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Tour de France confidence picks


Since it went so well last time :p

I will take the 21 stages and four jersey awards at the Tour de France and make 5 picks for each one, to reflect varying confidences. My 5 point pick is my favorite for the day, and my 1 point pick is my longshot. Only if one of my five picks is the winner do I score any points at all. With 21 stages and four jersey awards, that's 125 possible points. My goal will be to score at least half. My Giro score was barely a third :S

Prologue - Liège, 6.4km (individual time trial)

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This is your basic prologue, short and flat. It's highly unlikely that the wheel will be reinvented.

5 point pick: Fabian Cancellara. It's a Tour prologue. We don't need much else to go on to pick Spartacus. This is one of his first races back from injury, but still, how can you realistically expect anyone else to win? Maybe it'll be by five seconds rather than fifteen ;\

4 point pick: Bradley Wiggins. He'll make his hay in the longer time trials, but there's little question he'll be the best GC man in the prologue. The Sky leader was the victor of a markedly similar stage that kicked off the Giro two years ago.

3 point pick: Tony Martin. For as much as it seems that the torch has been passed from Cancellara, and for how much both of them have really underwhelmed this season, it bears mentioning that Martin has not won a time trial shorter than 10km since the 2008 Tour de l'Ain.

2 point pick: Tejay van Garderen. For as much as BMC have a far more renowned chronoman on their squad, van Garderen's got to be the better bet in the short test against the clock. While he hasn't won one, he's come close, taking second in the prologues at the 2010 Dauphiné and the 2011 Tour de Suisse, losing to Alberto Contador and Fabian Cancellara, respectively.

1 point pick: Gustav Larsson. He too is probably better off in the long time trials, but hey, why not.

Stage 1 - Liège to Seraing, 198km (flat stage)

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Altimetry/profile

The stage is branded flat, though it has five fourth-category climbs. With the rules in place since last year that mean only the first rider scores points on cat-4's, it should make for some fun watching in the breakaway. The fourth climb is 60km from the finish (the finish is the fifth climb), so whoever wins two or three of them will get the first polka dot jersey. The finish is a short, punchy, uphill, and we know what that means.

5 point pick: Philippe Gilbert. This stage was pretty much designed for him. And...that's basically just a fact.

4 point pick: Fabian Cancellara. Most stage finishes that would on paper favor Gilbert are also decent bets for Cancellara. If he happens to be wearing yellow, that might be extra special motivation.

3 point pick: Thomas Voeckler. Again, Gilbert-type finishes are usually good for Voeckler too, but the question is whether he'll aim for this. If he's coming to the race expecting to be a GC contender, he may not bother here.

2 point pick: Samuel Sánchez. Aside from Cadel Evans (who I don't expect will ride against his teammate) and Alexander Vinokourov (uhh...no), Sánchez is the highest-placed man in this Tour from the markedly similar Mûr-de-Bretagne stage last year.

1 point pick: Jurgen Van Den Broeck. He was also well-placed on the Mûr-de-Bretagne.

Stage 2 - Visé to Tournai, 207.5km (flat stage)

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Altimetry/profile

Now here's the first bite at the apple for the fast men. The Citadel of Namur is a cat-4 climb, but nothing else is categorized. Bunch finish.

5 point pick: Marcel Kittel. Cavendish nearly always flubs the first one. This year's Giro was the exception.

4 point pick: Mark Cavendish. Perhaps another exception?

3 point pick: Matt Goss. He'll be there.

2 point pick: Peter Sagan. I don't like him so much in a straight-up bunch finish, but he's definitely a contender.

1 point pick: André Greipel. I just don't believe in Farrar anymore.

Stage 3 - Orchies to Boulogne-sur-Mer, 197km (medium mountain stage)

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Altimetry/profile

There are no great heights visited in this stage, but it would be folly to call it flat, as there are five categorized climbs within the last 30km. The finish comes off a descent from a cat-3 and a quick cat-4 rise to the end. A lot of different things could happen on this stage.

