Friday, July 1, 2011

Contador Favouite to win A Four Tour de France

The gruelling, exciting, controversial and lucrative Tour de France gets underway this weekend with the first of the 21 stages going off from the Passage de Gois to Mont des Alouettes, some 191 Kms or 119 miles. The final stage from Creteil to Paris of 95kms (59 miles) takes place on the 24th July and will conclude the 98th edition of the world’s most famous cycle race.

Odds on Favourite to win the overall classification is defending champion, Alberto Contador from Spain, who will be looking for his fourth title. Should he win he will be the first since Marco Pantani in 1998 to win both the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France in the same year.

Contador in fact owes his win in Italy as much to uncertainty as to advanced planning as he entered the event believing that he would be banned from the ‘Tour’ due to the controversy surrounding his alleged use of clenbuterol. He had fully expected the findings of the case to have been concluded before now, but they are not now to be known until August, leaving Contador to go for the ‘double’. Despite the fact that his victory in Italy and his likely victory in France may well be nullified, it is hard to bet against him, even though he has switched teams from Astana to Saxo Bank Sungard. The fact remains that Contador has won all six of the last Grand Tours he has entered; the 2011 race looks sure to be his seventh according to the Tour de France odds, for which he is the even money favourite.

The biggest challenge to Contador will undoubtedly come from two time runner up Andy Schleck, who has left Saxo Bank with his brother Frank to form his own team, the Leopard Trek, believing that he needed to do this in order to overcome the final hurdle of actually winning the ‘Tour’. It should be noted that Schleck finished only 39 seconds behind Contador in 2010 which was a massive improvement of over three minutes from 2009. Schleck is a very short priced second favourite for glory with odds of 7/4.

Britain’s Bradley Wiggins has the best chance of the British riders. Heading Team Sky, Wiggins finished fourth in the 2009 Tour de France and will be looking to improve hugely on the disappointing 24th place he earned a year ago.

There were plenty of reasons why he did not do so well in 2010, but he comes into the race having just won the British Road race Championship, which followed a string of successful rides in some of the smaller but classic events in Europe.

Targeting the Points Classification title or the Green Jersey will be Britain’s Mark Cavendish, who rides for the HTC-Highroad team and who has achieved 15 stage victories in the three years he has been riding in the event. He is being tipped very strongly to at least equal that again this year and to possibly even become the greatest stage winner the Tour de France has ever known. That record is 64 stage wins achieved by the great Eddie Merckx, who also won the ‘Tour’ five times between 1969 and 1974.

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