Tour_de_France_logo_2016Today is the day folks.

The 2016 Tour De France is upon us, cycling’s biggest event, with the biggest teams and the best riders taking part.

In terms of predictions for the overall win, it’s going to be Froome (Sky) at 5/4, Quintana (Movistar) at 7/4, Contador (Tinkoff) at 5/1 or maybe, just maybe Aru (Astana) at 16/1.  Strong riders, clever riders, strong teams but there’s not much value there for a three week stage race.

I might have more fun looking at individual stages, today for example will be for the sprinters.  It’s not your ordinary sprinter stage.  The winner of today’s stage gets to wear the Maillot Jaune (the Yellow Jersey), cycling’s most coveted prize.

We could have Marcel Kittel (Etixx Quickstep) at 11/10, Peter Sagan (Tinkoff) at 10/1, Andre Greipel (Lotto Soudal) at 3/1, Mark Cavendish at 8/1 (Dimension Data).

I’m going to throw caution to the wind however and plump for some each way punts on so-called outsiders.  What about Ireland to take the spoils with Sam Bennett (Bora Argon 18) at 50/1 or a tremendous return for John Degenkolb (Giant Alpecin) at 40/1 and finally Michael Matthews (Orica BikeExchange) and 66/1?

But I’ll be honest, for the first time since the dark days of the Armstrong era, I’m not overly enthused about this year’s Grand Boucle and I can’t quite put my finger on it.  Well, actually, I can.

I’ve started to not believe what I’m seeing again and that’s a horrible place to be in the context of my love for cycling.

I accept that athletes and teams push the boundaries of modern science in how they prepare themselves for what is undoubtedly a ridiculous challenge (over 3,500 km in 21 days of racing).  But there has to be a line that all cannot cross and I’m just not convinced that line exists.

I have no evidence, just a number of niggles.

  • Weird power data analysis;
  • Riders associated with questionable medical support;
  • Teams managed by questionable Director Sportifs; and
  • A general lack of confidence in the governing body (UCI).

Then there is the return of the performance blips where a rider is clearly not on form and suddenly, apparently out of the blue delivers a single performance that blows the peloton away.

No evidence, I can’t even call the above niggles anecdotal.  It’s just a feeling.  So be it.

However, enough of this doom and gloom, it’s the Tour de France for goodness sake.  Of course I’ll be glued to television for the next three weeks and I’ll watch many amazing efforts from many amazing athletes.  There will be joy, pain and scandals.  There will be new future champions found.  There will be glorious routes travelled in the Pyrenees and the Alps and of course we all must celebrate Bastille Day on the 14th of July the only way the Tour can – by ascending Mont Ventoux.

So at the end of the day and providing I take everything at face value everything will be OK.

Oh yes and there will always be money to win.

The Giant