Sunday, July 02, 2006

Prologue - Le Tour 2006

It's short (7km), it's fast (winner usually above 50kmh, up to 55km average) and it's about power to weight, rider preparation and focus, ability to keep at high revs and - sometimes - a bit of risk taking around corners. This year it was flat with a few tight turns. The winner was a big sprinter (excellent power delivery): Thor Hushovd from Norway.

In Oz we got a live coverage via our SBS. Noteworthy for one commentator mixing up an online cadence display with heart rate. Hmmm.

What can we say from this result?
  1. Thor Hushovd (Nor) Crédit Agricole 8.17.00 @51.43 km/h was a surprise winner but not an inexplicable one. He's in yellow now and his team takes the heat for a while; he also won't get over the mountains with the climbers, so he'll protect the yellow for a few days and work towards the green jersey overall.
  2. George Hincapie (USA) Discovery Channel in 2nd was also a small surprise - but again he's stepped up to fill Lance's shoes and has been in top form. He can climb a bit - maybe not with the mountain goats but certainly enough to limit losses. Stakes his claim here to be the Disco team leader. Maybe he'll get back any time lost in the climbs in the remaining longer TTs? Relief for his team that they don't have to ride to protect the yellow - yet.
  3. David Zabriskie (USA) Team CSC 0.04.21 was no surprise after last year's prologue performance. He's close enough to grab yellow in the right circumstances. Not a likely winner on GC but it's a great way to start.
  4. Sebastian Lang (Ger) Gerolsteiner 0.04.80. A TTer's ride, good result. He will ride for his leader now.
  5. Alejandro Valverde (Spa) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears 0.04.92 - excellent result. He's a complete package and can get over mountains. A threat overall for the yellow. Top 5 at least, with luck maybe the podium.
  6. Stuart O'Grady (Aus) Team CSC 0.04.93. A bit of a surprise - after his earlier-season bad luck and the drama of swapping teams, he's back. He may be able to chase the Green jersey if the team allows. He's stamped some authority here in Basso's absence. Not a climber but a gutsy attacker who may break away before the mountains. Perhaps a high GC is not impossible. Top 20?
  7. Michael Rogers (Aus) T-Mobile 0.06.30. Good result, he will be better still at the longer TTs and he can climb. Has stamped his authority on his team in Ullrich's absence. A top 10 prospect overall and a Top 5 maybe. If he falters he will become a support rider, though.
  8. Paolo Savoldelli (Ita) Discovery Channel 0.08.02. A proven grand tour winner. He must assert himself over Hincapie within the Disco team. Easier said than done. It will be interesting to see how Discovery gels without a definite focus. High GC, potentially Top 5 but depends on who actually leads the team by the end. Could win if let off the leash.
  9. Floyd Landis (USA) Phonak 0.09.26. Barring a cut tire incident he would have been on the podium today. A real threat to yellow. Can TT, can climb and has the experience to do it as well. Top 5 at least, maybe the winner.
  10. Vladimir Karpets (Rus) Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears 0.10.09. A TTer's result. Will hang in there, may get a high GC.
  11. Serguei Gonchar (Ukr) T-Mobile 0.10.11. Rogers' teammate, will follow him for the next 3 weeks. Could become leader if Rogers fails in the high Alps. Top 10.
  12. Tom Boonen (Bel) Quick-Step-Innergetic 0.11.21. A big sprinter like Thor. He'll be a real threat to green but like Thor will lose hours in the mountains.
  13. Manuel Quinziato (Ita) Liquigas 0.12.33. A great ride. His team may shine in the mountains and in opportunistic breakaways, but he will be a support player.
  14. Cadel Evans (Aus) Davitamon-Lotto 0.13.24. Just 13 secs adrift and like Rogers a climber as well as a TTer. A real threat to the overall. Will gain time in the mountains over all but the very best and can hang on to it on descents and in TTs. Watch him to wait for the mountains and then attack at the end of a long, hard climb. Top 5 at least - but his team is weaker than most as it is split in support of McEwen as well (in the sprints). Could be a real surprise though.
  15. Christophe Moreau (Fra) AG2R-Prevoyance 0.13.73. A Frenchman, now leading his team. Will shine this year and can expect a good high GC. Maybe Top 10.
3 weeks of tactics to play out yet. Worth watching, eh?

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