This thread is about to become one of those so called Sticky
My prediction (without any bias) for the 2011 TDF is as follows:
Stage 1: Vino explodes out of the pack to take the stage on the short uphill finish and with it the coveted yellow jersey.
Stage 2: Radioshack excel over the 23 km course, gaining valuable time on many of their GC rivals. Liquigas lose a minute. Leopard lose ninety seconds (will assume that they have crashes/punctures). And BMC? Safe to assume that the unlucky Cadel will lose time again. Let's say ninety seconds too. Rabbobank surprise by losing just under a minute.
Stage 3: Snooze.
Stage 4: Exciting finish on 2km steep climb. Vino again maybe (it's not a coincidence that I'm a fan)? Kloden makes claim to lead the Shack with strong showing in the top 5. Schlecks stay in the pack and are not concerned.
Stage 5-7: Snooze.
Stage 8: Klodi gets his first ever TDF stage win and throws on the yellow jersey. Attack on Super-Besse is not marked by the main contenders, though he is not allowed to gain too much time. Schlecks unperturbed about being 2 minutes behind.
Stage 9-11: Snooze.
Stage 12: Team Leopard explode the race up Luz-Ardiden; so much so that Andy is in yellow at the end of it. After initially helping to set it up, Frank is content to follow Basso's wheel, who loses over a minute to Andy. Evans stays with them too. Gesink tries an attack halfway up, gets away, but then cracks a little and finishers 20 seconds in arrears. Kloden rides steadily about another 40 seconds back.
Stage 13: Another Vino attack and victory?!
Stage 14: Leopard set a hard pace for this entire stage, hoping to have the Tour won even before we get to the Alps. With 12 kms to the top of Plait-de-Belle, Andy accelerates away as the others settle into their best possible tempo riding. He increases his lead to almost a minute before the pack start to match his pace. Suddenly with 7 kms remaining it appears that Andy is not on a great day, and fans count down to him being swallowed up by the group, which is down to 5-10 elites. Then comes the dramatic moment of this Tour (will rank alongside "The Look" and "Chaingate" for example). With 5 kms remaining Andy is caught, and he holds onto the bunch for no longer than half a km. Frank is riding comfortably, and now is the time where he could attack and cement a podium position (or perhaps even victory in Paris), but instead he looks back at his forlorn younger brother.....and love prevails!
He sits up and allows Andy to very slowly get onto his wheel. But the situation is hopeless. The pair are losing a minute per km (it is like Landis in '06). In the end, Frank goes it alone with 2 kms to go, but the damage has been done. He ends up losing only 90 seconds, but Andy loses 4:30. Up front it is Basso who looks the strongest, but instead of attacking the other riders he works with them, realising that now is the time to put as much time into Andy as possible. Kloden is on a good day and is able to stay with him and help too (though Basso does 70% of the work, no team mates with him, they've busted their guts for Nibali at The Giro:)). Evans cracks in the last few kms but only loses a minute. Gesink is strong, but does no work (thinking about his crack on stage 12) and eventually wins the stage in a three way sprint. But after all of that Kloden is back in yellow!
Stage 15-16: Snooze.
Stage 17: Dare I say it, but another attack from VINO!
Who has of course lost mountains of time on stages 12 and 14
Stage 18: Andy tries an attack, but Ivan is able to keep with him, only losing ground in the final km. Andreas loses only about a minute, but this hands the yellow jersey to Basso.
Stage 19: Shorter stage leads to some smaller time gaps to stage 18. Andy wins again (just beating Gesink; the Alp'duez suited the younger, more explosive climbers) and just fails to move into yellow. Further back, Evans doggedly hangs onto F. Schleck's wheel when he attacks 3 kms from the summit and the two gain valuable time on Basso and Kloden who are struggling a little.
Stage 20: Going into the TT it is Basso (approximately) 20 seconds ahead of Andy, 30 seconds to Frank, 45 seconds to Kloden, and 55 seconds to Evans (who is the forgotten man; not mentioned at all in the lead up). But quickly it becomes clear that Cadel is the man with the strong TT legs. Incredibly by only halfway he has made up the time on everyone (if the Schlecks have punctures suspect ACF and myself for causing them), and only Kloden is a threat, now 5 seconds down. But Evans keeps increasing his advantage. But this is Cadel we're talking about. So in the last 10 kms something happens. Puncture, crash, his arm falls off, whatever. Something happens. And Klodi wins The Tour!
4. A. Schleck
5. Gesink (puts in a stunning TT
You heard it hear first.
Oh yeah. Stage 21: Snooze.