OK, so I more or less missed the Cyclassics today. Thanks to the gruppetto who made the effort today, and thanks to Oscarito for winning me another stage in the... oh, wait, never mind.
[The danger of Virtual DS: unhealthy attachments to riders, long after they stopped helping your team.]
Anyway, amidst what promises to be a continued flood of doping coverage is the Deutschland Tour, a Pro Cycling Tour event that has everything you would want: live video (cycling.tv), a great parcours, solid lineup, and nine days worth of great racing. Last year a lot of riders called it the best race of the year, and when Levi Leipheimer powered off to win the queen stage and overall from Jan Ullrich, more than a few fans said the same thing.
What can they do for an encore?
First off, the race website is fabulous... clearly this is a race trying to make its way in the world, and putting out the effort (like the Amgen Tour of California) to give you reasons to watch, or at least avoiding giving you reasons not to. The site is multi-lingual, anglo-friendly, and breaks the race down rather clearly. There's a course map as well as a narrative stage-by-stage where they tell you what to look out for. Also -- something of a minor tradition in Europe -- there's the Everymens Race, where people like us can ride two stages, the queen stage and the uphill time trial. Just make your way to Bavaria by next weekend.
The race's history is as convoluted as you want it to be, tracing its roots back to either 1999, or 1911 or about another dozen places in between if you prefer. Germans have always been around the sport, and if you didn't know, Josef Fischer won the first race of any lingering consequence, nabbing the initial Paris-Roubaix in 1893. Pretty cool.
By 1931 there was a "Deutschlandtour," in classic German word-merging fashion, and Wikipedia notes ominously that the race was "well-organized," but by 1939 the country had become distracted by other pursuits, and before you knew it, the country was split in two. Some tours of West Germany took place, and it's probable they did the same in the East, but it wasn't until Jan Ullrich's ascendancy (and I suppose reunification) that someone felt the need to re-declare a national Deutschland Tour. This year's race is considered the 28th edition, a more glamorous if misleading tabulation.
Back to the race... the Dean of Websites has a partial start list, with every PCT team but Disco, Quick Step, AG2R, Bouygues, and Phonak, but since it's hard to imagine any of them winning, let's plow ahead with some possibilities.
One name jumps off the page: Vinokourov. Astana and their leader are well rested, and can be forgiven for any blood lust they may be experiencing right now. But even if he and they hadn't just been colossally wronged, Vino would be a strong favorite. He'll have Kashechkin, a boatload of Spaniards, and a penitent Paulinho at his disposal.
The German teams will be hard-up to defend the Fatherland, but it's not clear how they expect to do so. Milram don't have a GC rider, and will be putting all their energy into glorifying the great Zabel one more time. Gerolsteiner will have defending champ Leipheimer, but almost no appetite to help him, as if he were up to the task (and not exhausted) anyway. Look for them to pay Levi lip service while really working for Seb Lang, Stef Schumacher, Ronny Scholz, Georg Totschnig, or whoever gets the hot hand. Rebellin is there too, although I personally can't see them featuring him. Meanwhile, the T-Mobsters will either run Sinkewicz or maybe Linus Gerdemann up to the front, whoever is more fresh, with the former being a real GC threat if he's up to it.
CSC might actually work for Jens Voigt (!), if there's any justice, though surprisingly or perhaps mistakenly Julich is listed too. Davitamon have Wim Van Huffel, Saunier Duval have David Millar, and then there's my favorite of the rest: Rabo's Thomas Dekker. Rested, ready, and too young to know any better. Someone from the U27 Project will be heard from, that we know.