Tour Contenders: The Spanish Conquistadors
Armstrong’s Fourth Tour? Probably
So who can give Lance any competition in the forth coming Tour? Well, let’s start with the Germans, no Jan Ullrich, so that leaves Zabel to go for the points jersey. Italians, mostly not riding due to one chemical or other, the French haven’t had a contender since Hinault, okay Jalabert might win a stage or two, the Dutch & Belgians don’t have anyone for overall either. It only leaves the Spanish to give Lance a hard time.
Gone are the days of the Spanish can only climb, now they can time trial, team time trial and can ride in a cross wind, even some can sprint.
First off Joseba Beloki (ONCE), third last year, second this year? That’s what he wants, but there is a lot of other young Spaniards on his heels, but he has the strongest team behind him. Unlike ibanesto.com who’s team has a leader in the 2000 best young rider, Francisco Mancebo but all it’s riders could do something, Piepoli, Osa, Garcia Acosta, Mercado and Menchov have all won races this year and anyone in an ibanesto jersey needs watching
Kelme are over their cash problems, Oscar Sevilla, last years white jersey winner, maybe not the best time trialist in the world but he has one of the most tactical minded managers in the game, Vincente Belda behind him, also Santiago Botero, very good against the clock and can climb a bit as can the rest of the team.
The team of out-siders, Euskaltel-Euskadi, should ride well in the Pyrenees. Roberto Laiseka should win a hard mountain stage and the team should make things hard when the road goes up, but no more than that.
Apart from the odd East European putting themselves in the frame from time to time, the only other person who may bother Mr. Armstrong next month could be an American. Levi Leipheimer, you also have Spain to thank for him, he lives here and it was the Vuelta who brought him to be noticed.
Love it or hate it, it’s Tour time again and it should be a good one for the Spanish, lets face it – there is no other country with the same strength in depth, I’d even bet my San Miguel (Indurain) on it!