Tour de France Contenders

Friday, 6 July 2018

Here’s a look at the contenders for the biggest prize in pro cycling, the maillot jaune in Paris. Chris Froome returns once again but this time his rivals will hope to profit from fresher legs and the toughest route in years. With luck the predictions below will be totally wrong.

Route recap: Variety, this is not a course with a couple of set piece stages to target and then defend. The first week is fraught with risks, Stage 3 is a 35km team time trial which is going to hamper several of the contenders on smaller teams. Stages 5 and 6 include some hills to mix things up, Stage 9 is the Roubaix stage which includes beaucoup cobbles, far more than usual. The mountain stages are bookended with downhill finishes, Stage 10 has a long descent down the Colombière into Grand Bornand, Stage 19 down the Aubisque to Laruns and Stage 16 goes drops down the Col du Portillon to the finish too. Otherwise there’s a mix of summit finishes, the grinding ascent to La Rosière, the celebrity of Alpe d’Huez and the novelty of the Col du Portet, the highest ever finish in the Pyrenees. And in between the Alps and the Pyrenees there’s some ambush country in the Massif Central too. The Stage 20 TT course has been described as “lumpy” or “rolling” by others but I’ve ridden it three times now and prefer labels like “jagged”, “searing” or simply “Basque”.

  • There’s more detail on each stage plus all the rules, points scales, time cuts and more at inrng.com/tour

Chris Froome, Colle Finestre 2018

Chris Froome (Team Sky) is the prime pick. To state his chances is to repeat everything we know already: he can climb with the best, has turned descending into a weapon, he’s got the strongest, wealthiest team and he’s done it all before. Only it’s this last point that is a potential problem, he’s now on his fourth consecutive grand tour and trying the elusive Giro-Tour double. Yes there’s an extra week between the two races but that only helps so much. He’s had a tendency to fall ill towards the end of the Tour before so the Pyrenees could be difficult and explains why he only gets four chainrings in the table below. He and his team will look to establish a lead and use his and his team’s grip on the race to establish a psychological stranglehold on the race, already his rivals are talking about going for the podium not the outright win.

Geraint Thomas is the understudy. Only a few months younger than Froome, the Welshman’s won a string of shorter stage races but hasn’t got a great track record in the grand tours. Some of this is because he’s been on team duties, other times it’s down to mishaps, a tendency to crash a lot. All told he’s far from a certainty but his Critérium du Dauphiné win last month showed he was climbing with the best and even getting the jump on his rivals in the mountains although when it came to the steepest summit finish at Le Bettex he lost a little ground, a tell that he’ll struggle on the hardest climbs or just that he could afford to sit back? If any of the GC contenders are looking forward to the pavé on Stage 9 it’s him. Otherwise Wout Poels could finish high on GC and Egan Bernal is a mystery, a phenomenal talent but untested in a grand tour.

Richie Porte, Critérium du Dauphiné 2017

Richie Porte (BMC Racing) was the challenger this time last year and is so once again. He can climb with the best and is good for the final time trial plus his BMC team are contenders for the team time trial. He’s just won the Tour de Suisse and says his form is now even better and he’s lighter too. So far so good but the same risks exist as they did a year ago. First is descending, put aside the accident down the Mont du Chat and remember the Dauphiné last year where lost ground down the Col de la Colombière. Second is putting it all together for three weeks, he’s been near-invincible in shorter stage races in recent years but far less consistent in grand tours. Still he was fifth overall in 2016 and seems more resilient these days. Third his team are among the strongest but don’t seem as strong as Team Sky nor as willing as Ag2r La Mondiale to take risks but in Tejay van Garderen he’s got a great helper. How to beat Froome? They’ve been team mates and friends which gives Porte an insight and perhaps on a given day Porte can out-climb Froome but in his own words his best hope is, in his own words, that “Froome is buggered” from the Giro.

Nairo Quintana, Giro 2017

Talking of post-Giro fatigue Nairo Quintana tried the Giro-Tour double last year. He finished second in the Giro and was 12th in the Tour, looking as stale as a baguette that had been left on the back shelf of a car for days. Now he’s had a rest, almost a sabbatical, and the few times he’s raced haven’t been big targets. The Tour is the goal and given he’s won the Vuelta and Giro and he’s finished on the podium in Paris three times already, another runner-up result would be merely anecdotal. Forget the stereotype of darting attacks from Colombians, Quintana is steady type, think of a car going up a mountain but stuck in one gear too high if you like. His stage win in the recent Tour de Suisse illustrated this, he took off early on the climb to Arosa and wasn’t caught, a long range effort and if Porte tried to get to him the bedevilled Tasmanian couldn’t close the the final metres. The first week is a risk for him but he’s alert, when the race has split in crosswinds before he’s been in the front group.

Mikel Landa, Sarnano Sassotetto 2018

If Quintana is one of the best climbers in the world, Mikel Landa is another and the second prong of Movistar’s “Trident”. He’s capable of surging accelerations and the final time trial is in the French Basque Country, almost home turf. He’s the most volatile of Movistar’s three leaders, capable of a stage win one day but being caught napping the next. He’s often best in a supporting role, a gadfly. It’s another thing to assume the burden of leadership, to look team mates and staff in the eye over breakfast and know he’s responsible for putting food on their tables. His fourth place last year was achieved as a team mate, ditto his third place in the 2015 Giro.