5 point pick: Philippe Gilbert. There's a fair chance he'll be just a few seconds from yellow coming into this stage, and he could take those seconds here, no doubt.

4 point pick: Thomas Voeckler. He'd have to launch earlier than Phil, but he could get it done.

3 point pick: Ryder Hesjedal. This seems as good a time as any for the Giro champion to make his presence felt.

2 point pick: Cadel Evans. Now Evans might have more of an excuse to show himself here. He'll take his bigger chunks of time later on, but there could be some time to take today.

1 point pick: Sandy Casar. A semi-random pick from the hat for if it goes breakaway, as the race enters France.

Stage 4 - Abbeville to Rouen, 214.5km (flat stage)

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Altimetry/profile

This one's not an absolute slam-dunk for a bunch finish. 100km of riding against the English Channel could lead to crosswinds and echelons, and with an uncategorized "wall" about 10km from the end...it's possible things could come apart. But predicting it would be a bit of folly.

5 point pick: Mark Cavendish

4 point pick: Peter Sagan. This stage could be a bit more to his strengths.

3 point pick: Matt Goss

2 point pick: Marcel Kittel

1 point pick: André Greipel

Stage 5 - Rouen to Saint-Quentin, 196.5km (flat stage)

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Altimetry/profile

The fast men will have to put in a little effort to make it on stage 4. That's not the case today. This one's a straight-up sprint.

5 point pick: Mark Cavendish

4 point pick: Marcel Kittel

3 point pick: Matt Goss

2 point pick: André Greipel

1 point pick: Peter Sagan

Stage 6 - Épernay to Metz, 207.5km (flat stage)

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Altimetry/profile

I'd say this is a pretty safe day to sleep in.

5 point pick: Mark Cavendish

4 point pick: Marcel Kittel

3 point pick: Matt Goss

2 point pick: André Greipel

1 point pick: Alessandro Petacchi

Stage 7 - Tomblaine to La Planche des Belles Filles, 199 km (medium mountain stage)

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Altimetry/profile

This one should be fun. This is the Tour's first summit finish, and it's a climb that's never before been used in the Tour. The stage-concluding climb is 6km long averaging 7 percent, with ramps of 11 and 13 percent. Nobody's taking minutes on this climb, but the climbers who will be vulnerable in the time trial could potentially take 20 or 30 seconds.

5 point pick: Robert Gesink. If he's as serious a contender as most fancy, this is an undeniable opportunity to close the gap between himself and Wiggins/Evans in the chrono.

4 point pick: Samuel Sánchez. A fair time trialist, Sánchez.still ought to be on the lookout for opportunities such as these.

3 point pick: Janez Brajkovič. He rides with the '1' bib for Astana, and he says he likes what he sees on this climb.

2 point pick: Jurgen Van Den Broeck. A wee bit of a shot in the dark, as I don't know if this is the sort of climb he likes, but to have a shot at the podium he should be poised to capitalize on opportunities like these.

1 point pick: Cadel Evans. You never know. Sometimes you figure it goes to the guy who needs to make up ground, well, Evans could mark that man right out of the Tour with a ride of rides on this stage. He won't go for it if he doesn't have it, but it sort of reminds me of the penultimate stage at the Tirreno-Adriatico Evans won. There was a time trial looming and the other riders at the top of the GC were all easily the lesser of Evans, so he only needed to maintain reasonable contact on the last road stage. Reasonable contact be damned, he won that stage.

Stage 8 - Belfort to Porrentruy, 157.5km (medium mountain stage)

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Altimetry/profile

Feel the burn! You would expect a stage fairly light on the kilometers would have most of them be uphill, and your expectations would be right in this case. This stage features a whopping seven categorized climbs; the last is a cat-1 and the four previous to it are cat-2's. Not one of them are particularly high or steep, but there's scarcely a flat kilometer in this stage.

5 point pick: Sylvain Chavanel. The stage resembles the second of Chavanel's stage wins in the Tour two years ago, and it looks to be a goal for him again.

