One would be hard pressed not to tab Alberto Contador as the overwhelming favorite to win the 2010 Tour de France. At last year's Tour, he demonstrated that he is a complete rider equally skilled at climbing the highest mountains and riding the fastest time trials. His grand tour results over the past three years is unequaled with wins at the Tour, Giro and Vuelta.
Some have questioned the strength of Contador's Team Astana, but at the recent Criterium du Dauphine, the squad proved that they were up to the task of controlling a race. Whether they can do that in week three of a grand tour is yet to be seen, but this really is Contador's race to lose.
Lance Armstrong has to be considered a contender if only because of his string of seven wins from 1999 to 2005. Unfortunately, a combination of a busy non-cycling schedule, father time and a bit of bad luck have made his 2010 season somewhat of a mystery. The Texan has yet to show any form which would lead us to believe he can be a factor, but it must be remembered that near the end of his first comeback, he was in virtually the same situation and he still delivered the goods. It remains to be seen if Lance can get focused and fit, but don't count him out, especially if either Contador falters or Armstrong's Team Radio Shack is able to use its strengths to isolate the 2009 winner.
Armstrong is most vulnerable to sharp accelerations. If Contador or the Schlecks can reprise the moves they used to shake the Texan in the 2009 edition, it will be tough sledding. Another big question mark is Lance's time trialing. He laid the foundation for his seven wins by dominating the race against the clock, but recently he has been decidedly human. Again, that is probably more a result of his advancing age, but he must be able to ride in the top five in the time trials if he has any hope of winning.
Andy Schleck was a huge disappointment at the recent Amgen Tour of California. Maybe it was jet lag, but the Luxembourger never found his form and was way off the back when he should have been driving it at the front. Andy is still very young at only 25 years of age and maybe this will be a re-building year. But, he is clearly capable of being a contender and it would certainly add to the drama at the Tour if he can find his form. Now if only he could time trial.
After three years of domination, Levi Leipheimer was finally beaten at the Amgen Tour of California. He wasn't beaten by much, but it was still a defeat. The Team Radio Shack member rode well in the mountains, but was a bit off his game in the time trials. Levi will be part of a three-pronged attack by Team Radio Shack, Armstrong and Andreas Kloden being the other two. He will probably start the Tour riding in support of Armstrong, but should Lance falter, Levi may get his chance to go for the yellow jersey.
Bradley Wiggins was the revelation at the 2009 Tour so much so that he broke his contract with the Garmin-Slipstream team and jumped to the new British squad, Team Sky. Wiggins clearly has the talent to do well, but in 2010 we haven't seen anything to indicate that he has the same form as he did in 2009. If Wiggins can get it dialed in for the Tour, he will be a factor. Unfortunately, as we have seen with many overall contenders, as Wiggins has lightened up for the Tour's climbing stages his time trialing has suffered.