Alejandro Valverde, Abu Dhabi 2018

Alejandro Valverde is the third prong of Movistar’s Tridente. Aged 38, he’s like a cask of whisky, the older the better. Just starting this year is an achievement after breaking his knee and ankle in Düsseldorf a year ago. Even when healthy and younger the Tour has been hard going for someone who wins on so many fronts, although grand tours and especially high altitude mountain stages seem to be his frontier. He can read a race well and if you can recall a tactical error – beyond riding into Italy and Pratonevoso in the 2008 Tour – please share it in the comments below because I can’t. He’ll place high on a sprint stage and still has a kick for time bonuses on mountain stages. But the outright win? It’s hard to see and he has the makings of a road captain de luxe.

Romain Bardet, Les Amerands 2018

Romain Bardet needn’t worry about inter-team rivalry, Ag2r La Mondiale are all behind him with Pierre Latour as a loyal helper who’ll hope to pick up the white jersey along the way. Bardet has finished on the podium twice running now: 2016 was thanks to a coup d’audace down the wet descent of Domancy; 2017 was thanks to his coup de pédale, he was consistently climbing with the best and he and his Ag2r La Mondiale team even had Froome on the ropes a couple of times but crucially couldn’t deliver the knock-out punch. That podium was secured by one slender second though and this year’s team time trial is likely to put him on the back foot, the team have improved and recruited well but should still lose time to the likes of Sky, BMC and Movistar. The pavé stage is a worry, as if something to be endured rather than exploited but see his ride on the Strade Bianche this year.

Adam Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) was fourth in 2016, the best young rider that year. There’s a Simon effect here, his brother’s performance in the Giro has heightened expectations which is unfair but also inevitable because as twins they are similar but not identical riders. Adam is having just as good a season with a stage win in Tirreno-Adriatico and then winning the final mountain stage of the Dauphiné. He’s got a strong team in support, especially for the opening phase across the flat lands. He’s also handy for taking the time bonuses and the final time trial with its sharp climbs and twisty descents won’t dash his hopes in the way a flat course would.

Tom Dumoulin (Team Sunweb) is another tempted by the Giro-Tour double this year and his chances seem to be downplayed, almost excused by his ride in the Giro. He finished a creditable second overall and out-climbed plenty of pure climbers. Yet now it looks like the Tour is an afterthought, he’s not a big favourite. He should be. he’s hot property and in form he can match the best on the climbs and put minutes into others in the time trials. Only here he finds a course with a lot of sharp climbs and the Stage 20 time trial’s no place for a 58T chainring so how to win? His team should help him ride high in the opening week, Sunweb are outsiders for the team time trial.

Vincenzo Nibali (Bahrain-Merida) can enliven any race. Having won the Tour, Giro, Vuelta and plenty more he’s not coming to harvest UCI points and should be the catalyst for action. But how to win? He was the runner-up in the Vuelta last year and if he took the first mountain stage to Andorra this was a wily sprint and he never got the better of his rivals in a straight summit finish. He had a quiet Dauphiné but then again he had a quiet time in 2014 before winning the Tour too. He’ll have to exploit the descents or exploit the opening week and his team are handicap, they’re going to lose time in the team time trial even if the likes of Pozzovivo, the Izagirre brothers and possibly forty-something Franco Pellizotti, the oldest rider in the race. Can he win? Maybe just but the fun is watching him try.

Rigoberto Urán was the surprise last year finishing second. He didn’t put a foot wrong but this was a defensive ride, he tracked Froome and Bardet rather than attacked them but if it lacked panache it gained a podium finish and he and his team would sign for this again in a flash. One concern is the team time trial, EF Education First-Drapac are likely to lose time compared to the big budget squads which will handicap the Colombian and the other is simply repeating the form he had last year although the signs are encouraging, in 2017 he was second overall in the Route du Sud, this year he’s just finished second in the Tour of Slovenia.

Jacob Fuglsang (Astana) is in great shape again, if it wasn’t for a poor team time trial he may well have won the Tour de Suisse. This is a concern again, Astana are normally a heavyweight squad but rode poorly in Switzerland and the Dauphiné too. Now Fuglsang is the sole team leader with a core of Danish riders around him even Astana look to be stage hunting too. Will Fuglsang too? He’s only once made the top-10 of the Tour even if at times he’s been on team duties, several times he’s looked promising but faded.

Ilnur Zakarin, Giro 2017

Third in the Vuelta and fifth in the Giro last year mean Ilnur Zakarin‘s CV should land with a thud when applying to win the Tour de France or at least going for the podium. Only the Tour’s got the most competitive field and the Katusha rider’s not shown so much form this year. Perhaps the Crane of Tartarstan is saving it all for this month but all the same he’s not a reassuring pick for the win and he and Katusha would sign today for a podium, especially as the team is also aiming to win sprint stages with Marcel Kittel.

