Ok, so yesterday I was speculating on whether it would be Basso first and Ullrich second, or maybe the other way round on the podium in Paris. I didn’t really think there could be any other result.
Now it turns out that neither of them is going to be there. Ullrich, Basso, and a host of other top riders have all been suspended because of the Operacion Puerto busts.
It makes you wonder if there are any clean riders left. It also makes you wonder about the heroes of the past, which is the saddest part.
The prologue is this Saturday, and then the real separations in the standings start with the first major time trial a week after that. First mountain stage is on the 12th. First mountain top finish is the day after. L’Alpe D’Huez is the 18th, starting three days of hell, and then another individual time trial. Can’t wait.
The course this year was designed to have fewer mountains and put more emphasis on overall performance – I’m surprised they didn’t do this the last couple of years before because having the race decided almost entirely on HC climbs favoured Armstrong over Ullrich, and as much as the French press and public hates the Germans, they hated Armstrong more. (Of course the organizers loved Armstrong because he brought the tour a lot more attention and money.)
So the question on my mind is whether Basso burned himself out winning the Giro, or whether his time trialing has improved to the point where he can not lose too much time to Ullrich or even beat him against the clock. He’s certainly got a monster team around him – Julrich, Zabrieski, Voigt, Sastre – and they’re not going to split their attention between the GC and the sprint points like they have in the past.
The other big question is the current doping scandal, and which teams it will touch. There was even some rumours flying that Ullrich might be caught up in it. Of course, it being Tour season, Greg Le Mond showed what an attention whore he is by making his annual spate of crazy accusations against Lance Armstrong, including accusing him of being an attention whore. Looked in a mirror much, Greg? Armstrong said it best on the Daily Show when he said that he figures he’s going to be dealing with these accusations for the rest of his life.
Well, I’ve got the season pass on the TiVo, the cyclingnews.com “live” site bookmarked on my Treo, and I’m all set.