Yeah I am all over the place for the Tour. Why? Maybe to prove to sminer that I can care about other races outside of the Giro(the greatest thing known to man) and that I understand the significance of the Tour. But really more so because I am bored and enjoy writing about cycling more than writing about anything else(oh and I have to try to make time go quicker until Saturday). So I shall use this time chronicle the top 5 Lead-out men at the years race. These guys are the unappreciated heroes of the sprints, they are never given much credit for their leaders wins but they sure as hell deserve it. Last year all 5 of these slots could have gone to Columbia riders but not this time. Now there may be some lead-out men who are in the top-5 in the world but not on the list. Why? Well because they are leading out nobody because their team doesn't have a sprinter to lead-out. Oh and only one rider per team.
5: Lars Boom(Rabobank)-Leading-out Oscar Freire
I have to be honest, I had EBH here as leading out Greg Henderson but then I realized that the kiwi wasn't racing. I also had them in 3rd position. So I had to go with the back-up plan using the most obvious formula: if you aren't sure just go with the Dutch hegemony. So I did and went with Lars Boom at number 5. Now Lars isn't a natural sprinter and therefore further down on my list. His awesomeness(no I am not being paid by Chris but I should be) may be released into the realm of stage hunters at some point this race but on the sprint stages he will be there to help Freire. Well Rabo may go with someone else but I think they shouldn't. Boom still has a quick kick at the line, which he proved by winning 1,300,000 races(I may be off be one or two wins) at Rabo-Conti. The Spaniard will need someone to help him out if he wants to repeat his 2008 green jersey win and that person may just be Boom.
4: Jeremy Hunt(Cervelo)-Leading-out Thor Hushovd
This position should have gone to Haussler but some British wanker had to derail that plan(but revenge was achieved in footy!) so another British rider(conspiracy?...no) takes his place. Hunt is no longer in his best years but he still has a good kick at the line and will need to show some speed if Thor is to win the green jersey once again. Hushovd has been looking good of late unlike Cavendish and may be the early favorite to win the green again. But every good sprinter needs a good lead-out man and for Thor it will be Hunt.
3: Danilo Hondo(Lampre)-Leading-out Alessandro Petacchi
Hondo is having a resurgent year after a 2 year(sort of) suspension and spending two years at Diquivani-AndroniMcdonalsSonyAsswholeeuphoriarhiannastan. He won a stage at the Tour of Sardinia(there was a huge pile-up in front of him but we shall ignore that) and had a top-10 at the Tour of Flanders(small shit race). He is clearly confident, so confident he even thought he won a stage at the Giro this year when in reality he finished 3rd. Damn facts getting in the way of his results! The two time Giro stage winner will be leading out the 21 time Giro stage winner. Petacchi had to abandon his favorite race early this May and from that point on he began to focus on the Tour. Petacchi hasn't had as much success at the Tour but has still managed to win 4 stages over his career. He will look for a final run at winning the green jersey which has eluded him so far. Lampre has a juggernaut sprint team this year but Hondo will be the primary lead-out man for Ale-Jet, as he was in the Giro. Expect to see a lot of purple and commercial smearing at the front of the sprints this year.
2: Julian Dean(Garmin)-Leading-out Tyler Farrar(Or Farrrarrrr if you speak Italian)
Farrar won two stages at this years Giro and one of the main reasons was Dean. The stage 10 lead-out was the best lead-out of this year. Dean set-up Farrar perfectly for the win. Tyler was the ultimate bridesmaid at last years Tour but with Cav not looking anywhere near as dominant this year it may be the first career Tour stage win for the American. To get the stage win he will need more great lead-outs from Dean, who has been doing this for quite some time. With Dean on his side Farrar could win the green jersey this time around. Dean btw once owned the most badass jersey in cycling history.
1: Mark Renshaw(Columbia)-Leading-out Mark Cavendish(the guy who hates forum people)
Renshaw was undoubtedly the best lead-out man in cycling last season and nothing has changed since. Cav won 10 stages at GT's last year thanks to the Aussie fast man setting him up. With Columbia losing some of its most powerful riders from the sprint team, most notably Hincapie and EBH, Renshaw will have to be just as good this year. Another reason he will have to be strong is that Cav hasn't had a very good season so far and has many question marks surrounding his name. But if Columbia can set-up Renshaw and Cav well heading into the final 600m then it will be a forgone conclusion. If you need any proof just watch the great lead-out Renshaw supplied Cav on the Champs last year(after a great effort from big George). Maybe this is the year Cav wins the green and while he probably won't be as dominant as last year he should leave the Tour with a few stage wins.