How to Root for the Right People in the 2006 Tour de France

03.9.2006 | 11:11 pm

With only 113 days until the start of the 2006 Tour de France — that’s less than a third of a year! — American interest in pro cycling has reached a fever pitch. Family, friends, coworkers, casual acquaintances and complete strangers are likely to accost anyone riding a bicycle, demanding to know: With Lance Armstrong out of the picture, who will win the 2006 Tour de France?

Some so-called cycling experts say that it’s an open field this year, that several strong contenders have the capability of emerging victorious.

These people are fools.

There are right people and wrong people to root for in the Tour de France, and good reasons and bad reasons to root for them. To help you avoid embarrassment by saying the wrong thing, I hereby present a guide on what to say about whom in this year’s Tour:


Jan Ullrich

Ullrich’s chances have never been better to win the Tour (except for 1997, when he actually did win the Tour; his chances of winning that Tour are 100%). For Ullrich, however, it’s not so much a matter of whether he will win the Tour, as that he deserves to win the Tour.

Considering what Ullrich’s put up with for the past seven years, everyone else in the peloton ought to get together and agree to always stay twenty feet behind Jan. And while I fully understand that he and I are actually nothing at all alike physically, he does at least tend to gain weight during the off season. His success gives hope to fat cyclists all around the world.


Ivan Basso

While I want Ullrich to win the Tour, my money’s on Basso. In fact, there are only three things I can think of that would prevent him from winning this year’s Tour.

  1. He completely fries himself while riding the Giro. Although, if he wins the Giro, I hereby give myself the option of instantly switching allegiance to Basso, because I would love to root for someone to win two grand tours in a year. Sorry, Jan.
  2. The team director, Bjarne Riis, reins Basso in, telling him that the Tour is a team effort, and that everyone is getting sick and tired of always riding in support of him, as if they weren’t all professional cyclists. All he ever does is take, take, take. This year, he can ride in support of Bobby Julich. Heaven knows Bobby’s waited long enough for a turn.
  3. Basso decides to ride a respectful 20 feet behind Jan, as agreed upon by the rest of the peloton.

Alexander Vinokourov

Of course, Vinokourov will not win the Tour. However, every cycling fan — regardless of how strongly they idolize any other cyclist — must stand at the ready to cheer for Vinokourov as he makes one of his crazy, wrong-headed attacks. Most of them make no sense and go nowhere, and that’s why I love him. Here’s how I imagine Vinokourov decides whether to attack at a given moment: “Hey, there’s a guy about 100 feet ahead of me. I wonder if I could catch him. Well, my legs feel pretty good. GO!


Floyd Landis

I understand that Floyd won a tour in California recently, though I cannot find photographs or news in the US press that corroborate this allegation, so I’m going to reserve judgment. If in fact there actually was a tour, and if in fact Floyd won that tour, that’s great news for Floyd. Combine this with the fact that he is currently in the lead in Paris-Nice, and you’ve got clear and convincing proof that Floyd is peaking waaaay too early in the season. Floyd, I’ve got two words for you: Iban Mayo.

Oh, OK. That wasn’t very generous of me. How about a trade, Floyd: I will root for you to get on the Tour de France podium, but only on the condition that you promise to shave that goatee. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.


George Hincapie

Last year, George Hincapie startled the cycling world by winning a climbing Tour stage. This led to speculation that he will lead Team Discovery in the Tour de France this year. If this is the case, I have two observations I would like to make:

  • George is a great guy, and I wish him nothing but the best.
  • A fluke stage win is the absolute thinnest foundation for selecting a team leader I have ever heard of.

Levi Leipheimer

You know, Levi is such a quiet and unassuming rider, it’s hard to root for him. In fact, I keep forgetting he’s there at all. Perhaps he could use that to his advantage. He could just keep his head down and let people forget he’s there, and then quietly ride on ahead of the pack.

Imagine the consternation of Ivan Basso as he steps up to the top spot on the podium in Paris, only to find it occupied. “Who are you?” Ivan asks.
“I’m Levi Leipheimer,” Levi says, quietly. “I won nine stages and the overall GC race by eighteen minutes.”


