The absence of a certain Texan for the first time in eight years should create a wide-open Tour de France. Here are six favourites to ride down the Champs-Élysées in the yellow jersey.
Ivan Basso, 28, CSC. So what if he rode (and won) the taxing Giro d’Italia in May? Basso, the most talented rider, is blessed with (relative) youth and the best team. He should gain enough time in the mountains to offset the seconds he will lose to Jan Ullrich in the time trials. ODDS: 2 to 1.
Jan Ullrich, 32, T-MOBILE. After a wretched early season Der Kaiser found his form and won the Tour de Suisse in mid-June. In the end it won’t matter. His time has come and gone. The five-time Tour runner-up will have to settle for another second-place finish. ODDS: 3 to 1.
Floyd Landis, 30, PHONAK. He began the year like Eddy Merckx but seemed to fade in mid-June at the Dauphiné-Libéré. How will he fare without Santiago Botero and José Enrique Gutiérrez, suspended by Phonak for their alleged links to a doping scandal? ODDS: 4 to 1.
George Hincapie, 33, DISCOVERY CHANNEL. Armstrong’s longtime aide-de-camp is finally in charge. After crashing in April’s Paris-Roubaix one-day classic, the Big Hink was in contention to win when his handlebars snapped off. He’s due for some good luck. ODDS: 6 to 1.
Levi Leipheimer, 32, GEROLSTEINER. The Montana native is on a roll after winning the Dauphiné, during which he showed grit (recovering from a fall in the first stage) and then killer instinct (sealing victory by attacking on the legendary Mont Ventoux). ODDS: 8 to 1.
Alexander Vinokourov, 32, ASTANA-WÜRTH. By leaving T-Mobile for a squad plagued by a doping scandal, the predatory Kazakh traded one chaotic situation for another. While it’s always fun to see him attack, Vino needs to pick his spots more judiciously. ODDS: 10 to 1.