With the Tour de France now underway, we’re taking a look at the favourites for this years race to see if there are any riders out there who can challenge Chris Froome and Team Sky for the most prestigious prize in world cycling.
The Colombian climbing specialist has twice finished runner up in the Tour, in 2015 and 2013 – both times to Chris Froome – and will hope to go one better this year after a solid start to 2016. He has recorded victories at the Volta a Catalunya and Tour de Romandie as well as coming 3rd in the Tour of the Basque Country. Unlike his rivals who raced in events in Europe in the weeks leading up the the Tour, Quintana opted for altitude training before a final tune up in the 4-day Route du Sud which started on 16th June.
The Spanish veteran who was initially thinking of retiring after the season has had a strong 2016 so far and put retirement plans firmly on hold. He is now looking to add to his haul of 7 previous Grand Tour victories. This year Contador has already won the Tour of the Basque Country and finished runner up at the Volta a Catalunya and Paris-Nice, and is looking much stronger going in the the Tour this year than he did in 2015 – where he finished 5th after winning the Giro the month before.
The former Team Sky rider now at BMC racing will no doubt relish the opportunity to lead his team in the Tour having supported Chris Froome over the last few years and Bradley Wiggins before him. He has had a solid start to 2016 finishing 3rd at Paris-Nice and finishing 4th at both the Volta a Catalunya and Criterium du Dauphine. Whether he has the strength to challenge over the whole race remains to be seen, but he’s a great all rounder and his old friend Chris Froome will be wary of the threat he poses.
Other riders who could still have an impact and challenge for the GC include:
Fabio Aru – The young Italian is riding his first Tour de France so he is something of an unknown quantity. However he took an impressive victory at the 2015 Vuelta on just his second attempt, and has twice finished on the podium at the Giro so he definitely has something special, although will go into the Tour well out of form.
Thibaut Pinot – France’s main hope for a long awaited home winner of the Tour. He finished 3rd in 2014 (albeit after race favourites Froome and Contador both crashed out), but it remains to be seen whether he can challenge the favourites throughout the whole race.
Vincenzo Nibali – Teammate of Aru and 2014 winner, Nibali is now a 4 time GT winner after victory at the Giro last month. He was expected to ride in support of Aru, but with question marks over his form, could Nibali yet lead the team and attempt a Giro-Tour double? Although he would definitely need a lot of luck and some drama, with 3 weeks of racing who knows what could happen…
And finally...Chris Froome
Chris Froome will be hoping to become one of a select group of men to have won 3 Tour de France crowns, and is hoping to win consecutive titles by defending his win from 2015. He’s not been in the best of form in 2016 but for Froome everything is geared towards slowly building up for the Tour. He won his 3rd Critérium du Dauphiné at the weekend against a strong field, just as he did in 2013 and 2015 before his Tour victories. With the riders Team Sky have at their disposal in support of Froome including Geraint Thomas, Sergio Henao and Mikel Landa, who would bet against him to win his 3rd Tour.