Saturday, July 03, 2010

TDF 2010: Rotterdam Time Trial Preview

The 8.9 km time trial at this opening stage in Rotterdam, Holland of the Tour de France promises to set the stage for an interesting Tour. For one, rainy conditions at the start of the time trial have been clearing, so riders like Fabian Cancellara who will come later in the stage will have an extra advantage.

A week ago Lance Armstrong twittered that this is his last TDF: he has four kids and five on the way, so he needs to spend time with them, he said.

We've heard that before. But even if you believe him, that will make this one of the most memorable TDF's in history.

It's the 97th time that this race will be offered across France, and it's a long way from what it was back in the day when there was no huge caravan of support vehicles in the back of the riders, and no big caravan in front full of marketing goodies. For fans, nothing matches the Tour in terms of spectacle, with a full hour worth of pre-peleton trucks and other vehicles dressed in bright colors, honking their horns and throwing goodies out to the crowds.

Today's spectacle of a Tour is glorious and fun, there is no doubt about it, and characters like Armstrong and Contador who played up an internecine battle last year made it something fascinating to watch. This year will be no different, especially with the two on separate teams.

Today's time trial features two small climbs and a number of wide avenues. Currently at 1:05 pm New york time, Tony Martin of HTC-Columbia is the first place finisher with David Millar of Britan behind him by 10 seconds.

Three-time world time trial winner Fabian Cancellara of Saxo Bank is expected to place first today. But at Annecy last year, Alberto Contador won the individual time trial in the Tour at Annecy last year, beating out Cancellara by 3 tenths of a second, and he's also won the Spanish national time trial this year.

So if he's feeling good today, and if his team, Astana is up to defending the Yellow Jersey from the inception of the tour, it's possible Contador could take the win. But strategically it could be a mistake for him to do so, since the team may feel it's necessary to protect the Yellow for the next 20 days.

Andy Schleck who was second overall in the 2009 Tour could also do well in this stage. Tyler Farrar who was one of the favorites for this stage is currently in fifth position.

We haven't said anything about Armstrong yet: it's hard to say where he will place in this prologue, but for strategic reasons, he'll want to be in the top 10 so he can establish a close enough time to the general classication points as they begin.

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