The Tour de France begins tomorrow and there are four big contenders who will be fighting to wear the coveted maillot jaune in Paris on the 25th of July
You can see the preview of the 21 stage race in our route guide and you can see a start list of all the teams who will be starting Le Tour here.
The big favourites are Tibnkoff-Saxo’s Alberto Contador, Team Sky’s Chris Froome, current champion Vincenzo Nibali from Astana and Movistar’s Nairo Quintana. All four have won Grand Tours before and all but Quintana have won the Tour de France, although Quintana came second to Froome in 2013 and won the KOM jersey in his race debut.
The riders will have to face big mountain stages, long days in the saddle and relentless attacking from each other to be victorious in Paris, which will make for one of the most exciting Tours for a long time.
Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo – Spain)
Double Tour winner Contador will be looking to add a third Tour win to his palmares after winning the 2007 and 2009 versions of the race. He also won the 2010 version but was later stripped of the title after it was found he had doped during the race.
His form in 2015 has gotten off to a flying start by winning the Giro d’Italia
, added to the fact that he also won the 2014 Vuelta a Espana
. He is the big favourite for the race after also winning the 4-stage Route du Sud’s General Classification which finished on 21st June.
Look out for his unique out of the saddle climbing style, contador likes to keep a high cadence and is great at marking attacks with a fierce kick of his own. Contador’s mantel as favourite could be his undoing though as he is the one everyone will be watching closely which could work to the advantage of the other four.
Having ridden the Giro in May he could also be suffering from fatigue, but his Route du Sud victory would indicate that he is carrying his form into Le Tour.
Chris Froome (Team Sky – Britain)
Chris Froome had a difficult Tour in 2014 when he was defending his 2013 victory, with the cobbles and his bike handling being the undoing of him and causing him to rash out of the race. He’s confident that he’s back to his best though, which is great news for Sky fans.
His first victory in 2015 was the 6-stage Vuelta a Andalucia in February, in which he also won the points classification as well as the overall. It was a welcome comeback to form after a disappointing 2014 season, the high opint of which was high 2nd place in the Vuelta a Espana. He also won the Critérium du Dauphiné
, which is a common marker of form for the GC contenders before the Tour de France. He has won the Critérium before: in 2013 when he went on to win the Tour.
His trademark fast acceleration to attack is one of the most pleasing sights in cycling, although it does come with an obvious tell. When Froome is on the front of the race he will keep looking up the road, when that happens you know an attack is imminent.
Despite his good form and his abilities as a climber, the cobbled sections that were his downfall last year could again cause problems for him. If they don’t cause him to crash and abandon, his lack of experience on the cobbles could see him lose a lot of time to his rivals.
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana – Italy)
Vincenzo Nibali notched up his first Tour de France win last year and will be looking to successfully defend it this year and become the first rider to successfully – and cleanly – defend his title since Indurain in the 90’s.
Since his Tour win in 2014 Nibali has kept quiet, his only other result in 2014 coming from a 10th place position in the 1-day Tour of Almaty in Kazakhstan. In 2015 his only success has come from the Italian National Championships which he successfully defended to win again this year – hopefully a good omen for the Tour.
Despite not getting any results, he raced the Amstel Gold and La Fleche Wallone – no doubt to get some experience on the cobbles for the Tour, which he has made his only priority of the season. This experience on the cobbles will serve him well, as last year he was the only GC member who seemed able to deal with them and managed to escape the peloton a few times.
Nibali is arguably the weakest of the four GC contenders in the mountains but is still a proficient climber and is capable of launching devastating attacks, but whether they will be strong enough to unhinge Froome, Contador or Quintana is unlikely. His Astana team worked extremely well for Fabio Aru in the Giro d’Italia, so the support he receives from them makes him a formidable opponent nonetheless.
Nairo Quintana (Movistar – Colombia)
As the only big GC name to not have a Tour de France win, Quintana will be desperate to put that right this year. He has made the Tour de France his top priority and, after his performance in 2013, he is in with an excellent chance.
His ability against other GC riders is relatively unkown as he has only faced Froome in the 2013 Tour de France, who was the only one able to match him in the hills. He hasn’t raced against Contador or Nibali in any mountain stages of a Grand Tour, which is where this Tour de France will be won.
In 2014 he took on the Vuelta a Espana after winning the Giro d’Italia but crashed on stage 10 and again on stage 11, withdrawing from the race after holding the leaders jersey. His season started well in 2015 when he won Tirreno-Adriatico and he finished second in the Route du Sud – won by Contador.
Quintana’s strength lies in the mountains and with plenty of those on this Tour he will be a big favourite when the road really ramps up. His pedigree in the mountains is well documented and by winning the KOM jersey in his first Tour de France outing in 2013 he has cemented himself as a threat to the GC. He has a strong team behind him too including fellow GC contender Alejandro Valverde, although Quintana is the big favourite of the two.