The Tour de France opening stage 1 begins today on Saturday July 2.

This year's tour will feature a premier battle between defending champion Alberto Contador of Spain and runner-up Andy Schleck of Luxemburg.

Contador is still in the race despite testing positive for banned substance clenbuterol, which he claimed was from contaminated beef. Contador was cleared by his national cycling federation and allowed to start the race which is still pending an appeal in August.

Last year, Contador moved to Schleck's team Saxo Bank managed by Bjarne Riis, when Schleck formed a new Luxembourg-based team Leopard-Trek.

Both Contador and Schleck proved last year that they were a cut above the competition in last year's Tour de France, with no other rider seriously in contention for the top spot.

Other riders that may be in contention will include Samuel Sanchez, who finished fourth last year. Robert Gesink, Cadel Evans, and Ivan Basso.

American riders will be dark horses in this year's race with RadioShack's Chris Horner and Levi Leipheimer as GC contenders. The teammates finished 1-2 in the Tour of California over Schleck, who was using the race as a tune-up to the Tour de France. Leipheimer also pulled out a stunning victory recently in the Tour of Switzerland.

The first stage of the 98th Tour de France begins at Passage du Gois in western France.

The 191.5 km, 119 mile route will likely see high crosswinds because of the ocean, so riders will need to be careful not to get gapped off the back of the peloton

The stage is one of the flattest in this year's edition of the Tour, but the second half of the stage has some hills that may see some late breakaways develop.

However, there is a downhill portion on Les Herbiers and eight roundabouts that may bring the peloton back together before the finish.

General Classification contenders will have to be careful not to be caught away from the front of the peloton or risk being gapped and having to work their way back at the finish.

The finish is at Mont des Alouettes where the last 4 km is on a slight 5 percent gradient. Some stronger riders will try to breakaway during the finish, but since it isn't too steep, so the sprint teams will still try to reel them in.

The winner of this stage may not be the fastest sprinter, but perhaps a strong sprinter who can navigate the field.

Opening Stage 1 Winner Prediction: Tyler Farrar, Garmin-Cervelo

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