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TdF'06: Team Capsules

Except for the handful of riders whose ambitions include winning the yellow jersey, it's safe to say that pretty much the rest of the peloton is mapping out their strategies in terms of the team and its goals. If you're relatively new to the sport, take my word for it: Cycling is a team endeavor. So as we continue previewing the 2006 Tour, let's run through the teams and look at what they may be up to.

On the flip, of course:

Discovery Channel
Leaders: Pick 'em... Hincapie? Azevedo? Popovych? Savoldelli?
A great Tour would be: A podium spot (e.g. Hincapie 3rd)
Could be a disaster if: They go quietly into that good night... no stages, no jerseys, no podiums
They'll settle for: A couple stage wins, a hand in the mountain outcomes.

Team CSC
Leaders: Ivan Basso
A great Tour would be: Basso in Yellow in Paris; Zabriskie wins an ITT; Schleck snags a stage win; CSC wins team competition
Could be a disaster if:Basso shows up tired from the Giro
They'll settle for:Basso in Yellow in Paris. The more I think about this, the more I want to make him the favorite. He kept his peak just fine last year after just as hard a Giro, so the Double is hardly beyond his reach. Basso can take far bigger chunks from Ullrich in the mountains than Ullrich can win back in the time trials. There is no consolation prize besides the overall win, it's too reachable.

Leaders: Jan Ullrich, Andreas Kloden?
A great Tour would be:Ullrich in yellow, after winning both time trials
Could be a disaster if:Son of Rudy gets stung in drunk probe. Entire team collapses
They'll settle for:Ullrich on the podium, at least one ITT win.

AG2R Prevoyance

Leaders: Francisco Mancebo
A great Tour would be:Mancebo on the podium; a stage or two
Could be a disaster if: Steady Mancebo falls apart
They'll settle for: Mancebo top 7

Leaders: Alexandre Vinokourov
A great Tour would be: They're allowed to start; Vino wins two stages and a podium; Allan Davis wins a bunch sprint
Could be a disaster if: They cease to exist
They'll settle for: Starting, winning two stages.

Leaders: Levi Leipheimer
A great Tour would be:Leipheimer on the podium; Fothen and Wegmann snag stages
Could be a disaster if:Leipheimer blows up in the first ITT; the kids aren't allright.
They'll settle for: Leipheimer Top 5

Leaders: Denis Menchov, Oscar Freire, Michael Rasmussen
A great Tour would be: Rasmussen in polka dots, Freire in green or close, Menchov top five
Could be a disaster if: Someone beats Rasmussen to the long break for KOM points; Freire can't sit down; Menchov can't ITT
They'll settle for: Rasmussen repeats in polka dots; Freire wins two stages

Leaders: Cadel Evans, Robbie McEwen
A great Tour would be:Evans on the podium, McEwen in Green, Horner steals a stage
Could be a disaster if: Evans' time trial prowess stops at 30km; Boonen is unstoppable
They'll settle for:Three stages for Robbie, top six for Cadel

Lampre Fondital
Leaders: Damiano Cunego, Alessandro Ballan
A great Tour would be:Cunego, Ballan and Daniele Bennati win some stages
Could be a disaster if: the Kids can't make it to Paris
They'll settle for: The kids make it to Paris! Bennati wins a sprint

Leaders: Floyd Landis
A great Tour would be: Landis wins the Tour; Robbie Hunter snags a stage
Could be a disaster if:Landis loses the Tour in the second week
They'll settle for:Landis on the podium

Caisse d'Epargne-Illes Balears
Leaders: Alejandro Valverde, Vlad Karpets, Oscar Pereiro
A great Tour would be: Three riders in the top 10; stages for Valverde
Could be a disaster if: Valverde doesn't finish
They'll settle for: Valverde and Pereiro win stages, make it to Paris

Quick Step
Leaders: Tom Boonen, Jose Rujano
A great Tour would be: Green Jersey for Boonen, maybe even yellow for a couple days; Rujano wins on Alpe d'Huez
Could be a disaster if: Boonen doesn't win the Green Jersey
They'll settle for: Boonen wins the Green Jersey. Like Basso going for yellow, only more so in that he's a heavy favorite, and the team hasn't got much else to do in 2006

Credit Agricole
Leaders: Thor Hushovd
A great Tour would be: Green jersey, a couple stage wins for Thor
Could be a disaster if: Thor thinks he can win by repeating last year
They'll settle for: a stage win

Leaders: Iban Mayo, Haimar Zubeldia
A great Tour would be: Two top 10s
Could be a disaster if: they haven't been practicing their time trialing
They'll settle for: a stage win in Spain

Leaders: Sylvain Chavanel
A great Tour would be:Chavanel hangs with the big boys; someone wins on Bastille Day
Could be a disaster if: we never hear them mentioned
They'll settle for: Bastille Day! Chavanel top 15

Saunier Duval
Leaders: Gilberto Simoni, David Millar
A great Tour would be: Millar wins the prologue, Simoni doesn't say anything stupid
Could be a disaster if: Simoni acts like himself; Millar shows the rust from his two years off
They'll settle for:Millar top 5 in any ITT

Francais des Jeux
Leaders: Philippe Gilbert, Bernhard Eisel, Sandy Casar
A great Tour would be: Three stage wins
Could be a disaster if: they miss the Bastille Day breakaway
They'll settle for: Gilbert winning in week 1

Leaders: Danilo DiLuca, Luca Paolini, Magnus Backstedt
A great Tour would be: Stage wins all 'round
Could be a disaster if: DiLuca disappears in the Pyrenees, Backstedt is rusty
They'll settle for: Paolini wins a stage

Boygues Telecom
Leaders: Thomas Voeckler
A great Tour would be: a stage win!
Could be a disaster if: they ride to their potential
They'll settle for: Being noticed

Leaders: Erik Zabel
A great Tour would be: Zabel in green!
Could be a disaster if: they fool themselves into thinking this could happen
They'll settle for: Zabel winning a stage

Leaders: Juan Mercado?
A great Tour would be: Being noticed
Could be a disaster if: losing riders early and often
They'll settle for: a surprise stage win!

A quick disclaimer: the lowest ranked team in the lineup (Agritubel?) is still a collection of incredible riders, and if they can't hope to accomplish anything at the Tour this year, it's simply that there isn't much room. The Tour is the longest, fastest, hardest race on the planet, every inch of the road is contested, and to merely win a stage takes some combination of luck or superior form. So, no disrespect to the little guys, there's great honor in just getting to Paris. One last thought: I didn't have time to pick theme songs for each team. Suggestions welcomed.