LAGUNA HILLS, CA (BRAIN)—It’s not only the biggest race on the calendar for the pros, but also the industry.
When the Tour de France kicks off tomorrow there will be plenty of storylines to follow, but none will be bigger than the man going after his eighth Tour de France title—yet even Lance Armstrong knows that feat will be made extremely difficult with Alberto Contador going for back-to-back titles, and three overall.
“It will be very hard to win the Tour," the 38-year-old Armstrong said this month at the Tour of Switzerland. "With my age, and the explosiveness of the other guys, my own struggles with the time trials in the last couple of years ... We'll have to be smart, to be a bit lucky, to play the team card a little bit.”
The industry has its eyes on how it will all play out.
“Lance/Alberto for sure,” said Saris’ Jeff Frehner on what he’ll be looking forward to. “The genius of [coach] Allen Lim will give Lance the edge he needs. Lots of contenders should make it one of the best ever.”
But even Armstrong knows Contador’s not only the only strong contender he has to keep an eye out for—the Schleck brothers, Frank and Andy; Ivan Basso, the Giro d’Italia champ; and Cadel Evans, all have their eyes on the prize as well.
“Even before working at Specialized, I was a huge Schleck brothers fan,” said Specialized’s Richard Belson. “To me they represent less flash and hype and more of why I'm actually engaged in cycling. I think the way they both rode last year was a great example of how bike racing is a gentleman's sport. Independent of the scandals and marketing hype, they helped each other succeed and worked as a team. That is the example we should be following and passing onto other riders.”
Zipp's Andy Paskins is looking out for certain things as well. "Only one story line? That's tough. I'd say Alberto, Lance, the Schlecks, and Carlos battling it out for the GC," Paskins said.
"A close second will be watching Thor and Cavendish go toe-to-toe for the points competition," he added.
Then there are others in the industry that will be much more than just casual observers—like Oakley’s Steve Blick.
“I am on my way over for a search and rescue mission to look after our guys,” Blick said. “One thing I look forward to is stage three where the climbers will quickly learn what they miss during Classics season. Should be very entertaining to say the least.”