Get your spandex out, cycling enthusiasts, the Tour de France is here! Whoosh! That was a hairless, polarized sunglass-clad cyclist whizzing past you.
For those of you who haven't been following the sport year-round (read: basically all of you), let's do a little brushing up, shall we? To increase your chances of winning big in your Tour de France office pool (and subsequently quitting your job, only to return days later when you learn $323 isn't enough to live off of), why don't we get to know the players? Let's see what they have going for them, what could trip them up, what they had for dinner last night. Here are five Tour cyclists to know. Take notes.
Alberto Contador (Spain). Even if you don't know much about the Tour de France -- or the athletes who ride in it -- chances are you've heard of two cyclists: Lance Armstrong, who's not riding, and Alberto Contador. Because they're both really good. Because they're both dope heads.
Contador is, and has been for quite some time, in the midst of a doping case after testing positive for the banned anabolic agent clenbuterol in last year's race. He blames it on tainted meat, blah, blah, blah. But bottom line is he's good. And favored to win since he's already won the Tour three times.
Andy Schleck (Luxembourg). If Contador falters for some reason, Schleck is the next in line favored to win the tour. And the good news for him is there is only one individual time trial in the race this year -- which is his Achilles heel, and he knows it. He recently stated, "I have no excuses now."
Ivan Basso (Italy). No stranger to winning grand tours, Basso is a two-time Giro d’Italia winner. So there. Touted as an excellent climber and someone who will also benefit from the lack of time trials, Basso has a decent shot. He also was runner-up to Lance Armstrong at the 2005 Tour de France.
Robert Gesink (Netherlands). Gesink finished sixth at the Tour last year and has continued his ascension with a third-place finish at this year’s testing Tour of the Basque Country. A born uphill cyclist, Gesink will benefit from the Tour's climber-favoring route.
Cadel Evans (Australia). The Aussie has finished twice on the Tour podium (2007, 2008), and even at the ripe ol' age of 34, he’s still considered one of the sport’s top climbers and an above-average time trialist. Calm under pressure has never been this guy's strong suit, though, so hopefully he's since taken up yoga and meditation.
Are you excited for the Tour de France?
Image via MoBikeFed/Flickr