Thursday, July 3, 2008

It's not who's there it's who isn't

Well it's hard to be excited about Cadel winning the tour when you read how many people are not going to be there. Is it the winner of the losers tour? There may be a few good men to make it interesting, menchov or the schlecks, but winning this year with out duking it out against the other podium winners, contador and levi, just makes it seem less of a win to me. Call me crazy. I'm sure that Cadel after winning the tour will be more than stoked. First Aussie, improve on your last year finish, but knowing that you didn't beat the guy who beat you last year isn't nearly as satisfying. If you have an opinion add it to the comments.

Absences make the Tour ... more interesting?
By Neal Rogers
Posted Jul. 3, 2008

Pro cycling fans may find themselves unclear who to root for at this year’s Tour de France. The list of familiar faces absent from this year’s race is as long as it is top-heavy.

The exclusion of the Astana team of defending champion Alberto Contador and teammates Levi Leipheimer and Andreas Kloden means three former podium finishers will sit out this year. It's the first instance in modern history where the previous year’s Tour winner was eligible to race, yet not invited to defend his title.

This year’s Tour will be the third in a row where the previous year’s winner will not be on hand. In fact the list of race favorites heading into the last few Tours nearly doubles as a list of those who won't be contesting this year’s Tour — not one of the top seven riders from the 2005 Tour will return in 2008, while the eighth-place finisher that year, Cadel Evans, comes in as a heavy favorite.

Other favorites include Spaniards Alejandro Valverde (Caisse d’Epargne) and Carlos Sastre (CSC-Saxo Bank), Italian Damiano Cunego (Lampre) and Russian Denis Menchov (Rabobank).

Three Americans in last year’s race — Leipheimer, Chris Horner and David Zabriskie — will miss the 2008 Tour. Leipheimer and Horner fell victim to ASO’s exclusion of their Astana team, while Zabriskie (Garmin-Chipotle) broke a lumbar vertebra during the second stage of the Giro d’Italia.

(Horner and Zabriskie were VeloNews.TV video diarists last year. This year VNTV will run daily video diaries with Columbia’s George Hincapie and Garmin-Chipotle’s Magnus Backstedt.)

Tom Danielson and Canadian Michael Barry, two North Americans expected to start their first Tour this year, were not selected by their respective Garmin and Columbia teams, while American veteran Bobby Julich, who finished third overall in 1998, was not selected for CSC’s squad.

North America will be represented by just five of the 180 starters —Hincapie and Garmin-Chipotle’s Christian Vande Velde, Danny Pate, Will Frischkorn and Ryder Hesjedal. Hesjedal is the first Canadian to start the race since Gord Fraser in 1997.

Also absent from this year’s race are two riders to wear the yellow jersey in 2007.

Columbia’s Linus Gerdemann, who wore yellow for one day after winning stage 7 into Le Grand Bornand, has been sidelined since breaking his femur at Tirreno-Adriatico. Gerdemann’s teammate Michael Rogers has spent the 2008 season battling Epstein-Barr Virus.

Former Rabobank rider Michael Rasmussen has not raced professionally since he was sent home from last year’s Tour following a stage 16 victory atop the Col d’Aubisque while wearing the mailliot jaune.

The Tour’s chaotic field sprints will also be missing several marquee names. Last year’s green jersey winner Tom Boonen of Quick Step, winner of two stages, was banned this year by organizers after an out-of-competition positive test for cocaine. Last year’s double stage winner Daniele Bennati (Liquigas) is also missing due to inflammation of his left Achilles tendon.

In their absence, the sprint favorites include former green jersey winners Robbie McEwen (Silence-Lotto) and Thor Hushovd (Credit Agricole), former Tour stage winners Robbie Hunter (Barloworld) and Oscar Freire (Rabobank) and Columbia’s young star Mark Cavendish, winner of two stages at this year’s Giro d’Italia.

Finally, two ill-fated stars from last year — Kazakh riders Vinokourov and Andrey Kashechkin — are absent. Neither rider has competed professionally since Astana left last year’s Tour when Vinokourov tested positive for blood doping. Kashechkin tested positive for homologous blood transfusions two weeks later and is currently fighting his suspension.

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