Primoz Roglic, 2017

If Movistar bring El Tridente then Lotto-Jumbo bring the Vleesfork, literally the meat fork and a two pronged attack with Steven Kruijswijk and Primož Roglič. Kruijswijk has few wins to his name, a stage of the Tour de Suisse in 2011 and the Arctic Tour of Norway in 2011 which he won a handful of seconds ahead of Kristoff the sprinter. So the Tour? But of course he almost won the Giro in 2016 and until that fateful crash into a bank of snow he looked imperious, the pink jersey sat firm on those coathanger shoulders of his. Still just being in contention again would be nice. Roglič by contrast is a contender even if he and his team keep downplaying his chances. A stage winner last year, he’s won the last three stage races he’s ridden this year including Romandie and the Basque Country which are among the hardest. But a grand tour? He’s only finished two and not targeted the GC, the question is how he can cope with long climbs day in, day out.

Finally a few other names. Bob Jungels (Quick Step) is on a journey to become a grand tour contender but not there yet, watch for him in the mountains and Julian Alaphilippe too. Meanwhile ranked in order Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo), Dan Martin (UAE-Emirates), Rafał Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Warren Barguil (Fortuneo-Samsic) could make the top-10 on GC, win stages and go for the mountains competition but the outright win seems elusive.

Chris Froome, Richie Porte, Nairo Quintana
Romain Bardet, Vincenzo Nibali
Tom Dumoulin, Adam Yates, Mikel Landa, Alejandro Valverde
Urán, Thomas, Fuglsang, Zakarin
David P July 6, 2018 at 12:38 pm

<>

One might say “it’s a right Basquard”

David P July 6, 2018 at 12:40 pm

Weird, that included the quote “I’ve ridden it three times now and prefer labels like “jagged”, “searing” or simply “Basque”.” before I posted

JH July 7, 2018 at 9:44 am

You probably need to avoid the use of “special characters” (especially “less than” and “greater than”). I suspect your comment was mistaken for a “Cross Site Scripting” attack (XSS). https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cross-site_scripting

Anonymous July 6, 2018 at 12:41 pm

After stage 3 only 3 contenders will be left, Froome, Dumoulin and Porte.
After stage 9 only Froome, Dumoulin are left and maybe Nibali rides himself into contention.
By stage 20 its Froome, Dumoulin with either Nibali, Porte, Uran or Soler third.
The other GT notables will have a few great stages but not enough of them.
I hope its a fun, exciting tour and not another TTT de France by Sky.

Chris_SK July 7, 2018 at 9:16 pm

Anon,
I too, believed that it would be a 3-horse race after Stage 3… yet today’s time differences would indicate otherwise. The 51s loss has greatly dampened the damage SKY and BMC will inflict on the other favourites on Monday. Also, with the exception of G, SKY lost minutes today – Moscon, Kwiatko, Castroviejo… their dream scenario of filling up the front row of the grid for that novelty 65km stage look dead and buried with just 1 stage ridden!
It should help to liven up the race a bit.

Anonymous July 6, 2018 at 12:42 pm

Anyone but Froome, lets have a change!

Mark July 6, 2018 at 12:42 pm

As much as I love a good understud… I’m not sure that is what you meant re Geraint Thomas.

Thanks for the write up and tour guide. Was looking at the guide in particular today. As you say there isn’t much in way of breaks for the GC riders.

Mark Ross July 6, 2018 at 12:44 pm

Fixes between reading and posting

Robert Wierzbowski July 8, 2018 at 4:24 am

Bravo Mark 😂

David P (again, sorry) July 6, 2018 at 12:43 pm

Lolz at the thought of Geraint being an “understud”. Best typo ever.

RonDe July 6, 2018 at 12:49 pm

Here we are again, shortly before Le Tour, and once again any number of riders are being talked up as “contenders”. I’m never quite sure what a “contender” is supposed to be but I am very sure that most of the names I hear bandied about are at least speculative and at most pure fantasy. So I turned to the bookies for advice to see who these craven-hearted capitalists trying to take fools’ money on the race were backing. Below is a list of the top 15 names I found on Oddschecker so that I couldn’t be accused of choosing the names myself. Along with the names I attach necessarily brief comments about why each rider WON’T win the Tour de France. I’ll finish with my 3 riders most likely to do well.

Froome – He has three problems, fatigue, pressure and the crowd. No one will want him to win. It will be his greatest (and so hardest) achievement if he does. Second will mean nothing to him, but can he overcome everything? He will need all his powers of recovery and determination here and without any silly mistakes, to which he is sometimes prone.

Porte – No matter how many one week races he wins (and the recent Suisse win was on a relatively easy, TT-heavy course), he is dubious over 3 weeks. Doubt will only be turned away when he does it on the road with 3 week consistency. Also, the clock is ticking Richie!

Quintana – The Colombian has tried to beat Froome 4 times in France and failed every time. Why is this year and this course anymore suitable to him? TTs will leave him needing to attack mountain stages as he did at Arosa in the Tour de Suisse. But will he be as brave on French roads and will team mates (i.e. Landa) help or go rogue?

