I’m dry at last. I’m in the hotel kicking back after a very long and very wet stage 13 to Colmar. It was a typically difficult stage in the rain, with a lot of stress. The leaders wanted to stay near the front, the sprinters didn’t want to get dropped and the domestiques were pulling all day long. It was a huge turnaround from the previous few days with temperatures plummeting by at least 15 degrees. On days like that it’s important to keep your body warm, but it’s just so hard when the rain is so relentless.
On to bigger fish and you’re probably wondering who I think will win the Tour de France. I’m not being coy but it really is too early to tell. On yesterday’s climbs both Armstrong and Contador looked strong, but so did my brother and some of the other favourites too.
I still think that it’s a wide open race. If you look at Cadel Evans, he might be a few minutes down but he’s still riding really strongly. I think he’d be less than thirty seconds down if it wasn’t for the team time trial. In fact, he attacked a few days ago. I have to say that it wasn’t a move I expected but some of the peloton were laughing when he went away. That’s a big mistake I thought when riders were chuckling away into their team radio. Cadel isn’t a guy I know personally but I have a lot of respect for him as a rider. Some say he never attacks but there he was, putting people into difficulty. Some of those people that laughed won’t be laughing when the race hits the Alps and he’s a main contender.
Looking at some of the other candidates it’s obvious that Menchov has given up on the overall. He might still be able to get into a break but the yellow jersey is probably over for him. Carlos Sastre, last year’s winner and my old teammate, might have just lost too much time, but I still expect him to fight. That’s the thing about the Tour de France, you can’t count people out at any stage. The race doesn’t finish until the line in Paris and everyone who wants to do well in this race would do well to remember that.
There have been two revelations in this year’s race as far as I’m concerned and they’re both in the top 10 overall. I don’t know Bradley Wiggins that well but I remember when I was a kid he raced in Luxembourg and won a race there; the same race I won a few years later. I know he went and spent a lot of time on the track but I’m really surprised to see him up there. It’s exciting to have new people up there and of course you also have the German, Tony Martin. He is a rider with a huge engine and in my opinion he’s one of the favourites to win this race one day. He can climb pretty well, although I don’t know how he’ll be in the Alps this year.
Like I said, it’s a totally wide open race and, a bit like last year, it might come down to just one big attack. You don’t have the chance to attack 20 times. You have to wait and see and take your chances when you can. With my own form I’ll be a bit more guarded when it comes to predictions. I started in Monaco feeling very strong and I’m not sure if I can improve my shape, but we’re 13 stages down and I’m still feeling strong.
Before I run downstairs for my massage I just wanted to talk about two of my teammates and friends who have had very different Tour experiences in the last few days. Firstly, Kurt-Asle Arvesen, who unfortunately had to pull out after breaking his collarbone. It’s a real shame to lose someone like him, and I’m not just saying that on a superficial level. We’re a bunch of riders who really pride ourselves on our collective spirit. I know a lot of teams come out with clichés like that but with us it’s the real deal. Kurt is a true friend and it’s a real shame he’s gone. We were planning on racing together after the Tour and now that plan has been destroyed. However, Kurt will be in Paris for the end of the Tour and I’m really looking forward to seeing him again. Kurt, if; you’re reading this, I hope you’re feeling better soon.
The second Saxo rider I have to mention is Nicki Sörensen who won stage 12. Again it’s going to sound like a team PR has put a knife to my throat and told me to say this but it’s all true. Nicki has been with the team for a long time now and he’s done the Tour on a few occasions. He’s the consummate teammate who will never stop working and a rider who the Schlecks owe a lot. Do you remember when Frank won Amstel? It was Nicki who did so much of the groundwork for him. In fact, he did the very same thing for me in Liege this year, too. He always sacrifices everything for the team and when a guy like him wins a stage it’s just an incredible reward for all his hard work. If I could wish anyone in the team a stage win it would be Fränk, but Nicki second.