Pierre Rolland - This guy is a dark horse for top 5 and I think could be on the podium if Europcar picks him to be team leader early. Probably they will start the tour saying that they are riding for Voeckler, but hopefully they realize very early that Rolland is their best chance for a high GC finish. The route doesn’t suit him at all, but this kid is strong as hell and will be a GC threat for many years, especially when the route is more normal.
Jelle Vanendert/Jurgen Van Den Broeck - I’m not sure which of Lotto’s Belgians will emerge as their team leader. Vanendert has been riding really well for the last year, but the route suits Van Den Broeck more. Whichever proves to be stronger will place in the top 7 or so in the GC.
The green jersey - Finally we get to see Cavendish v. Sagan. Sagan has been absolutely dominant this year and I’m excited to see what he can do now that he gets to race his first Tour. Cavendish has been beaten a couple of times this year in straight up sprints, but has faced a higher level of competition and overall has also been quite dominant. Without analyzing the intermediate sprint points, my prediction is Cavendish looks better in flat stage finishes, but Sagan takes the green jersey because of his strength and ability to place high on lumpy stages. This guy will be a better version of Thor, and is a multiple world champion in the future for sure.
The ITT - Cancellara seems to be rounding into form after his collarbone break during the spring season. However, I think that his reign as TT king of the peloton is over for good. Tony Martin has reached the top and is there to stay. I am hoping that Spartacus can win one last prologue and ride the first week in yellow.
Some other miscellaneous thoughts: Nibali will ride well. Frank Schleck and Sammy Sanchez are in good shape, but the route really doesn’t suit them; they will both still be in the top 6 overall. I think Ryder will be fried, though I hope otherwise. Vandevelde might surprise if he is able to take team lead early enough. Gilbert is not going to do well overall as someone was saying above, but I think he is probably in good form and will certainly be a threat to take a stage. This route really sucks; bring back the high mountains! I think Wiggins is stronger than Cadel (stronger relative to this Tour’s route), but I think that BMC has planned a team that is more GC oriented and that it will be a factor. It should be an interesting battle between the two of them, and I hope Wiggins can win it. I think Garmin will have a disappointing Tour.
Also, Schleck v. Contador makes this years Vuelta something to really look forward to.
EDIT: My predictions -
- Van Den Broeck
Green Jersey - Sagan
Polka Dot Jersey - Sanchez
White Jersey - Rolland EDIT: oops, Rolland is two months too old for this. Van Garderen.