Twisted Tour de France contenders. A Preview: Who’s on first?

Wiggins: where am I? 2nd, 4th, 17th?

David Moncoutie wins the Tour de France!

Ahh, just kidding. Wanted to see if I could induce a few heart attacks. TS makes a quick but deeply meaningful assessment for this years’ tour contenders.

Denis Menchov

The silent Assassin will be silent. It’s always hard to get worked-up about Denis Menchov. He’s quiet, steady and serious. He’s about as quotable as George Hincapie — you’re not getting any laughs out of Denis. He doesn’t do stand-up.

Although he’s won a Giro and a Vuelta and took 4th in the 2008 Tour de France, we simply can’t put him on the podium. What’s missing? Maybe it’s just a vibe but we think steady doesn’t win the Tour de France. There has to be a flash or two of anger, of pure aggression and we just don’t see that from Menchov.

In a sense, he reminds us of Indurain — big, rangy, strong in the time trials and able to hang tough in the mountains and yes, just as dull. Yes, Indurain did win five tours but Big D isn’t big Mig. We respect Menchov as a consummate professional and perhaps a gentleman but we’re slotting the assassin in the 6th to 10th position. Back to the Giro, big fella.

Bradley Wiggins

We always root for Wiggins on humor alone. The man has a fantastic sense of comedy and impeccable taste in music. He blew everyone’s mind in the Tour last year.

Our feeling, selfish though it may be, it that Wiggins made a fundamental error in judgement by skipping out on Garmin. Jonathan Vaughters molded Wiggins into a superb grand tour rider and built a terrific support network for him. There is bad karma swirling around Bradley and that is not going to help him in La Belle France. There’s also tremendous pressure on him as the great British hope on a big budget British team. Now, Wiggins is a cool cat and a confident guy, but we’re thinking he’s going to crack a little this time around. He will not repeat last years’ 4th place and should consider himself lucky to make the top 10. Just a hunch.

Alberto Contador

Not much to say that hasn’t already been detailed. He’s scary good and supremely confident and unless he has a coronary or crashes out, he will win again. Early questions about the quality of his team have been answered. They’re not a powerhouse but they’ll do enough to help him onto the top step with the yellow shirt and the fuzzy stuffed lions. Radio Shack and Saxo Bank will hit with with everything they’ve got the second stage 1 begins. We expect nothing short of all out war on the cobblestones in stage three. Sadly, nothing is going to stop the Spanish pistol shooter from winning numero three.

Andy Schleck

He’s says he’s in better form that last year. Bjarne Riis says Schleck is ready to challenge. His brother Frank says Andy is ready. Twisted Spoke says , uhh, maybe not. We saw Andy attack in the Big Bear mountain stage in the Tour of California. He faded back. He attacked in the Tour of Switzerland, again, he faded back.

TS thinks there’s some memory loss involved. Andy might believe he’s ready but he’s forgotten just how much better Contador is than him. Schleck needs more than readiness, he needs to be significantly improved and we’ve seen no evidence of that. On the flip side, his team is super strong, well-drilled and Riis will having them on the attack every kilometer. Prediction, a step down from last year, 3rd place.

Lance Armstrong

The Man, the boss, the Texan, Mellow Johnny. If there is one cellular-level rule we should have learned by now, it’s never, ever bet against Lance Armstrong. Do not bet against him in a stage race, a court case, a business deal, name your category. Last years’ third place was a monumental achievement after three years of retirement and at almost 38 years of age.

He’ll be 39 in September for god-sakes and he still has a shot at winning, yes, winning an 8th Tour de France. Staggering. The boss looks lean and mean and the Landis allegations are just more dry wood for the competitive bonfire. He was good in Luxembourg and Switzerland, he’ll be good in France. Still, the miracle ain’t gonna happen. On his intelligence and experience alone, Lance will make the top 10. But we have him somewhere around 6th place.

Cadel Evans

Ever since his stylish and courageous world championship win in Mendrisio, we’ve warmed up to Cadel. He’s become a much more aggressive and confident rider for the one day races. But TS thinks it’s going to be another uphill battle of Evans, an hors categorie assignment that ends in disappointment. We’re getting the unlucky Evans vibe and BMC doesn’t have the horsepower to help change that luck. There will be a crash, it will break things, unhappiness and disappointment will be expressed. Yes, he’s riding with a rainbow but yellow isn’t going to be his dominant color. 7th place, folks.