Tyler Hamilton

OK, he’s not eligible to race this year. Fine. I can accept that. But next year, watch and see what happens when a guy who has made a career of being the nicest guy in the peloton comes back to the game with pariah status and a chip on his shoulder. I am looking forward to watching Tyler tear the legs off anyone within a city block. And everyone will be snide about it and call him a doper, and that will just make him race faster and meaner.

Tyler will win the Tour next year. By a lot.


Alejandro Valverde

Alejandro Valverde is an outstanding young rider with incredible potential, and I would strongly recommend rooting for him, except for one thing. His team’s name is “Caisse d’Epargne-Illes Balears,” for crying out loud. I have no idea how to even pronounce that, and there’s no chance whatsoever that I would successfully spell it. In fact, it is my understanding that everyone on the team is required to wear extra-large jerseys, just to make room for the team logo.


Lance Armstrong

You don’t really think he’s retired for good, do you? You’re so adorable.


  1. Comment by Unknown | 03.9.2006 | 11:57 pm

    i like it. you take chances, explore possibilities, reveal the dark horses. you’re such a risk taker.

  2. Comment by Jay | 03.10.2006 | 12:17 am

    You are correct; Tyler will win TdF 2007, but it will probably be by about an hour, hour fifteen or so.Then, they will do a complete blood transfusion, swapping a gallon of blood bank blood for every drop in his body to analyze.  Finding nothing they will ban him for 4 more years on the grounds that "…it had to be something…".  The French will all look at each other and nod knowingly.  Dick Pound is a twerp.

  3. Comment by Nanget | 03.10.2006 | 12:48 am

    i like it too. a good guide.
    Tyler will win the 07 tour by hours, he will have great support from his team mates. I suggest he have the following in his team: Roberto Heras, David Millar, Danilo Hondo and maybe Frank Vandenbrouke.

  4. Comment by Unknown | 03.10.2006 | 1:42 am

    Great call on Hincapie.  Undoubtedly one of the 3 nicest guys in the peleton, and undoubtedly unable to climb with the top GC guys.
    Allow me to submit one name for consideration:  Beloki. Sure they guy’s leg is still bent crooked and isn’t 1/2 the rider he used to be, but the guy animated one of the top moments in TDF history and the best call Phil Ligget ever made "Whooooaaaa, aaaaah, eeeeeh, I I I I I, I can’t belive it!"

  5. Comment by Zed | 03.10.2006 | 2:06 am

    Basso’s great. He has a great team, he’s scored some serious rankings in previous tours, and he’s even learning to time trial. But I don’t think he’ll win. He has one TDF stage win to his name (that I’m aware of), and Lance practically handed it to him (he did win a couple of stages in the Giro this past year, huh?). And he just doesn’t have that killer instinct. Granted, Vino has too much of it and will probably blow his legs up before the third mountain stage, but somebody’s going to show up with more fight than Basso … whether that’s Ullrich or some dark horse, I won’t predict just yet.

  6. Comment by Tim D | 03.10.2006 | 11:47 am

    My money is on Jacky Durant.  He will get away this year in a lone break that actually succeeds.  He will be so far ahead that the peleton forget he has gone, eventually finishing 45 minutes up.  After an epic strugle to limit his losses in the mountains, he will battle through to Paris with his lead intact, only to drop dead from exhaustion on the podium, singing "My Way" in french.

  7. Comment by jim | 03.10.2006 | 2:50 pm

    I Tivo every cycling event that my expanded cable package can capture.  So I can confirm that a California race did occur and that the rumors are true about Floyd.  Furthermore, I am also watching the Paris-Nice coverage.  Between these two races I have noticed that Bob Roll and Paul Sherwin continually call Hincapie by one of two nick names… Gorg-ie Hincapie or Big George Hincapie.  It drives me nuts!  Has anyone else noticed this? Is anyone else annoyed by it?  If I am not mistaken they also call Bobby Julich, Big Bobby.  Sorry to vent but it had to be done.

  8. Comment by uncadan8 | 03.10.2006 | 3:04 pm

    My money is on Lance.

