On Saturday, July 2nd, the 2016 Tour de France, its 103rd edition, leaves from Mont Saint-Michel, the picturesque island just offshore in Normandy. The region has hosted the Tour the France 23 times, but this is the first ever Grand Départ to take place here.
Although not starting on foreign soil for the first time in two years, the race will venture outside of France on three separate occasions in 2016. The Tour will visit Andorra for a stage finish on its ninth day, then the rest day and the stage 10 start – passing through Spain on the way. It will also visit Switzerland on stages 16 and 17, with the second rest day taking place in the capital Bern. The Tour comes to a conclusion with stage 21 on July 24th on the Champs-Élysées.
Chris Froome is seeking to become the first rider since Miguel Indurain in 1995 to successfully defend his Tour de France title and leads Team Sky. However he will face fierce competition from Spain’s 2 time winner and 7 time grand tour winner Alberto Contador. Despite his last win in the Tour de France coming back in 2009, he was only 9 minutes off the pace last year (after already having won the Giro d’Italia in May), and a strong start in 2016 has resulting in him shelving talk of retirement and he’ll be looking for another win this year. Also in the mix will be Nairo Quintana, the Columbian climbing specialist. He was only 1 minute behind Chris Froome last year and has been runner up to Froome on both of his Tour de France victories – only having entered the race twice. Like Contador he has had a strong start to 2016 and will be hoping this year could be third time lucky.
Other riders who could potentially challenge for the yellow jersey include Italian Fabio Aru, last year’s Vuelta a España winner, who is due to lead Team Astana in his first Tour de France. The Frenchman Thibaut Pinot is the most likely of the home riders to challenge the favourites, and he’ll be looking to improve on his previous best of 3rd in 2014 when he was just twenty-four. Finally Richie Porte, formally of Team Sky, who is now leading BMC racing, will be hoping for his best result so far having ridden in support of Froome and Wiggins previously at the Tour.