Contador The Favourite…Only Just

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Most of you in Australia will know the voice and personality of Matthew Keenan very well.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with Matt, he is one of the best cycling commentators that the sport has to offer.  He does work for SBS and the ASO and commentates the top pro races alongside Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen.  He’s also a genuinely great bloke and I’m extremely pleased and fortunate that we’ll be reading more of his cycling/race perspectives here on Cycling Tips.  Especially since the TdF is coming up next week and he’ll be deeper in the mix of it than most of us could ever dream!

I want to welcome Matt to being a regular contributor here.  He has perspectives and opinions about cycling and pro racing that goes far deeper than I could ever offer.   Let me tell you, not many people know cycling like Matt does.  You can also read more of Matt and the SBS team on Cycling Central.  Enjoy!

Contador The Favourite…Only Just

The bookies have Alberto Contador as the short priced favourite for the Tour de France but the gap between the Spaniard and his rivals is not be a big as many of the punters may think.

Contador hasn’t shown the dominance of Lance Armstrong or Miguel Indurain, who regularly crushed their rivals.

His 2007 Tour de France victory was by a mere 23 seconds – the second smallest margin ever.

Last year’s Giro d’Italia, admittedly with limited preparation, was won without winning a stage.

And his victory in the 2008 Vuelta a Espana was almost reliant on time bonuses. Without the time bonuses he was on equal time with team-mate Levi Leipheimer and would have only won on a count-back by hundredths of a second.

Although these victories put him in illustrious company, as one of only five men to have won all three grand tours, they also highlight a fragility that gives his rivals hope.

Combined with his capitulation at Paris-Nice, they also demonstrate that if something doesn’t go quite according to plan there isn’t much margin for error.

Cadel Evans showed at the Dauphine that he’s prepared and ready to take Contador on. And even though he still doesn’t have an all-conquering team it looks stronger than it ever has.

With his victories in the Vuelta, Denis Menchov has shown in the past that his second grand tour of the season is often better than his first. So if his form improves from the Giro he too could join that select group of riders to have won all three grand tours.

Andy Schleck has all the team support you could ask for and, all be it a one-day classic, demonstrated at this year’s Liege-Bastogne-Liege that he can handle the pressure of being team leader.

And Carlos Sastre, despite some odd team non-selections (let’s not talk about them), will not surrender his title without a fight.

Plus there’s Contador’s team-mate Lance Armstrong. If anyone can defy logic, at 37-years-of-age, after three years of retirement and become the oldest ever winner of the race, it’s Armstrong.

So yes Contador is justifiably the favorite, but with these and a few more wildcards lining up in Monaco it’s no forgone conclusion.

Who’s your pick?

-Matthew Keenan

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