It starts on saturday! Who's excited? I'm excited!
Shame that steakgate is still hanging over Contador - but I'm beginning to accept that I'm unlikely to see a tour take place without at least a whiff of drugs scandal in my lifetime. And to be fair, the race has contained cheats since it started. So putting that to one side:
Can't see past Contador and (A) Schleck. Alberto has been in cracking form this year - he's already won the Giro. In comparison, Schleck has had a very mediocre season. Outclimbed in the Tour of California, getting destroyed by Philippe Gilbert in Liege-Bastogne-Liege and just working as a super-domestique in the tour de suisse. BUT the work Contador put in to winning the Giro may well tell on him later on in the race, and Schleck never really shines these days apart from in le tour, so I think it's gonna be close again... Contador to win it. And then get banned.
Of the rest, Basso has seemed like a spent force this season, but this years race favours the climbers, so I think he'll at least get into the top ten, and maybe even challenge for the podium. Wiggins has had an exceptional year, but even though he won the dauphine, as this tour has so many tricky climbs and only one Individual Time Trial, it will be very, very, hard for him to make the podium - I think the strength of team sky may be able to help him match his fourth place of a couple of years ago though. Leipheimer is also having his best season in years, and I wouldn't write off Cunego, Gesink, Sammy Sanchez or Van Den Broeck. Cadel is looking strong too.
Predicted top 10:
2. A Schleck
6. S Sanchez
9. Van Den Broeck
Not a pure sprinters route by any means. Lots of nasty uphill finishes. Also, I understand the intermediate sprints count for more this season. So although Cavendish is bound to pick up at least a couple of stage wins, I don't think he'll match last seasons haul, nor will he end up with the green jersey. Hushovd has got to be in with a chance again, and Cav's team mate Matt Goss (no, really) may be a better shout for overall green (and some stage wins in the first week), depending on how HTC want to play it. Sagan, Farrar and Pettachi will be there or thereabouts.
Would be lovely to see Voeckler win the first stage since it goes pretty much past his front door. Sylvain Chavenel, Tony Martin (no, really), Philippe Gilbert, John Gadret and Peter Sagan should all find a stage to suit them too.
Team Sky have got a really good roster now. Boasson Hagen could be a dark horse in the GC (particularly if Wiggins blows up) and Geraint Thomas is getting better and better. Will be interesting to see who ends up as leader of Radioshack - Brajkovic? Horner? Kloden? Leipheimer? Leopard Trek have got A Schleck, Cancellara, O'Grady and JENS MOTHERFUCKING VOIGT though, so I'll be supporting them mostly.
Christian Knees (with apologies to Tony Martin and Matt Goss).