There’s a peculiar feeling about the build up to this year’s Tour de France following the withdrawal of Sir Bradley Wiggins. 2012 was a year characterised by the Olympics and, from a cyclist’s point of view, the seamless majesty of Wiggins. ‘Wiggo’ could not have had a more successful year with victories at Paris-Nice, Tour de Romandie, Criterium, Tour de France and an Olympic gold medal, and his character and personality not only dominated the peleton (pro cyclists) but commanded the attention of the international media. The Tour was characterised by Wiggins’ rivalry with his closest adversary, Chris Froome, who inhabited the number two spot within his own team.
With rumours of rising tensions and occasional spats between spouses, this year’s Tour was meant to be a continuation of the battle that dominated Team Sky and the Tour in 2012. Wiggins’ abandonment has left Froome relieved, cycling magazines in disarray (Wiggins’ withdrawal came after their deadlines) and the possibility of a reduced British public interest. However, this years Tour could well be more exciting, enthralling and engrossing than last year. Grander, more mountainous stages combined with a more competitive GC (General Classification) field should make for more interesting viewing as well as challenge Team Sky’s grand stage dominance. Here’s a preview of the 100th Tour de France:
Jerseys up for grabs:
Yellow Jersey or General Classification – The rider who completes the Tour in shortest amount of time from each stage.
Green Jersey or Points Classification – The rider who accumulates the greatest number of sprint points of mostly flat or undulating stages.
White Jersey or Young Riders Classification – Effectively a yellow jersey for riders under the age of 26.
Polka Dot Jersey or King of the Mountains Classification – The rider who accumulates the greatest number of mountain points.
This years route is more mountainous, has less time trials and departs from tradition for the first week. No prologue stage and a visit to Corsica for the first time in the Tour’s history should allow for rare first week General Classification action. The tour can be split up into different types of stages:
6 x “100 % sprint”.
2-3 x “sprint in a reduced peloton”.
3 x time trials; 2 ITT and 1 TTT.
4 x mountain top finish
2 x mountain downhill finish
3-4 x hilly/breakaway
TDF Protagonists 2013
1. Chris Froome (Team Sky)
Froome has followed a near parallel path to this year’s Tour as Wiggins did in 2012. A commanding victory in the Criterium confirmed Froome as the main favourite for the TDF this year. His rise to prominence in the Vuelta Espana 2011 has been followed up by a surprise 2nd in the TDF in 2012. Froome slipped to 4th in the Vuelta in 2012 but this can be excused for fatigue after the Tour and the Olympics. He has built up experience as Sky’s team leader throughout this season and is now used to the pressures of defending the overall leaders jersey. This route definitely suits Froome more this year than 2012, but it would be foolish to discount Froome’s time trial abilities.
Froome is a complete rider and it will be very difficult to take time off him anywhere. Furthermore, he has an excellent team behind him with massive engines in the shape of Kiriyenka as well as a possible podium favourite, Ritchie Porte, who fills in the role of super domestique.
2. Alberto Contador (Saxo Bank)
Contador is a controversial character for many because of his hazardous relationship with the authorities and banned substances. Despite this, he is a double Tour champion and still possesses a number of key qualities.
Contador has a strong squad at his disposal including the likes of Michael Rodgers who accompanied Wiggins to TDF victory. The Spaniard is an accomplished climber and likes sporadic accelerations to crack his opponents. He is also a respected time trialler, although not in the same league as Froome.
3. Tejay van Garderen and Cadel Evans (BMC)
The winner of last year’s White Jersey, Tejay van Garderen, has attempted to oversee a power shift in the BMC team. Last year he decided to leave his team leader, Cadel Evans, after he punctured on the final mountain of Stage 14. You would be wrong to assume that Wiggins’ abandonment had left the Tour without a bit of inner-team drama! Van Garderen has looked in good form this season following his victory in the Tour of California. However, Cadel Evans has seen a revival in form following his impressive 3rd place in an incredibly tough Giro d’Italia. The question is whether Evans can cope with two consecutive tours – by the third week van Garderen may well have the better of the Aussie veteran. At 24, it is probable that van Garderen is still too young to win the Tour but a podium place is definitely not out of his reach.
4. Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha)
Purito (his nickname which means ‘little cigar’) is possibly one of the best riders to never have won a grand tour. This year’s route certainly suits his climbing abilities with four mountain top finishes.
5. Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)
Movistar have one of the strongest teams in the Tour this year and will be highly competitive in the Team Time Trial. Having a Spanish sponsor, the team is largely built around Valverde. He is weak in the time trial but he can expect excellent support in the mountains from the likes of Rui Costa, Quintana and Amador. If anything, the biggest threat to Valverde is his own teammate, Quintana, who has proven his ability to achieve stage success in the Tour of the Basque Country. Futhermore, Quintana is a more versatile rider with climbing and time trialling abilities.
Other contenders include Ryder Hesjedal, Andrew Talansky, Carlos Betancur, Dan Martin and Ritchie Porte.
Green Jersey Contenders
1. Peter Sagan
At the age of 23, Peter Sagan is one of the most exciting riders of his generation because he rivals the best sprinters for pure speed, and then leaves them behind on the hills. This allows Sagan to reach points that the likes of Cavendish and Griepel could never dream of accumulating. He is a remarkable rider who has been tipped for GC success in the latter part of his career. Sagan is odds on favourite to defend his Green Jersey.
2. Mark Cavendish
The ‘Manx Missile’ is Britain’s most prolific stage winner and is closing in on Eddy Merx’s TDF stage win record of 34 stage victories. Cavendish will be chasing the green jersey this year which will in all likelihood begin with a fight for the yellow jersey. Asides from stage one and the fight for yellow, Cav will be focussing on stages five, six, seven, ten, eleven, twelve and the Champs-Elysees at the end of stage 21.
Keep a close eye too on Andres Griepel and Marcel Kittel, who will being challenging Sagan and Cavendish closely for the Green Jersey.
This year’s tour, being the 100th, is guaranteed to be something a little bit special. The massive third week will define the tour but crashes and undulating stages can wreck a rider’s chances of the top prize. With British riders all over the place, this years tour should prove an exhibition of Britain’s cycling prowess. To build up a little excitement, here’s the official trail of this years TDF: