It’s only two more days until the 105th Tour de France kicks off in Noirmoutier-en-l’Île. Canadian Cycling Magazine has already previewed the course. Let’s take a look at the heads of state, the big dogs, the fellows who comprise the contenders for the win, the podium and the top-10.
Chris Froome (Great Britain/Sky): He’s won three consecutive Grand Tours and four out of the last five Tours. He brings a murderer’s row of strong riders who will make for stultifying racing; two of these men, Geraint Thomas and Egan Bernal, have an excellent chance of making the top-10. Yessir, he’s freshly vindicated and cleared and ready to roll. The only thing that might stop him is cobbled Stage 9.
Romain Bardet (France/AG2R): The French Hope had a few fine spring Classics results and recently came third in the Critérium du Dauphiné. Bardet has been on the podium twice and registered two other top-10’s over the last four editions. He’s better suited to this year’s time trial than 2017’s, when he nearly tumbled off the podium. He’ll have Pierre Latour and Mathias Frank as his main lieutenants.
Vincenzo Nibali (Italy/Bahrain-Merida): The 2014 winner has had his usual indifferent form leading up to the Tour, although his Milan-San Remo victory will go down as one of his career highlights. The Shark of Messina brings a strong team, with Domenico Pozzovivo and the Izagirre brothers by his side. Although he was on the podium of the last two Grand Tours he has contested, his last Tour de France in 2016 was lousy.
Richie Porte (Australia/BMC): He won the Tour de Suisse and placed third in the Tour de Romandie. Porte just does not do well as expected in Grand Tours, with fifth in the 2016 Tour his high mark. Every year something seems to go wrong.
Nairo Quintana (Colombia/Movistar): A stage win at the Tour de Suisse showed that he’s on form. The Colombian hasn’t finished lower than fifth in the four stage races he has started this season. And, of course, he’s part of Movistar’s Triple Threat. But Froome is Quintana’s Tour bête noire, the Anquetil to his Poulidor, the Armstrong to his Ullrich. The cobbles won’t be to his liking.
Mikel Landa (Spain/Movistar): Besides Quintana, Landa has the best chance out of the Movistar three-headed beast to do something special at the Tour. Landa had to sacrifice his great form in last year’s Grand Boucle to help Froome, and perhaps even before the Alps we’ll know who will be working for whom among Quintana, Valverde and Landa. After strong results in the Ruta del Sol, Tirreno-Adriatico and Pais Vasco, Landa had a disappointing Tour de Suisse.
Primoz Roglic (Slovenia/LottoNL-Jumbo): The former ski jumper has won the last three stage races he has contested. However, this doesn’t necessarily mean that he can translate this into success in a three week race. Last year after fourth in Tirreno-Adriatico, fifth in Pais Vasco and third in the Tour de Romandie, he was 38th in the Tour. He’ll have Steven Kruijswijk, Robert Gesink and best young rider candidate Antwan Tolhoek in his corner.
Tom Dumoulin (The Netherlands/Sunweb): The 2017 Giro winner and 2018 Giro runner-up has become one of the best Grand Tour riders in the peloton. But there’s the possibility that the Butterfly of Maasticht hasn’t recovered from the Giro, and the individual time trial’s profile doesn’t suit his strengths. Losing Wilco Kelderman just before the Tour can’t help either.
Adam Yates (Great Britain/Mitchelton-Scott): After the dizzying highs and abject lows of twin Simon’s Giro campaign, Adam still has the best Grand Tour result of the two: fourth in the 2016 Tour de France. Yates was runner-up to Geraint Thomas in the Critérium du Dauphiné, part of an impressive comeback following a broken pelvis in March’s Volta a Catalunya.
Rigoberto Uran (Colombia/EF-Drapac): Most of us sort of forgot about Uran as a Grand Tour rider before the last edition of the Tour. After his two consecutive Giro d’Italia runner-up spots, the Colombian had three uninspired Grand Tours in a row before a seventh in the 2016 Giro. Then came last year’s second place and his famous 53×11 triumph in Chambéry. Uran took a stage win and second spot on GC in his lead up race, the Tour of Slovenia. One must keep in mind that he has never won a professional stage race.
Others: Alejandro Valverde (Spain/Movistar): The grand old man has been on scintillating form this season, taking four stage races along the way. Ilnur Zakarin (Russia/Katusha) : After his first Grand Tour podium last season at the Vuelta, Zakarin is looking to repeat the feat in Le Grand Boucle. Jakob Fuglsang: The Dane is Astana’s protected rider, and he’s having a good season with fourth in the Tour de Romandie and runner-up spot in the Tour de Suisse. But he has only cracked the top-10 of a Grand Tour once. Bob Jungels and Julian Alaphilippe (Quick Step): The Luxembourg double national champion does better in the Giro. His French teammate is more of a stage hunter, but he was fifth in last year’s Paris-Nice. Guillaume Martin (France/Wanty-Groupe Gobert) and Warren Barguil (France/Fortuneo-Samsic) : The French wildcard dark horses.