Formula for Lance Armstrong to be on the podium in Paris
Losing precious time due to a flat tire on the cobblestones in Stage 3, Armstrong moved from 4th place and a few seconds advantage over arch rival Alberto Contador to 18th place and a 50-second deficit to Contador. Just as importantly, Armstrong is now nearly 2 minutes behind Australian Cadel Evans, who rode Stage 3 perfectly and is, it seems to me, in the catbird seat of the Tour.
So, yes, it's a tough situation for Armstrong.
But here's your hope, David: Lance will shine in the mountains!
Here's the formula for Lance:
1. Andy Schleck is good--no, great--in the mountains, but he's not a good time trialist. Lance will overcome any deficit to him in the Stage 19 Individual Time Trial.
2. Contador is individually strong; personally, he has no apparent weaknesses. But he does not have a very good team. In fact, he's got a weak one. Other than Alexandr Vinokourov (who will likely go for glory himself at some point; he's proven repeatedly that he's not a team player), he's got no help in the mountains. Cadel Evans, individually a strong mountain climber and time trialist, is in the same situation.
3. Armstrong, on the other hand, has the advantage of a GREAT team and he can use this strategically to his advantage in the Alps and Pyrenees mountain stages. RadioShack has excellent mountain climbers like Levi Leipheimer and Andeas Kloden who can be deployed in a variety of ways to isolate and wear down an opponent on long and steep climbs. They also serve to keep Armstrong fresh through most of a stage in order to launch him to the front at critical points in the mountains. No doubt, Armstrong will use his RadioShack team talent to his full advantage.
4. If Armstrong can pull within 30 seconds of Contador and Evans by the end of the Pyrenees stages, I'll put him not only on the podium in Paris, but at the top of it. Why? Because in the Prologue, he already proved he's got his Individual Time Trial capacity back. If victory is within reach at the beginning of Stage 19, Armstrong will make the ride of his life to win it.
Take heart, my friend. This thing won't be determined until the next to last stage. Until then, every stage matters and who knows what weird or wild turn of events will occur. There's nothing quite like the Tour de France!