4 point pick: Pierrick Fédrigo. Another one of the Tour's perennial pluck Frenchmen, this looks like a good stage for a breakaway to stick.

3 point pick: Sandy Casar. You know he'll be in at least one winning breakaway. Because he always is in at least one.

2 point pick: Rémy Di Gregorio. We've just about got the Frenchies covered now, yes?

1 point pick: Amets Txurruka. How can I say the stage will go breakaway without mentioning one of my favorite little firebrands?

Stage 9 - Arc-et-Senans to Besançon, 41.5km (individual time trial)

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Altimetry/profile

The bonus time trial. There haven't been two long ITT's in the Tour since 2008, and that year the first "long" time trial was 29.5km, a fair bit shorter than this year's chrono menu. You have to go back another year, to 2007 for the last Tour with this much racing against the clock. This will be the first day where the foundation to a winning Tour will be laid, or if disaster strikes, this could be the day the Tour is lost.

5 point pick: Bradley Wiggins. Though he's the betting favorite, if I had to guess I'd think Wiggo might be the one to ride with a chip on his shoulder. Like the old wrestler says, you gotta beat the man to be the man. Cadel's already the man.

4 point pick: Fabian Cancellara. A bit hesitant, as he was well off the pace in the time trial at the Tour of Bavaria, but he's gotta be among the picks.

3 point pick: Tony Martin. Unlike Cancellara, Martin seems to slowly (emphasis slowly) be riding himself into form. After winning the time trial at the Tour of Belgium, he looks to be hitting his stride as Tour time nears.

2 point pick: Cadel Evans. Aaaaaand he could easily make me look like an ass for having him this low. But, as can be expected, this Tour's sorta stacked with chronomen.

1 point pick: Denis Menchov. I believe in him, but a lot of people don't.

Stage 10 - Mâcon to Bellegarde-sur-Valserine, 194.5km (mountain stage)

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Altimetry/profile

This is an interesting stage. The never before visited HC Col du Grand Colombier makes its appearance, but it crests 43km from the finish and is not even the day's last climb. The first category Col de Richemond and a lengthy descent into Bellegarde-sur-Valserine follow.

5 point pick: Vincenzo Nibali. This one looks inviting for Nibbles. The team should be able to guide him to the heights, and then it'll be up to him for the downhills.

4 point pick: Samuel Sánchez. Another man who fits the mold of "rather good climber, rather good descender."

3 point pick: Cadel Evans. He's not just gonna sit back and wait for the time trial, as Wiggins might.

2 point pick: Jérôme Coppel. I'm not sure how he handles a descent, in fact, but he bears mentioning sometime in this rundown.

1 point pick: Michele Scarponi. He's a...decent descender.

Stage 11 - Albertville to La Toussuire/Les Sybelles, 148km (mountain stage)

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Altimetry/profile

Another stage a bit light on the number of sheer kilometers, but it's got four big climbs and three long descents that should break the field up considerably.

5 point pick: Robert Gesink. He's probably the best raw climber in the Tour peloton, and this is another day he's gonna need to have circled if he wants the top step of the podium.

4 point pick: Alejandro Valverde. My first time mentioning Movistar's embattled leader. He doesn't need to be quite as hyper-vigilant to climbing opportunities as Gesink, but he'd be well-served to look for them as well.

3 point pick: Fränk Schleck. If we see him at all, it will be on a day such as today.

2 point pick: Michele Scarponi.

1 point pick: Vincenzo Nibali. Basso would probably be a better pick, but he's not the leader.

Stage 12 - Saint-Jean-de-Maurienne to Annonay/Davézieux, 226km (medium mountain stage)

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Altimetry/profile

There are two cat-1 climbs early on, and mostly flat terrain afterward. A late cat-3 probably makes this one a bridge too far for the sprinters.

5 point pick: Christophe Riblon. It's names-from-the-hat time.

