win can step up and threaten to take it away from the favorites (Voeckler last year).

One thing is for sure: there will be great racing, no shortage of crashes and plenty of drama and excitement. Nothing compares to the Tour de France in terms of difficulty. You can catch it all on Versus/NBC sports.

You can also catch a wrap-up of each stage here, just like I did in 2010 and 2011. Check them out, I just re-read last year’s – what an unbelievable Tour that was.

As all those 60+ posts show, I LOVE the Tour de France – Viva le Tour!

 

2011 Tour de France Highlights

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