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My thoughts on my Tour de France rivals

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The Saxo Bank team, with Andy Schleck leading the way.

The Saxo Bank team, with Andy Schleck leading the way. (Image credit: Bettini Photo)
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Frank and Andy Schleck will swap jerseys after the Luxembourg championships.

Frank and Andy Schleck will swap jerseys after the Luxembourg championships. (Image credit: Jesse Wild)
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Best young rider Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank)

Best young rider Andy Schleck (Saxo Bank) (Image credit: Sirotti)

I’m writing this with the team presentation less than 15 minutes away and boy am I excited about this year’s Tour de France. All the riders are here, ready to be called up and paraded in front of the Dutch public as we bring up the curtain on this year’s race. Over on the right is Alberto Contador – we had a good chat early today. On the left are the RadioShack boys, but I’ve not seen Lance yet, and in front of me my Saxo Bank friends and teammates.

In fact all the riders are here. I’ve been asked by the media to rate all the favourites for the race. It’s not something I really like to do. I mean you don’t want to forget anyone or put someone’s nose out of joint but one guy I think who could reach the podium is Robert
Gesink. He was superb in the Tour de Suisse and the route this year suits him very well.

There are a lot of climbs and the Pyrenees – where the Tour will surely be won – are ideal for a rider like him. I’m not trying to put pressure on him and or play mind games but he can reach the podium. I really think he can do it.

On the subject of Rabobank, you can’t forget a rider like Denis Menchov. He wasn’t good in last year’s race but he’s won three Grand Tours and knows how to step up. Lance and Alberto will be there for sure too. Cadel and Ivan both did the Giro and Ivan is looking thin and very strong. As for Wiggins, I’m not sure. He put in a great ride last year but I think it will be hard for him this year. It’s a much tougher route that last year and the climbs will be savage. He looked ok in the Giro though and apparently he’s very strong now, so I can’t count him out.

On a personal level I’m just really happy to be here. It’s my third Tour and in the first two we started in Brest and then Monaco. Rotterdam is totally different. It’s not as ‘bling’ or glamorous as Monaco but it’s nicer than Brest. The best aspect of the city is the sheer number of cyclists I’ve seen. Here bikes out-number cars and it’s a fantastic endorsement for cycling and the Tour.

I’d better go. We’re being asked to get into our kit and go on stage now. Talking of kits, there are quite a few new ones here. The Cervelo boys are wearing a new white and grey ensemble and the Française des Jeux guys have updated theirs too. Hopefully in three weeks time I’ll be wearing a different colour kit in Paris too.