4 point pick: Nicolas Edet

3 point pick: Rafael Valls

2 point pick: Yukiya Arashiro

1 point pick: Sérgio Paulinho

Stage 13 - Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux to Le Cap d’Agde, 217km (flat stage)

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Altimetry/profile

Again, this one's not a slam-dunk for the Cav Crowd. There's more coastal riding to be had and a devious cat-3 toward the end. It's also the Bastille Day stage, and without a French sprinter of any great note in the peloton (where have you gone, Arnaud Démare!) the narrative would favor the breakaway. But again, it seems foolish not to favor the sprinters in my picks.

5 point pick: Mark Cavendish

4 point pick: Marcel Kittel

3 point pick: Peter Sagan

2 point pick: Matt Goss.

1 point pick: André Greipel

Stage 14 - Limoux to Foix, 191km (mountain stage)

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Altimetry/profile

It's branded high mountain, but this is a breakaway stage. It's downhill or flat for the final 40km.

5 point pick: Thibaut Pinot

4 point pick: Gorka Verdugo

3 point pick: Imanol Erviti

2 point pick: Hubert Dupont

1 point pick: David Moncoutié

Stage 15 - Samatan to Pau, 158.5km (flat stage)

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Altimetry/profile

While there are a few climbs in his stage, and clustered close together somewhat near the finish, this one's too juicy an opportunity for the sprinters to miss it.

5 point pick: Mark Cavendish

4 point pick: Marcel Kittel

3 point pick: Matt Goss

2 point pick: André Greipel

1 point pick: Juan José Haedo

Stage 16 - Pau to Bagnères-de-Luchon, 197km (mountain stage)

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Altimetry/profile

A couple of traditional Tour host cities for this stage. Four big climbs feature, with a descent of some 15km to the finish.

5 point pick: Vincenzo Nibali. I recall Nibali winning a Giro stage two years ago that looked very much like this.

4 point pick: Samuel Sánchez

3 point pick: Cadel Evans

2 point pick: Alejandro Valverde

1 point pick: Rein Taaramäe.

Stage 17 - Bagnères-de-Luchon to Peyragudes, 143.5km (mountain stage)

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Altimetry/profile

The dreaded stage 17! It's the last hurrah for Gesink et al. The Port de Balès, famous for Chaingate two years ago, features, as do the Col de Peyresourde and a never-before-seen climb above the Peyresourde.

5 point pick: Robert Gesink

4 point pick: Cadel Evans. He will be Gesink's shadow

3 point pick: Fränk Schleck

2 point pick: Dan Martin

1 point pick: Denis Menchov

Stage 18 - Blagnac to Brive-la-Gaillarde, 222.5km (flat stage)

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Altimetry/profile

It's branded flat, but this is no sprinter's stage. It's got the lumpy profile of a hilly classic, and is the Tour's second-longest stage as well. Breakaway all the way as the big boys save their legs for the big day tomorrow.

5 point pick: Jérémy Roy. One of the best firebrands from last year, we'll surely see him at some point

4 point pick: Sylvain Chavanel

3 point pick: Jérôme Pineau

2 point pick: Ruben Pérez

1 point pick: Pierrick Fédrigo

Stage 19 - Bonneval to Chartres, 53.5km (individual time trial)

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Altimetry/profile

This is the one we're all waiting for, no? No matter what happens previously, this is the day the Tour will be won or lost.

5 point pick: Bradley Wiggins. You know he's just gonna destroy this course. Whether it'll be enough to have God Save the Queen be played in Paris remains to be seen.

4 point pick: Cadel Evans. Balls to the specialists, the big boys are taking this one. It's just too important for them to not.

3 point pick: Fabian Cancellara

2 point pick: Tony Martin

1 point pick: David Zabriskie

Stage 20 - Rambouillet to Paris Champs-Élysées, 120km (flat stage)

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Altimetry/profile

It's gonna be very interesting to see who completes this race, with the Olympics a) being in Britain and b) likely favoring a sprinter. Will, *ahem*, a certain someone who might lick his chops at such a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity drag his tuchus over the third-week mountains? I won't be surprised if he doesn't, but I can't really be surprised if he stays in either. So,

5 point pick: Mark Cavendish

4 point pick: Peter Sagan

3 point pick: André Greipel

2 point pick: Juan José Haedo

1 point pick: Matt Goss

I don't think Kittel will complete the race, and I'm bearish on Goss doing so as well.

