Former Tour de France winner Stephen Roche has added his voice to those who have said that they expect Alberto Contador to take a second Tour title this month. The Irishman, who triumphed in 1987, outlined his favourites for the race, nominating the Spaniard as the clear leader of the Astana team.
He felt that Lance Armstrong would have a solid, rather than a spectacular performance overall.
"I think Contador will be the winner," he told Cyclingnews. "Menchov will be good too. I think Cadel Evens will be his normal self but I can’t see him winning. I think he will be good, but not good enough.
"I think it [the final general classification] will be Contador, second Menchov, third Evans, or someone like [Andy] Schleck."
Asked about last year’s champion, he said that he wasn’t expecting a stellar performance from Carlos Sastre. "He will just be himself. He hasn’t done much this year, and I can’t see him winning it. He will put in a performance but it will be limited. As for Armstrong, I think he will finish in the first ten, but I doubt if it will be in the first five."
Instead, he gives a surprising nomination. "Going on his Tour of Switzerland performance, I think that [Fabian] Cancellara will be in the top five. He’s got great form and has lost six or seven kilos."
This year’s race will be of particular interest to Roche as his son Nicolas, who celebrated his 25th birthday on Saturday, will be riding his first Tour. He was 13th overall in last year’s Vuelta a España, and while he hasn’t shown that kind of climbing form yet this year, his father thinks a good ride might well be in store.
"I think he is capable of finishing this year in the first twenty, going on his performance in the Vuelta last year," he said. “But at the same time, he has to climb a lot better than he climbed in the Dauphine. He is going better now because he has lost some weight that he was supposed to lose."
Much will depend on his motivation: "Last year he went into the Vuelta mentally destroyed because he’d broken up with his then girlfriend. He was in good physical shape and just wanted to throw everything into cycling. Now he is going into it with a [new] girlfriend, so he isn’t as angry as he would have been in the Vuelta. At the same time, he has the national champion’s jersey on his back and he wants to show that off, so it will hopefully be a good thing.”
Roche’s nephew Daniel Martin was also due to do the race, but was forced to withdraw earlier this week due to a knee problem. Had he ridden it would have been the first time since 1992 that more than one Irishman was taking part; on that occasion, Roche, Sean Kelly and Martin Earley were all riding.
Martin will concentrate on getting over the knee problem and then aiming for a strong performance in the Vuelta a España.