The first stage of the Tour de France likely won’t favor favorites like Alberto Contador and Andy Schleck. These frontrunners aren’t likely to take control until midway through, as the start of the event is more for sprinters and those who don’t do well in the mountains. Therefore, although all eyes are on Contador and Schleck in the long run, the results of Stage 1 will probably favor the likes of Mark Cavendish, Thor Hushovd and Tyler Farrar.
The opening stage of the Tour goes over 119 miles through western France, with more than 2,000 miles left to go over the next three weeks. For the opening days, Contador and Schleck just want to stay upright before they make their big move during the second week in the mountains.
But the fight for the yellow jersey isn’t the only major battle. The green jersey for sprinters will also be fought over, and like the yellow jersey race, there are a few frontrunners. Like Contador, Thor Hushovd is looking to maintain his title, while like Schleck, Mark Cavendish wants to break through at long last.
Some new changes to the green jersey scoring system are expected to favor Cavendish this year. With just one intermediate sprint per stage, and a new sliding scale of points, the new changes are tailored to Cavendish’s strengths. He can back that up by winning Stage 1, and claiming both the yellow and green jerseys to start things off.
Still, any gains that Cavendish and the sprinters make in the yellow jersey standings will just be temporary. They will be relegated to the shadows once the Tour really gets going, and Contador and Schleck are ready to take charge. Yet this year, having Contador symbolize the race may not be the best thing for cycling.
At the least, Cavendish and Hushovd aren’t being followed around by doping rumors, and won’t have a hearing to determine their eligibility afterwards. While the winner of the green jersey is likely to keep their title afterwards, there is growing fear that if Contador wins, he will be stripped of his victory a few weeks later, due to a positive doping test.
Therefore, the start of the Tour de France is under a lot of suspicion, since no one knows what to expect over the next month. Usually, this is one of the more predictable events in sports, given how Contador and Lance Armstrong have dominated over the last decade.
But few know if this year’s results will count, should Contador take control again- although a Schleck victory would presumably be less controversial. Yet while those headlines and questions will overshadow the Tour in the weeks ahead, cycling hopes for a smoother start on Stage 1.
Associated Press- “Contador begins Tour de France defense”
Yahoo Sport- “Tour de France green jersey guide”