And the jerseys:

Mountains classification

This one's a little easier to pick than its Italian counterpart, given the new rules in place since last year which mean that it's likely to be a GC man who takes this.

5 point pick: Robert Gesink. I don't think he's targeting it, I just think he's gonna back his way into it by being hyperactive on the summit finishes as he must be if he has any serious ambitions on yellow.

4 point pick: Samuel Sánchez. Really no reason to think he won't be as good this year as he was last.

3 point pick: Fränk Schleck. Similar rationale to Gesink, I just don't think he's going as good.

2 point pick: Levi Leipheimer. I guess this is kind of a screwball pick, since I haven't so much as mentioned Levi yet, but if he's going okay this could be a good goal for him. Yellow is a bridge too far.

1 point pick: Janez Brajkovič. I expect he'll be active on the summit finishes as well.

Points classification

Sagan seems the hot pick, and no one can be quite sure if Cavendish will finish the race, but...really?

5 point pick: Mark Cavendish. There aren't too many surefire sprints, but there are enough, coupled with the intermediate sprints. He won't get a luxury ride to the intermediate sprints like he did last year, but he should still have little trouble getting 7th place or whatever on them (first from the peloton after the breakaway). And Kittel poses a fascinating challenge for the sprint finishes themselves, but I seriously doubt he finishes the race.

4 point pick: Peter Sagan. I...guess?

3 point pick: André Greipel. I've heard some talk that Greipel will actually be the odds-on favorite for the dead-flat slam-dunk sprints considering that Cavendish has lost some weight and, concordantly, some power. I'm filing that one under "I'll believe it when I see it."

2 point pick: Matt Goss.

1 point pick: Marcel Kittel. If'n he does finish.

Youth classification

There are only 22 riders in the peloton who are eligible, so I damn well better have the winner as one of my five picks...

5 point pick: Steven Kruijswijk. I was gutted when Rabo held him out of the Giro, and it's a tiny bit disappointing that he'll not get to be a leader at all this year (so it seems), but obviously, dude is young yet. Last year's white jersey winner Pierre Rolland wasn't his team's leader either. He's hands-down the best climber of the 22 eligible riders, to the extent that even if he's completely burned up for Gesink he'll probably still finish minutes better than most of the other eligible riders.

4 point pick: Rein Taaramäe. I am a fan of the Estonian, no question. It's kinda shocking to me that he's still eligible, considering this is his fourth year as a top-level pro. He's had a difficult season to date so far, though, and while he does figure to be Cofidis' leader, I can't really consider him the prime favorite.

3 point pick: Tejay van Garderen. He's not really a Grand Tour-caliber climber, and he too figures to be a support rider, but he's probably no worse than third-best of the 22 eligible riders.

2 point pick: Wouter Pouls. Now he is a Grand Tour-caliber climber, but he's not much of a time trialist and could be used up early in service of Lieuwe Westra.

1 point pick: Ehhh...I dunno, Thibaut Pinot.

General classification

Here's where I try to look smart :]

5 point pick: Cadel Evans. It's all just too favorable to the man with the '1' bib. He's got the racing acumen (my god does he have the racing acumen), the team, the favorable route, no bridesmaid dress and no 500 pound gorilla in the room.

4 point pick: Bradley Wiggins. It's unlikely that he'll ever have a better chance of being a Grand Tour winner. That's a lot of pressure, though.

3 point pick: Denis Menchov. Seems silly picking him this high since I barely mentioned him in the stages rundown, but he's a rider I believe in and one who covets the Tour de France to complete the Grand Tour career sweep. Clock's ticking for him, too.

2 point pick: Robert Gesink. I just don't think there's enough climb for him to go all the way. Podium, maybe. Yellow, maybe next year.

1 point pick: Jurgen Van Den Broeck

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