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2011 Tour de France Preview: Top five riders to watch

The American Long Shot

Chris Horner (USA) RadioShack: 50-to-1

2011 Amgen Tour of California, stage 4: Chris Horner on Sierra Road. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com
Horner killed 'em on Sierra Road at the Tour of California. Photo: Casey B. Gibson | www.cbgphoto.com

Why he can win: After winning the critical Sierra Road stage at the Tour of California, the always-effusive Horner declared to the world, “Nobody can drop me except Contador.” Certainly that was the case in the Golden State, as Horner put on a tour de force, easily dispatching the likes of Schleck and everyone of Team Garmin-Cervélo. On top of that, Horner is a solid time trialist (sixth on California’s tough Solvang circuit this year) and he’s one of the sport’s most cerebral riders. Think coach on the field and you’re on the right track. He’s said a podium finish is the goal, and it’s actually not a totally outrageous proposition.

What could trip him up: For starter’s Horner, 39, is not even the leader of his team. Instead, he’s one among four potential captains in a group that also includes former Tour podium finisher — and recent Tour of Switzerland winner — Levi Leipheimer, former Tour podium finisher Andreas Kloden, and Slovenian climbing sensation Jani Brajkovic. All four will get a chance to show their stuff when the climbing begins. Have a bad day on the wrong day, and you’ll be fetching bottles the rest of the race.

And the winner is?

No way we’re betting against Contador, unless of course something changes with his on-going doping case and he doesn’t start the race — or gets yanked out somewhere along the way to Paris. In that case, we’ll take Schleck. He’s a 1.45-to-1 favorite in Unibet’s secondary odds that don’t include Contador — just in case. Otherwise, slot Schleck second and take the long shot flyer on Horner for third.

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