I am a bit of a Klodi fan boy.
Not to the levels of ACF with Cadel though.
It seems likely that this season will be Andreas' last - at least his last chance to get some decent results. This has always mostly meant at The Tour for him.
Last years 14th place finish was disappointing and suggested that age has now caught up with him (after his strong ride in '09). But he did improve a bit in the mountains as The Tour went on and didn't totally disgrace himself up the Tourmalet. Also, he didn't have a great start to the race (and who knows how much that effects an individual riders performance from then on morale and preparation wise - though that sort of discussion could also relate to The Clinic), what with the outrageous situation when Cancerella called a holt to proceedings when Klodi was lucky enough to be in a good situation (in the lead pack, with gaps to the main favourites such as Contador and the Schlecks) - as was Evans actually. Then came the cobblestones which didn't go as well for Kloden as he'd hoped, and then his Tour was effectively over when he cracked on the first mountains stage - which was only medium mountains. Poor form or not, that particular stage was definitely a BAD day.
But with many of the top GC riders focusing on The Giro in 2011, and with Kloden potentially having a chance to lead Radioshack, there may be scope for a return to the top 10, even top 5, and as a dreaming fan top 3.
This thread will discuss Kloden's form throughout the season in the lead up to The Tour. In the current 5 day stage race in Spain his form has been encouraging. I am interested to see how he performs in the ITT. To be a chance of a great result at the TDF he needs to get back to being a serious ITT (even though there are not many ITT kms). I would like to see him challenging Contador and the others tonight, and maybe get close to the overall victory. From what I've read, Andreas has been training extra hard and early in his preparations for 2011, so perhaps he is aiming at some top results in Feb/March, before backing off and peaking again in July.
I like the first week of this years TDF for Andreas to start well and build up some confidence. The stage 2 TTT is going to be crucial. Whilst not the strongest group in the mountains, Radioshack could be strong in the TTT. And to get just 30 seconds on other Top 10 GC hopefulls would be great for morale.
Stage 4 should be interesting too. The uphill finish is only 2 kms, but averages 6.9% gradient with sections as high as 15%. This will be a stage to watch and should ensure that the first week isn't too boring (the first stage also finishes on a short uphill).
Stage 8 is another test before the Stage 12 trek to Luz-Ardiden. This stage will probably narrow down the number of podium contenders to seven or eight. Then Stage 14 to Plait-de-Beille will be even harder.
Historically Kloden has preferred pretty tough mountain stages, but not THE toughest. He needs at least some high mountains in a GT to separate himself from the pure ITT's. And this years Tour (as I'm sure all of The Giro fans on this forum will agree
) has tough mountains, but not too many really hellish mountain stages. The most concerning for him (if he's still in with a chance at a good GC result) will be Stage 18, a stage with a profile that even Giro fans will offer some grudging respect to. I can easily see Kloden losing 4-5 minutes there if it is raced hard all the way and he no longer has the legs.
This thread post is pretty much just a cycling **** over Andreas!
But realistically, he can't match the Schelcks nor Basso this year. Among possibly others. But luck can play a part, and if the cycling Gods are on Klodi's side then a top 5 finish is somewhat realistic.