Landa – For all the talk, Landa has but one GT podium and is usually not his team’s plan A. This year seems no different. Will he even beat Quintana? He had a poor Suisse so maybe we should get ready for #FreeLanda all over again.

Nibali – Vincenzo had a very poor Dauphine and barely featured. Froome is also one guy he struggles to beat in a GT at all and his last three GTs were all races he failed to win. But, unlike others, he can freelance a race and force time gains yet it will need to be good Nibali and not bad Nibali who turns up if he really hopes to win. More likely, he wins a stage once the hopes of a GC win have faded (see 2015 Tour).

Dumoulin – Is the Diesel Dutchman even going for GC? He seemed much more fatigued than Froome at the end of the Giro. Why will he win now, against a much harder field, when he didn’t win in May? His team is also a concern and his time trial powers lessen when the time trials come deep into races.

Bardet – I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: time trials! Between the TTT and ITT I see Bardet with a 3.30 deficit to catch up on before he turns a pedal. Is he that much better a rider in the mountains than TTers like Froome, Porte or Dumoulin? Nope.

Thomas – Geraint can think what he likes but he’s plan B and people are waiting for him to fail. He doesn’t seem to have the top end climbing ability and in many respects reminds you of Bradley Wiggins who needed a flatter course and many time trial kilometers to win. Hard to see him staying with the elite climbers here day after day.

Uran – Mr “always only does enough.” In this field he should suffer though as others must do more to create gaps and he can’t surf them all alone as he will surely be.

Yates – Adam Yates has finished 4th in the Tour but has never yet threatened a win. Again, as with others at the worse end of the ITT spectrum, he will need to out-climb his rivals but its questionable if, on the greatest of stages, he can and consistently.

Valverde – Alejandro must be plan C, a luxury domestique. The real high mountains may see him chug and amazing circumstances must be envisaged to see him winning the race, not least because two team mates will see themselves as in front of him in the pecking order.

Fuglsang – The Dane impressed at Suisse but was still 1.02 behind Porte. He’s a very game rider but surely outclassed in this field.

Bernal – The Colombian rider is certainly a future superstar but here is riding for experience even though he is already getting wins and podiums in world tour races like Romandie and California. He has nothing to lose but also won’t be prioritised here unless things go very south for Sky, by which time it will be too late anyway. Possible white jersey winner?

Martin – Dan Martin is the Mr Try Hard of the peloton. He never gives up. But, as we have seen at the Tour several times now, this just isn’t enough. Martin suffers from a poor time trial and a poor team and neither are going to help him get anywhere near the podium.

Roglic – Primoz Roglic has had an outstanding season so far and in this race he has absolutely nothing to lose. But does he have 3 week form and what will he be like on the really long, hard, multiple mountain stages that we generally only get in grand tours? He, like some others here, won’t have much team help. I expect him to do well, to even surprise, but I see him behind several others in this field.

My top three with the best chance to win: Froome, Quintana, Nibali (having won a GT before counts for a lot!)

Vedrafjord July 6, 2018 at 1:58 pm

Bookies’ odds are more a function of where the general public are putting their money than an estimate of probability calculated by a prediction model or a human expert. In a national market, riders from that country will have lower odds because e.g. lots of Australians will bet on Richie Porte.

RonDe July 6, 2018 at 2:31 pm

Oddschecker collates bookies across numerous markets. Not that it matters anyway. Its just a name list generator. Was interesting that bookies give Bernal more chance than Dan Martin though.

jc July 6, 2018 at 3:09 pm

Much as I like Dan I think the bookies odds are correct, Dan is very unlikely to win

KevinK July 7, 2018 at 11:20 am

As Vedrafjord said, it’s not the bookies who give Bernal more chance than Martin – it’s the “fools” who actually put money on the line who determine the odds.

You also seem to mistake the terms “contenders” and “favorites.”

Anonymous July 6, 2018 at 3:34 pm

Honestly, your posts are tedious enough as they are, because the reality always has to bend to fit in, no matter if it wants or if it just wants to escape you as fast as possible. And the smugness of your „I, a person of the world, know what I talk about and all others are just naive and clueless losers (including of course every prodessional rider other than one)“ is never very pretty. Usually I just ignore you. But this one is a bit too much. My opinion can‘t be a big surprise for you as many people before me have pointed out in responses to you on this blog the same thing as I. And I would surely try to find nicer or more understanding words, if your posts and the attitude behind it wouldn‘t be so insulting, but as you prefer to not think about the feelings or thoughts of other people, I am sure you will appreciate, that I tried to adhere to your example.

I think a good solution would be, if you had your own blog for your posts. Clearly you think you are an expert and clearly you have a view you want to bring across – so why not take this chance? I think it will only help your comments here, when you have a different place for your posts. I think my words will be futile, as others were before, but well, we all have to try to make the world a bit better, right?

RonDe July 6, 2018 at 3:40 pm

Anonymous, fortunately what you think impacts nobody. This a comment section for Tour contenders. I wrote comments about Tour contenders. It matters not a jot to me what you think about me personally. We are anonymous strangers. If you have comments about the contenders or the content of my post that would be more pertinent both to my specific comment and this post and blog as a whole.

