Tour de France time is almost upon us, and here I go with my first annual winner’s pick. This is nothing but my opinion and pure conjecture, but that is what blogs are for, aren’t they? Post your pick and analysis in the comment section of this blog.
I doubt he is going to be the odds maker’s favorite, but I am picking Lance Armstrong to win the 2009 Tour for the following reasons:
1) Motivation #1—he misses the limelight, and he is tired of gossip columnists writing about who he is dating. Winning the TDF puts him back on page one.
2) Motivation #2—his reputation. Whether you and I believe Armstrong won seven tours clean…or not, doesn’t matter. It seems like pretty much nobody believes his drug free claims, and that really PO's Lance. Since this year’s Tour is supposed to be the most tested and drug free ever (we have heard this before), LA figures on winning the 2009 TDF and totally silencing his critics, insuring his legacy, and moving on to run for political office. Everybody knows he’d have to be an idiot to get caught, and unless he has some super secret special sauce, he’ll be believable when he says he is clean.
Motivation is everything at this level. Half of the peloton is just doing their job so that they can get paid and not have to find real work. Armstrong doesn’t look at it as work, and he doesn’t need the money. And boy, does he know how to suffer on the bike.
3) Giro results—considering the time off from racing, the broken collarbone, and his general carousing over the last four years, LA had an outstanding Giro. The collarbone cost him not only in fitness; it altered his training calendar enough to prevent him from getting to Tour weight before the Giro. Or did he just sandbag the Giro, and the extra weight was part of it? Expect to see him 5-8# lighter for the TDF, and looking an awful lot like he used to.
4) The route—With only three mountain top finishes, if Armstrong can just stay on the leader(s) wheel and not lose time, he’ll win the Tour in the time trials. This is a big ask, and Ventoux is the key; obviously he could lose minutes there, but I don’t think so. Armstrong not being able to drop a leader in the mountains is likely, but a leader not being able to drop Armstrong is certainly possible.
5) The “Lance Armstrong factor"—Most of the riders in the peloton are in awe of Armstrong, whether or not they have raced with him. Many seem to think that LA is still the best, and he probably is, at least at the Tour.
6) Physiological—Most elite endurance sport athletes can hold their aerobic peak until around age 35, depending on genetics and long term training effects. Armstrong is 37, and if he’s lost 2% while in peak form, I don’t think anyone will notice. He still has “it”. Even at 98%, that is more than enough, if the playing field is level.
7) Experience—He knows how to win this thing.
8) Smarts—Even if he never won the TDF, he is still the most intelligent rider in the Tour. LA doesn’t make mistakes.
9) Johan Bruyneel—no comment required.
10) Astana (love em or hate em) is the best team—when push comes to shove, who do you think Leipheimer, Horner, and Kloden will work for? These guys will turn themselves inside out for Armstrong if they see he has a shot at winning. Bruyneel will be doing the pushing, and he might not even have to…
11) Contador may jump ship—it’s not too late for a move, and regardless of where he goes he’ll have a weaker team, and one not used to dedicating themselves to him. How deep will they dig for him?
12) Nevada—LA just won a race there. Just kidding!
So the way I see it going down is that Armstrong wins the opening short TT, or at least beats his GC rivals. He hangs onto whomever’s wheel he needs to in the first two mountain top finishes. The whole thing hinges on the Ventoux, and he loses no more than 30 seconds. Those 30 seconds don’t matter, because he picks up more than that on his rivals in the 40.5km TT two days before Ventoux.
There you have it. Let’s hear about your pick in the comments section. Fire away.
I have never been a huge Lance Armstrong fan, but it’s time to root for the “old guy”.