Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Tour starts today

The first Individual Time Trial is this morning in the Tour de France, the day that we could really start to see some sort out amongst the main contenders. It's raining this morning on the course, so it should make for some interesting racing.

It's not an incredibly difficult course and it comes after 2 days on relatively flat ground, so speeds should be pretty quick, though it does hold one Cat 4 climb. But this morning there's also a new cloud hanging over the men in lycra, as Tour leader Michael Rasmussen is having to "non-confirm" reports that he was kicked off the Dutch national team for not being available for drug testing. Cycling has had such a problem with doping that cyclists have to check in with Momma quite regularly to tell her where they are, in the event there's a new scandal and quick samples are needed. Well, apparently Rasmussen was not available a time or two and missed a couple of team tests anyway. Also, there were reports that his testosterone level was high following a training ride some months back, similar to what happened with last year's Tour winner, Floyd Landis.

I've never been sure about the whole testosterone thing. I've had crazy testosterone levels after long rides myself, but it was usually a drop in the level and just made me tired. Maybe higher levels helps you stay awake longer, but when I'm hurting out on the road somewhere, I seldom think "Man, wish I had me some more testosterone."

Back to the day at hand, Rasmussen is not a great individual time trial guy. The guys chasing him are much better, including American Levi Leipheimer, who sits 3:53 back of Rasmussen. Alejandro Valverde is in 2nd and is a good rider. Iban Mayo is 3rd, but more of a mountain guy from Spain, so he's not much of a threat in an ITT. Cadel Evans could make some noise in this event, as could Carlos Sastre. They're both pretty good at both disciplines, mountain and the ITT. One of the interesting ones to watch will be Discovery's Alberto Contador, who's had a great Tour thus far and can ride fast or climb fast, and I think he could be in Yellow at the end of the day. He's Leipheimer's teammate but is ahead of him in 5th. Andreas Kloden of Germany will be a force today as well, plus it's fun to hear Phil Liggett say "Kloowwwden" 75 times in a deal like today.

Should be great racing, if they can keep the bike upright in the rain. The last rainy time trial I can remember was 2004, one of Armstrong's close-call wins over Jan Ullrich. Ullrich, a threat to beat the American that day, crashed in the rain and then got into a shouting match with his team captain's car, which he felt was following too closely.

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