Go back to ignoring me. I’m sure we’ll both survive.

Cd July 6, 2018 at 4:01 pm

You didn’t write “comments”, you wrote what amounted to a blog post. Just because you call it a duck, doesn’t make it a duck.

RonDe July 6, 2018 at 4:46 pm

Cry me a river. If our host finds nothing wrong with it thats ok. If he zaps it, fine too. I wrote about a cycle race. Others write about me.

Mark July 7, 2018 at 6:13 am

RonDe, that was a good reply. I think Anonymous went a little too far.

Everyone is entitled to their opinion.

Sometimes I wish you did express your opinion a little differently though. To me, it is often too much through the prism of Froome / Sky, and where others have a different opinion, you’re hardly accepting that others could possibly have a different view.

That said, my initial reaction to your post original post was “here we go we go again”, but I was a little tainted by preconceived ideas. In the end, I reconsidered, and the length of the post aside (15 is a long list!), you are giving a view on each rider, and obviously, a riders prospects need to be relative to those they are competing against.

RonDe July 7, 2018 at 9:46 am

Thank you, Mark. Actually, I limited it to 15 even though some may think I missed out guys who they consider “contenders” like Zakarin. All the guys I referred to were 20/1 or less when I wrote it.

Regarding your general point: people don’t have to like or agree with what I post. They can feel free to ignore it. But to write complaining or being personally insulting about me rather than pointing out the flaws in my comments about a rider or race is simply going off the point of this blog. Its a (very good) cycling blog not a RonDe blog. If someone thinks Froome will lose then I’m quite happy for them to reply to whatever I say telling me why. “RonDe you are horrible” means zero to me from a bunch of anonymous strangers and was a waste of the poster’s time and Inrng’s bandwidth.

PS I didn’t even say Froome would win in my post just like I didn’t for the Giro either!

JH July 7, 2018 at 9:48 am

I enjoyed the comment. Was about the first one I read properly.

Nice list. But I doubt if these 15 will all fit into the top 15 😀

While RonDe _may_ have a set of heroes and anti-heroes that not everyone will agree with, and everybody loves their own opinions, this post didn’t exhibit that.

It was a valuable contribution to the debate.

No Zacharin though.

And surely 2 out of 3 of the white jersey podium could get into the the top 15, if not the top 10.

JEB July 7, 2018 at 1:48 pm

I read RonDe’s comment and thought it was interesting and relevant to cycling.
I thought Anonymous’s comment was rude, impolite and an unnecessary personal attack that didn’t add anything to cycling.

While we are on the topic of odds, I don’t think there are many good ‘value’ bets out there – mostly because 3 week grand tours carry such a high risk of accidents and sickness. The only one I could think of would be to bet Tomas finishes in the top 10 or top 3 – as the pay off is pretty high because it is based on the odds of him winning, which is unlikely – but I think if you consider this a bet ‘that something happens to Froome’ then with the full backing of Sky G should be able to land a top 10 or maybe even top 3. As I said I don’t think there are many good bets out there. The chance of any one rider finishing unscathed is always less than they are offering.

Tom July 6, 2018 at 12:59 pm

“Third in the Vuelta last year and fifth in the Vuelta mean Ilnur Zakarin‘s CV should land with a thud when applying to win the Tour de France or at least going for the podium”

*fifth in the Giro 🙂

Martijn Stolze July 6, 2018 at 1:14 pm

Whilst I don’t consider Dumoulin a realistic contender for the overall, if anything this TT suits him more than a boring old straight road. For a TTer he’s extraordinary at handling changes in terrain and tempo.

The Inner Ring July 6, 2018 at 1:15 pm

He could do well on the course, just like the flew up the climb in Bergen. It’s more his relative advantage here vs Froome, Porte etc, or even Landa and Bardet.

Ben July 7, 2018 at 1:30 am

I don’t think TD is that strong in TTS in a third week. He is world champ on a one day but he isn’t the same, compared to his gc rivals, in the third week. In the recent giro he didn’t gain minutes or even win the stage in the third week to, where is what we could have expected on a stand-alone race like the worlds, he scraped 20s on Froome and came 3rd on the stage.

J Evans July 7, 2018 at 3:43 am

I think Dumoulin is going to suffer the effects of the Giro and won’t feature in the GC by the end.

ronytominger July 6, 2018 at 1:28 pm

excellent short and precise preview.

the golden retriever would be well informed now : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SmHl7hKlVj4

Rupert July 6, 2018 at 1:29 pm

Froome, Porte, Nibali, Yates, Dumoulin (hope Kruijswijk gets a top ten)

I think Movistar will loose time in the TTT and on the roads to Roubaix, Bardet in the time trials, Uran seems to blow hot and cold and this will be a “cold year”. Thomas will have a bad day.

Fulsang and Zakarin could ride high though but it’s a tough crowd they’ll have to get past

Ecky Thump July 6, 2018 at 1:30 pm

I have Valverde down on ‘Froome-marking’ duties, similar to his role in Quintana’s Vuelta win.
If anything is going to unseat Froome it is a collective and unrelenting approach by his rivals.
If they *all* make it hard, will Froome eventually wilt?
If the others are content to let Team Sky sit on the front and dictate, then we know how that plays out.

