Cavendish will have better than a puncheur's chance in the Olympics. For the sake of his climbing, however, he's sacrificed a sliver of his sprinting power, his top-end speed. "I am so much faster than the others anyway," he told the AP last week, "I can afford to lose a few percent in the sprint in order to be able to get to the line."
Meanwhile, BMC's Evans has had a disruptive off-season—between adopting a child with his wife and meeting the demands of a Tour winner—which was reflected in his results. The 35-year-old Aussie has just one victory this season, in a minor two-day race in Corsica. This year's Tour will also include 100 kilometers of individual time trials—an unusually high number. (Last year it was just 42.5.) Still, while Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) and Denis Menchov (Katusha) are both strong podium contenders, Evans and Wiggins are the favorites for the podium's top step.
Ochowicz figures that Evans and Wiggins will be roughly equal in the time trials. So can Wiggo hang in the high mountains? Will he crack in the third week, in the Pyrenees? Can Cavendish contend for the green jersey despite sacrificing a smidgen of speed to his Olympic ambitions? Will the racing be as dramatic as in 2011?
There are plenty of reasons to follow this grandest of grand tours. (Each stage can be seen on NBC Sports Network, and the July 7 and 8 mountain stages on NBC.) So crack open a Belgian ale and check out Saturday's prologue in Liège. And if the race has a dull moment or two, lie back and think of England.