The Top 5 Tour de France Contenders For The GC

tdf_stage16_2013_froome_contador
by Barnaby CHESTERMAN

LEEDS, United Kingdom, July 02, 2014 (AFP) – The 101st edition of the Tour
de France begins in Leeds on Saturday with Chris Froome as the reigning
champion. Here AFP looks at the top five pretenders to the throne:

Chris Froome (GBR) Team Sky
The Kenyan-born Briton and reigning champion remains the overall Tour
favourite but not to the same degree as last year. In 2013, Froome came into
the Tour on the back of four stage-race victories and a second at
Tirreno-Adriatico. Chief lieutenant Richie Porte had also finished second
behind him at the Criterium du Dauphine and won Paris-Nice leading many to
expect the Sky train to blow away all opposition as they had in 2012. This
time around, though, Froome has won just two races, the tours of Oman and
Romandie, while he finished outside the top 10 at the Dauphine. That was due
mostly to a crash on the sixth of eight stages that hampered him on the final
two mountain days. But Sky have been a far cry from their all-conquering 2012
outfit and Froome may have to win alone this time.

tdf_stage20_2013_froome

Alberto Contador (ESP) Tinkoff-Saxo
The Spaniard has been enjoying his best season since 2010, when he was
stripped of a third Tour title for doping. Two stage race wins and three
second places this year have put him top of the UCI World Tour rankings. He
will be aggressive and will attack Froome whenever possible, just as he did
last year, only this time around he is in better form. He has the experience
and tactical know-how to attack at the right moments. He has lost primary
domestique (support rider) Roman Kreuziger but Australian Michael Rogers is
back from a temporary doping suspension and will be there to help. Contador
has already proved this year he can beat Froome, and that will give him
confidence.

Contador_Tirreno-Adriatico_Stage5_2014

Vincenzo Nibali (ITA) Astana
Although the Tour is widely seen as a two-horse race this year, if the top
two spend too much time looking at each other, then former Giro d’Italia and
Vuelta winner Nibali would be the man to profit. He has proved in major tours
that he can challenge, finishing third behind Bradley Wiggins and Froome in
France two years ago. However, he hadn’t won a race this year until the
Italian road Championships at the weekend. He’s shown nowhere near the form he
had in the previous two years but perhaps he has timed his efforts better to
peak at the Tour. Widely regarded as the best descender in the peloton, if he
can stay with Froome and Contador on the climbs, he might be able to sneak
away on a descent.

Nibali_giro_stage21_2013

Michal Kwiatkowski (POL) OmegaPharma-QuickStep
The Pole has had a great season so far, winning the Tour of the Algarve and
finishing second behind Contador at the Tour of the Basque Country. He also
had top five finishes at all three Ardennes Classics. He had a busy start to
the season and began to suffer from tiredness by the Tour de Romandie but
since then he’s had some time off and been preparing for the Tour. He led the
young rider category for a while last year before eventually finishing third
in that and 11th overall. He’s a talent that is expected to go far and it
would be a surprise if he didn’t challenge for a top five place.

Andrew Talansky (USA) Garmin-Sharp
The American has been overshadowed by compatriot Tejay van Garderen in his
early career but for the last 12 months he’s been outshining the BMC rider.
Talansky finished 10th at last year’s Tour while Van Garderen followed up a
fifth-place finish with 45th. Van Garderen started this year very well but was
well off the pace at the Criterium du Dauphine won by Talansky. The Garmin man
was also seventh at the Tour of Catalunya while he was second at last year’s
Paris-Nice and seventh in the 2011 Vuelta. He has matured and is now ready to
fight for a top five Tour spot, if not a podium finish.

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