How that collective collaboration happens is also another problem, however.

kim jong vaughters July 6, 2018 at 1:36 pm

Froome is the favourite and until he fails everything else is just speculation. He has won 5 of his last 6 grand tours and should have won the other one as well. The reason he has those stats is because he can do it all. He has also, in a way few give him credit for, made himself better over the years. So, incidents and accidents aside, it has to be him.

noel July 6, 2018 at 5:46 pm

but….are you speculating that everything else is just speculation?

Ronan July 6, 2018 at 1:40 pm

Stage 13 of the Tour. Won by cav, valverde punctured, got gapped in echelons and fell from second all the way out of contention.

The Inner Ring July 6, 2018 at 1:44 pm

Good pick…. but was it a tactical mistake or sheer bad luck (or both)? I remember that day to St Amand Monrond, I predicted it to be the most boring of the stage… it came alive in the crosswinds when Quick Step split things up, Quintana rode well.

Ronan July 6, 2018 at 2:55 pm

I suppose it’s both, and telling that you have to go back five years for a moment when he may have made a tactical error.

Omar Malik July 6, 2018 at 3:19 pm

He does have a tendency to get caught out in crosswinds 2015(stage 2) and 2012 (stage 6). He almost got caught out in 2014 as well. It does depend on any team deciding to force it when it gets windy during that first week or maybe on stage 13 ( I don’t know what the roads are like around there, but I remember Dan Martin getting caught out in a stage in that area last year

Othersteve July 6, 2018 at 11:48 pm

Valverde tactical mistake: was the name on his blood bags from Operation Portico.

Although sincerely, I’m an admire of him I would suggest pound for pound one of the best all round bike racers in the pro peloton today.

Richard S July 6, 2018 at 1:47 pm

The fact that Froome has done the Giro makes the Tour a bit more interesting this year. If he hadn’t then with his team and the TTT he’d be an absolute certainty. Logic says that having done a very hard Giro he’d do well to finish in the middle of the top 10. Logic also says that doing 4 Grand Tours in a row for the win is more or less impossible. But the usual rules don’t seem to apply to Froome so I expect him to win. His closest challenger should be Porte but something is bound to happen. Crosswinds in Brittany or a puncture as it splits on the cobbles. It’ll go down as bad luck but after so many attempts it can’t be luck. I think on consistency over the 3 weeks Nibali will be second. Never the best climber or time trialist but always there and alert to his chances in the first week. I’d like Quintana and Landa to be a surprise and ride aggressively. It won’t be that much of a surprise from Landa but he’ll probably have too much to do. I expect Dumoulin to have a traditional post Giro hangover and end up stage hunting. This years Uran could be Roglic. Looking forward to it.

Foley July 6, 2018 at 7:26 pm

“the usual rules don’t seem to apply to Froome”

Quite so.

Atomic July 6, 2018 at 9:13 pm

They never do to extraordinary athletes. Nor should we expect them to.

The GCW / Strictly Amateur July 6, 2018 at 2:03 pm

Between cobbles and descents, Nibali will have a strong tour.

jc July 6, 2018 at 2:06 pm

As always an astute summary of the various riders chances (The Mikel Landa picture is excellent, it looks more film audition than podium 🙂 ).

Stage 3 has to loom large in any assessment of the likely winner. Loosing lots of time there is going to be difficult to come back from. That would seem to narrow it down to (assuming 1st place not 3rd) Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas, Richie Porte and Adam Yates with maybes for Nairo Quintana, Mikel Landa and Tom Dumoulin. I am not convinced stage 9 is going to be quite as decisive as it might be (weather forecast for northern France over the next week or so is generally warm and dry) maybe Vincenzo Nibali could try to get away but I doubt it. I would say that going into the mountains Sky will hold yellow with maybe 4 riders in the top 10. If so they are going to be extremely difficult to beat. Even if Chris Froome falls away one or more of the other riders can pick it up. Whilst the final TT might not be a nailed on cert for Tom Dumoulin it will give Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas and Richie Porte a real opportunity to claw back significant time if they need to.

I think the top 4 will be (in no particular order) Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas, Richie Porte and Nairo Quintana.

Richie Porte looks to be the best equipped to challenge Chris Froome but there are some nagging doubts both of his own self belief (suggesting your best hope is if your main rival has bad legs does not sound positive to me) and how well the team will perform given the issues surrounding BMC. If the stars align and Chris Froome falters then maybe but I think realistically 2nd or 3rd.

Geraint Thomas has been impressive recently, his time trialling seems to be getting even better (the Sky TTT unit is scarily strong) and he performed well to win the Dauphine. If he has a weakness it is on super steep finishes, but not sure there are many of those here. If Chris Froome is in contention I just cant see G going for the win. If Sky blow everyone else away 2nd is possible, if Chris Froome falters in some way maybe he could just snatch it on the final TT.

