In an effort to bring something new to this site, I’ve decided to do an article on something so different it doesn’t even have a category on GuysNation. I speak of professional cycling and more specifically the 2011 Tour de France, which starts this Saturday July 2nd. Now I’m sure those of you who frequent this site are most familiar with the Tour in regards to Lance Armstrong, who won it 7 times in a row from 1999-2005. I’ll be the first to admit that professional cycling isn’t exactly a popular sport here in the United States, but it is huge overseas in Europe.

You might be wondering why I’m even writing on this subject. I got into pro cycling through my family. My parents and aunt and uncle are huge cycling fans who ride alot themselves. I was actually in Paris on the Champs Ellysses for the final stage of the Tour in 2000. While it might not look like much on TV, watching the riders zip by was quite exciting.

Now onto this year’s Tour. The heavy favorite is Spain’s Alberto Contador who has won 3 of the last 4 races and is probably the best climber in the world when the stages wind through mountains. However, he has been dogged by doping allegations throughout his career and a hearing is set for August in order to determine whether these latest allegations are true. Is he is found guilty, his Tour win from last year, his Giro d’Italia win of this year and any wins from the 2011 Tour will be stripped from him.

The only rider that can really claim to challenge Contador is Luxembourg’s Andy Schleck. He finished 2nd to Contador in the past 2 Tours and might have won last year if not for a broken bike chain that cost him time against Contador. Other contenders for the maillot jaune, or yellow jersey for the over all leader, include Cadel Evans of Australia, Ivan Basso of Italy, Samuel Sanchez of Spain and Levi Leipheimer of the USA.

The yellow jersey isn’t the only one that is contested in the Tour. There is the maillot vert or green jersey for the sprinters, maillot à pois rouges or polka dot jersey for climbers and the maillot blance or white jersey for the best young rider under 26.

The green jersey is contested mostly at the finish lines of flat stages where sprinters go all out to beat each other to the line and provide some of the most exciting moments of the Tour. Points are given to these riders at finish lines and designated sprint zones at various point during a stage. Favorites include Mark Cavendish of Great Britain, Tom Boonen of Belgium, Alessandro Petacchi of Italy and Thor Hushovd of Norway.

The polka dot jersey goes to the rider who accumulates the most points over the mountains. This jersey has sometimes gone to the winner of the yellow, simply because that rider has riden over the mountains in the front in order to maintain his overall lead. Also, there are opportunistic riders who will breakaway from the main group of cyclists, called the peloton, in order to gather as many points as possible and then fall back to the peloton. Lately, this has become the hardest jersey to predict, since it has been won more by the opportunistic rider who picks his spots.

The white jersey goes to the best young rider, though has been won the last 3 years by Andy Schleck. Since he is no longer eligible for the jersey, the race to win it is wide open and some contenders could be Robert Gesink of the Netherlands or Roman Kreuziger of the Czech Republic.

So there you have it, my little intro to GuysNation on the most prestigious professional cycling event of the year. This three week race starts Saturday and promises to be unpredictable. Who knows? Maybe some of you will check in on it. In that case, my article will have done its job.