... or why you might consider watching a lot of cycling over the next ten days. In addition to the fact that we have a totally awesome set of graphics. [First star of the month definitely goes to Veloki.] In the interest of time, I will refer you to the Steephill dashboard for more details (with the warning that it wasn't written by Gavia! but it's still solid). We will have live threads throughout, naturally, though I'll be away this weekend, so if second or third threads become necessary before Monday, I'll ask your friendly editing team to jump in where available.
[update: Take the winners' poll in the Fanposts sidebar.]
1. Are the Swiss gaming the course for Fabian Cancellara?
This isn't as frivolous as it may sound at first. I'm not sure they would ever flatten out the course enough for Tony Spartacus to win the overall. His previous best finish is something like 79th. But I do wonder if the amount of time available in the first and last time trials is getting pretty close to the time gaps available in the climbs? If Cancellara can survive the long, slow climb back to Davos, then he's got a chance of holding his position from the ITT (yellow?) at least to the end of stage 4. Stage 5 would require him to hang on by his fingernails, and stages 7-8 would again see him limiting his losses to something he can recoup in the final ITT. My guess is he'll blow up massively on one of the huge climbs and shift into training for the Tour mode, but every day he hangs around ramps up the pressure on him to hang around more.
2. Can anyone stop Roman Kreuziger?
The biggest question, natch. The defending champ claims to be motivated (even if I'd prefer he were saving it for France), and the list of GC guys who could stop him is a bit thin. Assuming Andy Schleck won't come out to play, then the biggest threats are Andreas Kloden, Kim Kirchen and Frank Schleck. Frankie is a crap cronoman, but Kirchen and Kloden are probably superior to Kreuziger in that discipline, so the young Czech will have to win the race on the climbs.
3. Wait a second -- isn't this a perfect race for Damiano Cunego?
Or Gustav Larsson? Or Thomas Dekker? Or Tom Danielson? Or Tony Martin? In the case of these four (i.e. everyone listed here but Cunego) the presence of some ITT road presents a real opportunity. Larsson is like Cancellara only with a fair bit more fortitude in the climbs. Dekker and Martin can clearly throw down in the cronos. Danielson ... I just can't help mentioning him. And Cunego, while lunchmeat in the time trials, should really really like stages 7-8. Except he's probably gassed from the Giro... but then he's not headed to the Tour, so he shouldn't be holding back? But the Lampre site just talks about his prep for the Worlds.
Anyway, all of this is to say that June stage races are really annoying to handicap. But the race is also a real opportunity for a second-line all-round stud to have his moment in the sun, for once. Which I like.
4. Will the sprint battles be the highlight of the race?
Ah... nope. Hey, it's great to see Bennati, Cavendish, Breschel, Van Avermaet, Freire, Koldo F., and Ciolek all in one place. Chances are, though, several of them will be in slow-building mode, particularly Cavendish who looked like he needed a break in the Giro. And if not, then Cavendish will probably just take all the fun out of it. But hey, we've got a great, great sprint game brewing for the Tour. Finally, I think, the mega-clash we've been waiting a couple years for will actually happen. Except for Boonen, but even then we shall see.
Because Dan feels badly enough for perpetuating the issue with his Tourbecco design. And because Veloki gave us a really awesome cow. So say hello to Tourbeccow, our TdS mascot! Or, not.