  9. Comment by Tim D | 03.10.2006 | 4:04 pm

    The Eurosport crew also call him Big George, possibly because neither Dave Duffield nor Sean Kelly can pronounce Hincapie.  We are currently enjoying Paris Nice and Tireno-Adriatico, much to my kids’ annoyance.

  10. Comment by Unknown | 03.10.2006 | 5:25 pm

    hey, non-thin cyclist,
    i think we’re all forgetting about eric zabel.
    oh yes, isn’t it tasty that he left t-mobile just
    in time for el-rotundo to get his chance without lance.
    lest we also forget that mr. zabel is not "going " for
    sprints anymore.
    oh, i think he knows a few secrets about jan and
    he now has his chance with a different team.
    or not.

  11. Comment by Unknown | 03.10.2006 | 5:26 pm

    Where’s the fatcyclist in this prediction? He moves back to Utah, to breath that rarified air (though a bit drier perhaps) and becomes the mountain goat he’s always dreamed of being. So what if he’s a bit long in the tooth. I’m a bit longer and my son wanted to know why I wasn’t in the tour last year. I had no choice but to tell him, while I’m not fat cyclist (well, maybe I am, but not by name) I am a crap cyclist. Just think, fatty and Davitmon-Lotto, could there be a better fit?

  12. Comment by barry1021 | 03.10.2006 | 5:32 pm

    It should be a great season, although a few big time riders, including Stuart O’Grady, have gone down with injuries. And more news on the drug front!! Roche is attempting to come out with a competing product to Amgen’s EPO, which if successful, would give teams another chemical to abuse and then deny. Assumedly if Roche is able to market the drug, they will then sponsor a bike race somewhere. Oh am I being too cynical?? Actually this is not being written by barry1021 but by his disappearing twin, WouldabeenBarry1022.

  13. Comment by mhywan | 03.10.2006 | 5:32 pm

    Here is some "proof" that there really is tour of california although I can find a picture of Floyd holding a trophy or something similar: have my money on Bjarne Riis.

  14. Comment by Unknown | 03.10.2006 | 5:33 pm

    Sorry, but I will win the Tour this year – with no team none the less. I have developed a new non-dope assisted weapon that even the French will marvel at : the flatulence driven lung turbocharger. I was looking at the BG seat on my Specialized MTB and thought" Hey, a perfect channel to run a tube to my exhaust port, then up my back thru a high pressure duct complete w/ wastegate – no pun intended – to a micro turbolader (German) in my air way. My tests show the bean and broccoli diet will produce @ 11 lbs of boost. All this will be cleverly concealed by a camelback so as to look like I’m just a very thirsty guy.
    And in France, no one will notice the smell.

  15. Comment by mhywan | 03.10.2006 | 5:33 pm

    Here is some "proof" that there really is tour of california although I can find a picture of Floyd holding a trophy or something similar: have my money on Bjarne Riis.

  16. Comment by barry1021 | 03.10.2006 | 7:09 pm

    Oh and BTW, Caisse D’Epargne-Illes Balears is pronounced exactly as its spelled, although now that i think about it, the funny face the French guy made when I said "De-Parg-knee"  to him may not have been due to the mouthful of goat cheese I was consuming at the time.

  17. Comment by Nick | 03.10.2006 | 7:54 pm

    There will be an Australian winner, and his name will be Cadel.
    I am suprised that you didn’t realise this

  18. Comment by Tom Stormcrowe | 03.10.2006 | 9:35 pm

    I’m looking forward to seeing Tyler Hamilton race next year as well! By the way, headed out on the first tour of the year tomorrow! Wish me FUN! I might get snowed on, I understand! It’ll still be a blast! Drop by if you feel like it!

  19. Comment by BIg Mike In Oz | 03.10.2006 | 9:48 pm

    I heard that while Tyler Hamilton’s medical team were working on his shrinking twin they inadvertantly unshrunk him.  Knowing they couldn’t sneak another Tyler into the peleton, they dug up Tommy Simpson and used some of his cells.
    My money is on Tommy (undead, unshrunk) Simpson for TDF 2006.

