The 2010 Tour de France, which is arguably the greatest of the Monument races in cycling, is set to get under way on July 3 for the 8.9km Prologue in Rotterdam.
The Tour is always fun to watch, but this year will be extra special as it is the last that will combine two elements people love to hate-- France and Lance Armstrong.
After this year's stellar Giro d'Italia, the Tour de France will have a lot to live up to. The route and teams are in place and a year had passed to let the bad blood fester in the media. Floyd Landis and Fabien Cancellara have added a couple twists to the mix with allegations of blood and bike doping.
Here are a few of the teams and riders to watch out for:
Team Astana will be back with defending champion, Alberto Contador, who will try to assert his dominance over the peloton after an ugly, and very public spat with former teammate and rival, Lance Armstrong. Contador will have some capable back up with ex-doper Alexandre Vinokourov, who is back from a 2 year suspension. He just reminds me of Drago from Rocky IV.
Quick Step will be riding without the master sprinter and leader, Tom Boonen. After a couple seasons of personal and health issues, he has developed a severe case of tendonitis and again must sit out another race.
Team Sky will be coming into the Tour headed by Bradley Wiggins, who looks more at home as the guitarist from a 70's British rock band. Sky has been looking strong this year.
HTC-Columbia will see if Mark Cavendish can sprint his way to win the Green Jersey for points; a prize he barely lost to Cervelo's Thor Hushovd.
Team Saxo Bank will again field the Schleck brothers, Andy and Frank, who will decide which of them has the legs to compete for the GC. Last year they finished 2nd and 5th respectively. Frank Schleck demolished the competition in Time Trials this year as well and that could play a factor.
The Cervelo Test Team will have Carlos Sastre battling for the GC, with Thor Hushovd along side.
Liquigas has the formerly suspended doper, Ivan Basso, up front to make an attempt to follow his Giro win with the TdF. Vincenzo Nibali will be waiting in the wings if Basso falters.
Team BMC has again pinned their hopes on Cadel Evans, who is hungry and due for a major tour victory, especially after a 5th place finish in the Giro. The climbing duel between he and Bosso during the Giro was spectacular. Cadel and George Hincapie are the Chicago Cubs of cycling.
Team Rabobank has Denis Menchov, who might be a dark horse favorite to win this year. He is a skilled climber and has won two Vuelta de Espana (Tour of Spain) titles, one Giro, and has placed 4th, 5th and 11th at the Tour de France in the GC category.
Team Radioshack, which was established by Lance Armstrong after his bitter public feud with Astana captain, Alberto Contador, is stacked with talent to carry Armstrong's ancient 38yo. legs to the finish line. Aside from the legendary Armstrong, Radioshack will feature 2 time runner-up Andreas Kloden and the Armstrong's capable wingman and confidant, Levi Leipheimer, who is ready to leave Armstrong's shadow after one final Tour. Armstrong finished second in this year's Tour of Switzerland, which is a warm up to the TdF.
I am sure there are several I missed, but that leaves plenty of room for debate.
Here is the link to the official TdF Website for updates and Webcasts.
VeloNews has some great route profiles here.