2010 Tour de France Contenders
At 27, he's got a few more peak years left to make a run at Lance Armstrong's record seven titles. To his favor, it appears Contador will race back-to-back Tours with no team turmoil in 2010 and 2011, but there's a developing rivalry risking his dominance.
Schleck finished second to Contador in the last two Tours, but take a look at the time differences. He was 4 minutes, 11 seconds back in 2009, and then just 39 seconds off in 2010. Schleck, two years younger than Contador, appears to be bridging the gap. If he can turn himself into a strong time trial racer, Luxembourg will have it's first Tour champion since 1958.
The Silent Assassin has quietly climbed onto the podium at the Tour. He was fifth in 2006 and fourth in 2008 before reaching third place with a brilliant final time trial in 2010. Menchov is already a champion in the other two Grand Tours (Spain, Italy). If either Contador or Schleck falter, look for the Russian to take advantage.
Andy Schleck's chances of winning the 2010 Tour might have taken their biggest hit in the third stage, when older brother and key teammate Frank crashed on the cobble-stoned third stage and broke his collarbone. Frank, who finished fifth in the previous two Tours, could not aid Andy through the mountains or go for glory himself. Rumor has it that the Schlecks may create a new Luxembourg-based team for 2011, possibly making the brothers even more dangerous.
The 2008 Olympic road race champion (see the helmet design) put together his second straight strong Tour with a fourth-place finish. Sanchez had an off day in the final time trial to fall off the podium, but he entrenched himself in the pack behind Schleck and Contador moving forward.
Two years ago, many believed Evans would finish his career with at least one Tour title. Now there's serious doubts. The world champion followed runners-up in 2007 and 2008 with a 30th in 2009 and a 26th in 2010. A poor team and a fractured elbow, respectively, take some of the blame off, but Evans needs to be able to hang with Contador and Schleck in the mountains to get back on the podium.
Jurgen Van Den Broeck
The Belgian thrived in his new role of team leader at the 2010 Tour, placing a surprising fifth. At 27, Van den Broeck may still be on the rise. It'll be up to his team, Omega Pharma-Lotto, to build around him and keep the momentum going.
Kreuziger was 13th in the 2008 Tour and ninth the last two years. He's officially a marked man in the peloton, and so his Liquigas teammate, Ivan Basso. Basso, who had won the Giro d'Italia, disappointed at the 2010 Tour and fell to 32nd. If both get hot at next year's Tour, they can work together like few other duos in the race.
Now that Andy Schleck is overage, the white jersey competition is open for Kreuziger and Robert Gesink to battle for. Gesink, a Dutchman on Menchov's Team Rabobank, was sixth in a breakout 2010 Tour.
Many forget that Team Astana was originally built to be lead by Vino, but he tested positive for blood doping in the 2007 Tour. Lance Armstrong and then Alberto Contador took the Astana team lead in the Kazakh rider's absence. 2010 marked Vinokourov's return to the Tour, where he won a stage and took 16th overall while aiding Contador.