I'm wondering if someone with a greater grasp on the early history of the sport might be able to tell me it's someone other than Oscar Pereiro. During the whole fiasco with Pereiro and Astana this offseason, it was repeatedly mentioned how adding "a Tour winner" like Pereiro instantly raised Astana's battered profile post-RadioShack exodus, and that it meant he would prove extremely valuable to Contador in the Tour.
I don't see it.
Now, Pereiro's a fine rider. He's finished 10th in the Tour on, I think, two other occasions, ones without any serious scandal. But that, along with the circumstances of the 2006 Tour itself, basically equates to him being a little better than, say, Tadej Valjavec or George Hincapie, but not as good as Haimar Zubeldia or Damiano Cunego. None of these would exactly be eye-popping names should they switch teams in the offseason.
As for the 2006 Tour. Pereiro being the luckiest Tour winner ever, if he is, has absolutely nothing to do with Floyd Landis. It starts with Lance Armstrong - given the field in the 2006 Tour and how well Armstrong performed after three and a half years away, it seems pretty safe to say that if he had not retired, Armstrong would have won the 2006 Tour by a good ten minutes. And that's only because there's no real point to winning by twenty or thirty minutes, which he probably could have also done. Certainly, had Armstrong been in the race, the Pereiro breakaway in Stage 13 never would have been given three seconds shy of half an hour. Armstrong did do something similar in his heyday - giving a breakaway including Thomas Voeckler over 12 minutes in the 2004 Tour - and it unexpectedly took ten stages to get the lead back. No way would such a thing have been done again. Even if Discovery Channel had had Leipheimer or Contador in the race, it's doubtful that this would have happened. Discovery Channel's top rider in the GC at the end of the race was Jose Azevedo in 18th.
Then of course was Puerto. Lance would have smoked Pereiro and Landis, but he would have had his hands full with Basso, Vinokourov, Ullrich, Mancebo, Beloki, maybe even Contador, and probably some riders I'm forgetting. What's sometimes forgotten about Puerto is the incredible immediate effect it had - it absolutely gutted the 2006 Tour, and made overall favorites out of men like Leipheimer, Sastre, Evans, Rogers, and Schleck at least a year before they really merited such a distinction.
So Pereiro will help Contador this year, and with Contador being Contador, he won't need much help. But he's no substitute for the mass exodus that preceeded his arrival. He is in my mind the most fortunate rider ever to win the Tour de France - he never would have been able to had not several things gone exactly his way, and he never showed the ability to ride for that high a position any other year.