Andreas Kloden has twice been on the podium at the Tour. If not for a bit of miscommunication between himself and Alberto Contador at the 2009 Tour it would have been three podium places. Kloden always seems to bring his "A" game to France in July. If Lance and/or Levi falters he can step it up and ride well.
Last year Frank Schleck was bothered by a nagging knee injury. As a result, he wasn't at full speed during the Tour, but his fifth place finish is an indication of what he might be capable of if he is healthy. Unfortunately, he struggles in the time trials so a podium place and not the win is probably his best bet.
Christian Vande Velde of the Garmin-Transitions team is the sentimental favorite because after a stellar fourth place finish in 2008, his past two seasons have been highlighted by untimely crashes. If he could actually get to prepare for the Tour without any unfortunate interruptions he could contend for a podium place.
Ivan Basso won the recent Giro d'Italia, but he says he is only coming to the Tour to hunt for stage wins. Frankly, I think the Italian is too competitive to slow down if he is in a position to go for a high overall placing, but it was a very tough Giro so he may still be recovering in France.
Cadel Evans has twice finished on the podium of the Tour, but his 2009 race was definitely unforgettable. Also, like Basso, Evans rode a tough Giro so he might also still be recovering. Cadel's form will be a big unknown, but it would be great to have him contending for the overall. He was super aggressive at the Giro. That same attacking style would make for a much more exciting Tour.
With his recent win at the Amgen Tour of California, hopefully HTC-Columbia rider Michael 'Mick' Rogers will finally be a contender at the Tour. Mick can climb and time trial, unfortunately, he has yet to put it all together when it counts. If he falters, his teammate Tony Martin may assume the role of team leadership.What about the competitors for the other jerseys?
In any other year, Mark Cavendish would be the hands down favorite to win the green sprinter's jersey. However, the Manx-man has been plagued by a number of setbacks in the early season and has yet to show the blazing speed that saw him win six stages at the 2009 Tour. Thor Hushovd won the sprinter's jersey last year and is consistent enough across all the stages to do so again in 2010.
Andy Schleck has won the white, or best young rider's, jersey for the past two years and looks to be the primary contender once again. Robert Geskink and Tony Martin are probably the next in line if Schleck falters.
Normally, I would predict who could win the polka dot mountains jersey, but in recent years the competition has been just too haphazard to predict. Clearly someone will be motivated to win this prize, but the the race for the overall contenders has become so tactical in the past few years that no one vying for the yellow jersey will want to race for this jersey as well.
Bruce Hildenbrand is a freelance journalist covering cycling and a host of other outdoor-related sports. Find the latest news, rumors and more on his Active Expert blog. He splits his time between Mountain View, California, Boulder, Colorado, and Europe.