Tomorrow is the start of the Tour day Frants!  As the program vendors say at the ballpark, “you can’t tell the players without a score card”, and that’s certainly true in cycling. I thought I’d do a run-down of who you should (and shouldn’t) be cheering for this year.

Heroes:

  • Christian Vande Velde:  He trains for mountain racing by living in Chicago, I’m not really sure how that works.  He races for Garmin-Transitions, which is the scrappy American team you should be cheering for.  They can never quite get all the pieces together to actually win very much (like the Cubs), but there’s an outside chance that CVV might make the podium, if his glass collarbones hold up for the next three weeks.  Plus the Argyle makes for some of the best jerseys in the Peloton.  Teammate Tyler Farrar is looking to finally put up a win in the sprint against Mark Cavendish, and Dave Zabriskie has recently started selling his own chamois cream and apparel.
  • Jens Voigt:  See here.  Hopefully Jens will pick up a breakaway stage win for what is probably his last Tour.  He’s pretty consistently hilarious, I’d like to see him take up sports commentary after he retires.  I hear LT‘s position is probably open…
  • Fabian Cancellera:  Even though he’s from Bern, his nickname is “Spartacus.” He’s on the same team as Jens Voigt, Canceralla is unstoppable in short time trials and breakaways in the last few kilometers of stages.
  • Didi Senft:  The sport’s number one superfan.
  • Phil Ligget, Paul Sherwen, and Boll Roll:  The Dream Team of sports commentary – plus, Liggetisms and the Paul Sherwen Drinking Game
  • Thor Hushvod:  THE GOD OF THUNDER, a great sprinter and the best nickname in the Peloton.  He’s in it to win it for the green jersey competition.

Heels:

  • Lance Armstrong:  Ok, so I know that everyone loves Lance Armstrong, because he beat cancer and he’s from the America part of America.  Everyone hates cancer.  I can get on board with that.  But this guy is a real dick.  The French have traditionally hated LA,  although they’ve warmed some now that he’s not a winner.  They like people who aren’t winners. We’ll see if he can manage to not break his hip and end up in Hospice before the three weeks are over.
  • Mark Cavendish:  or, “The Manx Missile” as he’s nicknamed, is pretty much unbeatable in a mass sprint to the finish.  He certainly knows it, too.  He’s young, cocky, brash, and doesn’t really engage his brain before opening his mouth.  He put up four stage wins in 2008, and six in 2009.  Look for a fight for the green “sprinter’s jersey” between him and “God of Thunder” Thor Hushvod.
  • Alexandre Vinokourov:  The national champion of Kazahkstan, Vino is riding his first Tour after serving an unapologetic two year doping ban.  Some fans really don’t like him – when he won LBL this year, people started booing.  His team, Astana, was originally founded as a vehicle to put the Krazy Kazakh on the top of the podium.   Sparks may fly between Vinokourov and team captain Alberto “Fingerbang” Contador.
  • Craig Hummer:  This ex-swimmer is the Joe Buck of cycling commentary.

Other notables to watch for:

  • Bradley Wiggins:  “Wiggo”, as he’s known, is leading the newly formed British Sky Sport team.  Obsessed with his weight, he’s like a Ralph Lauren ad come to life.  A good contender for a top ten finish, expect the BBC to be running a daily weight tracker.
  • The Schleck Brothers:  Andy and Frank, the dynamic duo of Luxembourg.  They both ride as the twin threats for team Saxo Bank, and they’re pretty much impossible to tell apart, except Frank once overcooked a turn in the 2008 Tour de Suisse and fell off a mountain into a tree.  He gets brownie points for that one, he’s like the new Wim van Est (or maybe now that’s Kim Kirchen).
  • Tom Boonen:  The biggest sports star of Belgium, sprinter “Tornado Tom” has a bit of a nose candy problem and has recently bowed out of this year’s Tour.  After a disappointing Tour last year and a failure to podium in this year’s Paris-Roubaix, people are starting to question if Big Tom is off his game.
  • Hilariously named Iban Mayoz and Sylwester Szmyd.

Every rider has a story, but these are a few to cheer and jeer for the next three weeks!