  20. Comment by Tyler | 03.10.2006 | 10:28 pm

    It’s Friday.
    You’s been slacking on posting, not to mention weighing and keeping up with the sweepstakes!C’mon!  Your new job, moving far, far away, your family, your signifigant other’s health concerns, and the like aren’t any excuse.  Well, okay, maybe they are.  But still.

  21. Comment by Unknown | 03.10.2006 | 10:49 pm

    Didn’t you hear about the Eddie Mercyx secret comeback?

  22. Comment by Juliet | 03.10.2006 | 10:50 pm

    Congratulations on your new job and good news on the home front – can’t all be expected to funny all the time (unless one’s new job is as clown – which it isn’t – I checked) I am looking for a new job too and moving far away at the same time (a whole other continent/climate etc) - not feeling like being very funny myself – but life is like that.
    Look forward to seeing who wins that race – may possibly start office pool – except possibly illegal – must confirm.

  23. Comment by Unknown | 03.11.2006 | 12:17 am

    There was a Tour of California!  And I got to see it finish in my hometown of San Luis Obispo and start the next day’s stage here too!  It was awesome!
    I would love to see Hincapie win, but my money’s on Jan too.  Proof in the pudding is that he’s skipped both the Tour of Cali and Paris-Nice this week, so he won’t peak too early…
    p.s.  I will be rooting for Vino too, even though he has no chance since he pisses all his teammates off with the crazy breakaways…  "Dammit Vino, again?!?!?!"  The Paris stage in last year’s TdF was AWESOME!  Go Vino, go!

  24. Comment by Tim D | 03.11.2006 | 5:43 pm

    Just been watching Tirreno-Adriatico.  Can anyone explain why some of the Milram team were wearing what appeared to be white inflatable rubber rings round their chests?

  25. Comment by Christina | 03.12.2006 | 3:36 am

    congrats on the job! 

  26. Comment by TIMOTHY | 03.12.2006 | 4:35 am

    I think that in a surprise and unprecedented move, Kevin Costner will enter the Tour de France in order to shoot his next movie "American Flyers II" about an aging bike racer dying of thumb cancer coming out of retirement for one…last….race.  He will star and direct (both the movie and the team)  Not only that but Mr. Costner will shock the world when he actually wins the Tour and his triumph will be complete when he takes home  the Oscar for Best Actor in a Leading Role and Best Director.

  27. Comment by Unknown | 03.13.2006 | 10:37 pm

    Just think, fatty and Davitmon-Lotto, could there be a better fit?
    Umm, Fatty and Sans-a-Belt Slacks? Fatty and Assos Control Top Bibs, for the Luxury Belly?
    Fatty and Ye Olde Guy Mountain Bike-Packable Oxygen Tanks?
    Fatty and Dunkin’ Donuts?
    The list goes on and on, really…
    That crashing noise?  Just the wall of my glass house.  Rocks will do that sometimes.  That’s all…

  28. Comment by Azriel | 03.14.2006 | 8:56 am

    Illes Balears (The balarian islands WTF?) is officialy Casa D’Espania. Easier to pronounce… And better looking outfit. Simple Black with red square.Now fatty, the fact that you are moving, quiting, starting is no excuse for the latency of posts… There are people who need their doze… I tried other blogs, but it is not the same…either they are not fat, or they are not funny, or worst, they might not even cycle!Azriel.

  29. Comment by Tim D | 03.14.2006 | 9:51 am

    Caisse d’Epargne is a major French bank. Illes Balears is the regional government for the Balearic Islands, Majorca, Menorca, Formentera and Ibiza

  30. Comment by MICHAEL | 03.14.2006 | 1:09 pm

    Since Floyd Landis was formerly Amish I think he is still required to at least sport the goatee.

  31. Comment by Unknown | 03.14.2006 | 5:34 pm


  32. Comment by jim | 03.14.2006 | 6:08 pm

    The net just isn’t the same without an update from Fatty.  I hope everything is ok.

  33. Comment by Unknown | 03.14.2006 | 6:36 pm

    Is Tyler Hamilton in TDF 2007 possible? he won’t be riding for a Pro Tour team. He got his 2 year suspension, but Pro Tour teams sign a contract stating, that they won’t sign doped riders for an additional 2 years after the end of a suspension.

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