Jim Williams: Evans, Wiggins the two to beat at the Tour de France

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Sports,Jim Williams

NBC and NBC Sports Network will cover the Tour de France starting this Saturday at 8 a.m. as the race begins in Liege, Belgium. NBC Sports Network will cover the entire race live each day and offer a prime-time highlight show airing each night at 8 p.m. for those who can't catch the live daytime coverage.

Phil Liggett and Paul Sherwen will anchor the network's race coverage, and this week I spoke to Liggett about this year's race.

Is defending champion Cadel Evans the man to beat?

Liggett » "Evans seems ready to defend his title, but he really has a true challenger in Bradley Wiggins, who becomes one of the few Englishmen to have a real chance to win the Tour. There is of course added pressure on him to win the gold at the London Olympic Games, but his focus is on winning the Tour de France first and foremost."

Who are the others to watch in the field?

Liggett » "Americans can be looking at Tour veteran Levi Leipheimer. He certainly has the ability to win. Vincenzo Nibali of Italy is someone to keep an eye, and Andy Schleck is always ready to challenge. There are as many as eight or 10 men who are ready to make a move if the favorites slip. So if either Evans or Wiggins falter, then this will be a wide-open race. "

What is the effect of the Tour and Olympics being so close together this year?

Liggett » "You go from the final day in Paris of the Tour on July 22nd to the Olympics in London in about a week. That is a quick turnaround even for athletes as good as these men."

Examiner columnist Jim Williams is a seven-time Emmy Award-winning TV producer, director and writer. Check out his blog, Watch this!

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Jim Williams

Sports Columnist
The Washington Examiner