Riders to watch this Tour de France:
Lance Armstrong (USPS):
Last year’s winner
Can he repeat his astonishing feats of last year and confound the local press once and for all? Cancer-defeating, non-drug taking, unrelenting Armstrong will not lack motivation, but how easy is it to win consecutive Tours? Just ask Indurain for the secret. Last year’s victory has turned Armstrong into a media superstar in the US: Nike sponsorship, Book deals with Penguin and the compulsory breakfast cereal endorsements have all ensured financial security, but will they take his eye off the competition? I doubt it somehow.
Jan Ullrich (Telekom):
Winner 1997, Runner-up 1996,1998
Has the German stayed off the sausages over the past year and given himself the best chance of making an impact on the standings rather than just the tarmac this year? Ullrich has had a problem with off-season weight gain since he dominated the 1997 Tour, but he came off missing last year’s Tour to win the Tour of Spain and world time trial championship, and briefly held the leader’s jersey in the Tour of Switzerland recently. The Tour de France is an all together different proposition, however, can he meet it?
Richard Virenque (Polti):
Runner-up 1997, King of the Mountains 5 times.
This guy goes uphill. The spotted jersey seems to have a magnetic attraction to him, and there is no reason to suggest otherwise this year. Shame he can’t time trial for toffee, otherwise he might be in with a fighting chance, but then every Tour needs a nutter for the hardcore stuff in the mountains, why else would we watch? A 6th king of the mountains title will tie the record, any more motivation required?
Three more riders in a couple of days time.