Ivan Basso

The Leaky-Gas boys are an imposing lime green machine. Basso claims he can do the Giro-Tour de France double. Maybe on the old rocket fuel that would be possible. The clean Ivan went pretty deep to win the Giro and we simply don’t see Basso launching any big attacks in France — except in support of Roman Kreuziger.

The Cycling Gods are quite particular about mixing the pink and yellow jerseys. They clash, a horrendous fashion statement. You wear pink or yellow but almost never both unless you’re Marco Pantani. And you know what happened to him. Basso will claw his way to 10th place.

Christian Vande Velde

Twisted Spoke has a dream: Tourmalet, Wiggins and Vande Velde riding side by side up the torturous mountain. Vande Velde gives the Brit the Lance Look and drops him. Garmin’s argyle genius Jonathan Vaughters jumps out of the team car, strips naked and dances a crazed jig of ecstasy and revenge. Probably not going to happen.

Still, there’s beauty or payback in that one. We’ve love to see all-around good guy Vande Velde make the top five and we’d feel half way confident about that if he hadn’t crashed yet again in the Giro. Christian, say out of Italy in May! Here’s what we’ll predict: Vande Velde to finish higher than Wiggins. Yes, we dream alot.

Carlos Sastre

Twisted Spoke would be a backflip if little Carlos could make the podium. Why? Because the man works hard and he’s a true gentleman. Alas, we suspect Sastre is just plain too old to still be skipping up those big Alps and Pyrenees. We’ll say a prayer for Carlos — he was our pick to win the Giro — but he’s missing that hard acceleration that used to put a minute on everybody when the gradients were evil. He’s coming off an injury, the motivation is just not there and only the insistence of sponsors has him showing up July 3rd. Out of the top ten.

Next: we tackle the young guns. Because there are plenty of slots to be filled in the top ten. Like who’s on second?

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  • Johnny Masury

    Great post Matt.

  • http://www.mauricio-soler.com FanDeSoler

    of all the predictions I've read, yours is by far the most entertaining – thanks Matt. As for being the most accurate? Time will tell – there's a lot of places to fill.

    6th for the Boss? Really? Ouch! I don't see many in as good of form to fill your 2nd & 4th-6th slots. Then again, he may have peaked in Switzerland & July could turn out to be horrendous. Can't wait!

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com walshworld

      Hey, I may have to move the boss up based on the Schleck borthers messing up the Saxo unity. A bad, stupid move, the kind the Boss would never make — unless Alberto was in his team!

  • http://www.neilstorey.blogspot.com storeysnotinfrance

    brilliantly, cleverly, penned… can't disagree so far and a perfect summation of Wiggo too… look forward to the next again part.

    Overall..? Hard to see past pistol-packing-Bertie… and rounding it out, Kreuziger & Schleck (A not F) for me

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com walshworld

      Neil, you in France? Thanks for the "brilliant." never say no to that kind of thing. I'm also partial to "sheer genius" if you need another compliment.

  • NoNonsense

    So let me get this right…Contador 1st, no-one 2nd, Schleck 3rd, no-one 4th or 5th, Menchov or Armstrong 6th (with Menchov possibly lower – maybe 8th), Evans 7th, Vande Velde above Wiggins (let's say 9th), Basso 10th, Wiggins 11th (that's outside top 10), and tailing somewhere outside top 10 with Wiggo is Sastre.

    It will be a very interesting Tour if that's how it works out. Entertaining article? A little. Useful for predicting the final outcome in Paris? Nope (apart from Contador perhaps).

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com walshworld

      Jason, Oh la la la la. That's French for "simmer down you hot-headed looney." Or some such. Predictions arsn't science and usually the amateurs are as good as the experts at picking winners in these things. Besides, they're just written so people have something to argue about before the race start. Nobody really expects a definitive answer. Regardless of what any self-proclaimed genius says, nobody is sure of anything except Contador. Thanks for chiming in and keep chiming. I love music.

  • Pingback: Tour Predictions « le tour babe's weblog

    • http://www.atwistedspoke.com walshworld

      Merci, Le Tour Babe. I will check your predictions out poste haste. Matt