Chris Froome, a climbing domestique for Team Sky, riding in the 2012 Tour de France. (Photograph: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty Images)
The most prestigious cycling race is about to start on
Saturday, when 22 teams depart in Corsica and go on a three-week long ride
towards Paris. Along
the way they will cross the Pyrenees and Alps
and arrive on the Champs-Elysees on 21 July. Once the riders cross the finish
line there they will have 3403.5 km in their legs.
The 100th edition of the Tour de France is
primarily a battle between Alberto Contador and Chris Froome. Others, such as
Joaquim Rodriguez, Richie Porte, Nairo Quintana, Tejay van Garderen, Cadel
Evans, Alejandro Valverde Andy Schleck, Thibaut Pinot, Jurgen van den Broeck
and Ryder Hesjedal will be fighting for the remaining place on the podium.
Bradley Wiggins, winner of last year's yellow jersey, will
not participate. Be it because of injury or team politics, he won't be able to
defend his title. Other big names that will miss the Tour are Vincenzo Nibali
(focus on Vuelta), Fabian Cancellara (Vuelta), Samuel Sanchez (injury), Ivan
Basso (injury) and Luis Leon Sanchez (not selected).
The race for the green jersey for the best sprinter will be
more competitive. Peter Sagan and Mark Cavendish are the top favorites but keep
an eye out for Andre Greipel, Marcel Kittel Aleksander Kristoff, Matthew Goss,
Edvald Boasson Hagen, Jose Joaquin Rojas, John Degenkolb and Nacer Bouhanni,
who will be competing for stage victories.
Who is going to win the King of the Mountains jersey? A
classification rider who is unable to win the race or a simply good climber who
won't be up too high in the general classification and therefore gets some
leeway from the peloton? Apart from the names above, Thomas Voeckler, Pierre
Rolland, Frederik Kessiakoff, Mikel Nieve, Igor Anton, Johnny Hoogerland,
Daniel Martin and Sylvain Chavanel are the main conteders.
The white jersey for the best young rider will likely go to
Tejay van Garderen, Nairo Quintana, Thibaut Pinot or Andrew Talansky, with an
outsider chance for Moreno Moser.
The 198 participants will ride seven stages in relatively
flat terrain before they have to climb the first big mountains in the Pyrenees. After two mountain stages there will be another
four flat stages before the cyclists arrive in the Alps,
with three hilly and four mountain stages to go. The race will then end with
the traditional finish on the Champs-Elysees in Paris.
In total, there will be seven flat stages, five hilly
stages, six mountain stages, two individual time trials and one team time
The majority of experts seem to favor Chris Froome as this
year's winner and I tend to agree. There is no way of knowing how good Alberto
Contador is after his doping suspension. He may have the better team, in my
opinion, and is the better climber but Chris Froome is the better time
trialist. If a "clean" Contador is as good as he has been in previous years
then I give him the advantage over Chris Froome. We might be wiser after stage
8, the first mountain stage.
I believe that last year's winner of the green jersey Peter
Sagan will defend his title successfully. He is more versatile than Mark
Cavendish, whom I don't expect to stay ahead of the peloton in particular hilly
terrain. Other sprinters will merely fight for stage wins.
Predicting the winner of the mountain jersey is like
predicting the lottery numbers. Fact is, the sooner Chris Froome or Alberto
Contador ride in yellow the bigger the chances for non-classification riders
such as Thomas Voeckler, Pierre Rolland, Johnny
Hoogerland or Sylvain Chavanel. If Froome and Contador refrain from
attacking the yellow jersey until the Alps
then Jurgen van den Broeck and Nairo Quintana could be the ones to beat.
Most experts will have Tejay van Garderen or Nairo Quintana
down as the favorite for the white jersey but I believe that Thibaut Pinot
could have the last laugh. Van Garderen and Quintana are domestiques for Cadel
Evans and Alejandro Valverde respectively. Evans and Valverde are well in their
30s and may require the help of van Garderen and Quintana often. Thibaut Pinot
is a team captain and can ride his own race, in line with the team strategy of