Nairo Quintana is clearly focused on this race. He is not that bad at TTs (and the TT here probably suits him more than many) and is arguably the best climber around. However the team issues, both the soap opera (not sure I believe all the denials and media puff) within the team and the questions over tactics, are likely to hinder him. If he can go into Stage 10 less than a minute behind then he could be in with a big chance more likely he will have to try for some sort of mountain ambush to pull back a couple of minutes or more. If so I dont believe he will make it. To sum up, good first week = possible winner, average to bad first week = 3rd at best.

Chris Froome is the clear favourite. I dont believe all the fatigue stuff. Practically every observer (me included) had ruled him out of the Giro yet he came back and simply blew the rest of the field (with the exception of Tom Dumoulin) away. His determination to succeed is astonishing. Whatever the issues and the hostility of some of the crowds he goes on. He has, arguably, the strongest team ever at the Tour to support him. He has risen to every challenge he has set for himself over the past few years. The usual accidents and incidents notwithstanding I think he will be on the podium in Paris wearing yellow for the 5th time being congratulated through gritted teeth by M. Prudhomme and M. Lappartient (Bernard Hinault having gone off in a puff of smoke 🙂 )

Ecky Thump July 6, 2018 at 2:13 pm

Ha, that mental picture that you’ve laid out at the end will be enough motivation in itself for Froome, I am sure.

Andrew July 6, 2018 at 4:05 pm

Puff of smoke? Knowing Hinault, more like Bikini.

jc July 6, 2018 at 6:16 pm

The concept of Bernard Hinault in a bikini is one I am finding difficult to visualise :). Perhaps a visit to a tropical island with no internet might be good for his blood pressure in the next few weeks…….

Andrew July 6, 2018 at 7:58 pm

“See the girl on the TV dressed in a bikini
She doesn’t think so but she’s dressed for the H-bomb”

Gang of Four

Bern July 7, 2018 at 2:42 am

“The Mikel Landa picture is excellent, it looks more film audition than podium”

Excellent shot, yes, but I got a different vibe – more of a “well if this is what it’s going to be like then I’d happily never be a podium girl again” sort of image…and seriously – what’s the point?

At the risk of causing him to spontaneously combust, I’d say Dumoulin. Hell, EVERYONE was tired after that Giro. Tom’s unfinished business is more urgent.

Stuie July 6, 2018 at 2:08 pm

I have a feeling that by tomorrow evening, one of those major contenders will be out of contention. Tomorrow is going to be nervy. Not windy enough to cause splits, but I just sense that it will be ridden extremely hard. A touch of wheels and someone is gone.

J Evans July 6, 2018 at 2:12 pm

Froome doesn’t have any specific weakness (apart from not liking the cold, perhaps), unlike every other contender.
He also seems less prone to fatigue than other riders from grand tour to grand tour.
Even more notable are his quasi-miraculous recoveries within grand tours, as seen at last year’s Vuelta and particularly this year’s Giro.
I can’t recollect another rider (perhaps other readers can?) who has been so out of form at an earlier point of a grand tour and then went on to win it.

JT July 6, 2018 at 2:25 pm

Nibali Giro 2016. He needed a lot of luck to win but he created his luck by getting better and by pushing the coat hanger to the fault.

Mattgc July 6, 2018 at 3:08 pm

Nibali didn’t look good at all in the Giro 16 before winning it (helped by Kruijswijk’s misforture)

noel July 6, 2018 at 3:21 pm

Nibali did force that ‘misfortune’ though…

Mattgc July 6, 2018 at 3:24 pm

true

J Evans July 6, 2018 at 3:56 pm

SK broke his ribs, Chaves got sick. How much did Nibali actually improve?

Nick July 6, 2018 at 4:44 pm

He was 1.20 behind Valverde at that point too.

Anonymous July 7, 2018 at 3:22 am

But Valverde isn’t one for the big, high mountains.

Davo July 6, 2018 at 4:47 pm

Froome may have another unseen weakness, and that is team sky’s unwillingness to have a plan b. If, and it is a big if, he is still fatigued from the giro, how quickly will Brailsford throw full resources behind another leader. Given Froome’s ability in the past to ‘recover’ from a slow start, they may be reluctant to count him out even if he’s looking bad.
I have no evidence for this, so no flaming from the fanboys please, but I believe, even with the extra week that the Giro/ Tour double in this era is too hard.

noel July 6, 2018 at 5:43 pm

I wonder whether G has been told a while ago that he’ll get joint billing (or top in case Froome didn’t make it) to make sure he did the boring hours on Tiede, didnt eat cake or drink any beers since easter etc etc…

Davo July 6, 2018 at 6:18 pm

To me, that would make sense, but team sky don’t seem to roll that way.
Eggs and Baskets seems to be there m.o.

Anonymous July 6, 2018 at 6:08 pm

Contador Vuelta 2012 ?

Anonymous July 7, 2018 at 3:22 am

That was more a day of great tactics from Contador/woeful tactics from Rodriguez. There wasn’t any huge change in Contador’s form.

IanPa July 6, 2018 at 2:12 pm

Lets see how the first 9 days play out, then revisit the chances, seriously hoping that Sky or BMC dont get minutes in the TTT, hate them or not, Froome or Porte with a minute or so in hand as they hit the 2nd part of this race could dampen the spirits.

Roglic podium for me as a dark horse. He looks the real deal, will get one day where he can fly under the radar and that should be enough to gain time on the Bardets, Quintana’s of this world.

Liam July 6, 2018 at 2:28 pm

Nibali finished 30th when he did the Giro-Tour double. Quintana finished 12th. Contador was 5th. (At least Nibali and Contador had won the Giro though.)

How can Froome possibly win? It will put every other “contender” into stark relief if he does.

Cilmeri July 6, 2018 at 2:47 pm

I expect Thomas to be in yellow at the start of stage 10, so the interesting thing will be how far ahead of Froome, and how will that impact Sky? 30 seconds ahead, and Sky will persuade him to be a domestique, 2 minutes plus ahead and he might be able to persuade Sky to keep him back and event designate a support rider for him.

Really looking forward to the last week (I suspect Froome will be in the lead by then, but might tail off), and also how will Froome do on the cobbles (when was the last time he raced on cobbles, given that he pulled out before them a few years back?)

noel July 6, 2018 at 3:48 pm

one scenario that would be interesting would be if Thomas is within a minute of a tiring Froome on that last TT… to have a potential record breaking 5th win whipped from under your nose by a team mate….

I’m well aware however that for that scenario to be in place the race might well have been a Sky borefest that few want to see…

hoh July 6, 2018 at 8:19 pm

2015, the stage at which Tony Martin won & got into yellow. Tried to clip off the front in the last 5 km with Thomas but got bought back.

J Evans July 7, 2018 at 5:33 am

Yes, Froome showed his prowess on the cobbles.
Also, I don’t think Sky are going to let Thomas ride off on the cobbles and leave Froome behind: Thomas will be working as Froome’s domestique on that stage (and every other) and his job will be to take Froome to the line – with as much time on others as possible.
Thomas has never shown that he has it in the high mountains in a GT – and Sky know his capabilities better than anyone.
I think the scenario where Thomas is a GT contender is wishful thinking on the part of Brits.

Sam G July 6, 2018 at 3:07 pm

I like Bardet, he rides with guts and is attacking. However until he can tile trial better there is no chance he wins a TdF with Froome and Dumoulin around. No point in even considering it. He should go to the Vuelta and build a palmares while he has the years in his favor.

J Evans July 7, 2018 at 5:38 am

I agree. Same goes for Dan Martin and quite a few others – the likes of Kruijswijk, Mollema… maybe this could be Pinot’s year.
Far better to win the Vuelta – or at least have that possibility – than a nondescript placing at the Tour.
And this year’s Vuelta could be the ideal opportunity – a lot of people are going to be knackered and many GC contenders might also be focused on a very rare chance to take a World title.

Netraam July 6, 2018 at 3:45 pm

In 2016, Kruijswijk took a real step up. From someone who needed some actual climbing or a fairly weak field to feature, he suddenly had a great Tour of Yorkshire. Not the hour long climbs he usually preferred, that was an entirely different form from before. He’s not on that level yet this year, but he sure looks stronger than he used to.

Mollema of course had that Tour where he was 2nd for some time, and put time in almost everyone on the Ventoux stage before fading eventually in the 3rd week. If he can get close to that level again and keep it together, I wouldn’t be surprised if he matched or improved on his best ever GT finish.

The difficulty is there are at least 20 riders we wouldn’t be surprised finding in the final top 10, 10 riders or so for the best 5, but every winner could be a surprise. For my money, it’s probably Nibali vs Quintana.

Gregario July 6, 2018 at 4:03 pm

Re: Adam Yates: “..because as twins they are similar but not identical riders.” Could someone elaborate on this? Watching them ride I cannot tell any difference, they seem to me like carbon copy riders and I really don’t know where one is better than the other 🙂

Besides, on paper this is a very strong lineup of contenders and I really hope that we will finally see an interesting tour, because it’s been a long long time since we had one.

I will root for Nibali, he looks very lean and I hope he will enlighten this tour, starting with the cobbled stage next Sunday. My only concern is the TTT. Sky will put a lot of time into most of the teams and will then be able to control the race in the manner we’ve seen for years.

Digahole July 6, 2018 at 4:12 pm

That Landa pic is classic… Grinding the best climbers in the world to pulp over some mountain pass… or sandwiched between two models. The man is chiseled stone.

Davo July 6, 2018 at 4:56 pm

I am worried that he may not be able to drag those eyebrows around this parcours but would love to see him go well. I’m also feeling the love for Primoz Roglic.
Maybe I’m just building up for a disappointment but I’m more excited about this edition than I have been for a long time.

Digahole July 6, 2018 at 9:28 pm

I’m liking Roglic too. Who knows if f he can string a good 3 weeks together, but starting late he’s getting better fast.., like someone younger, but already with years of elite sport discipline from his ski jumping. Looking forward to seeing what he lays down

qlimbing quaranta July 6, 2018 at 4:50 pm

I think G Thomas will end up winning this year. Yes, he goes slowly down hills (assuming he makes it to the bottom at all), and yes, he goes slowly up hills in the 3rd week of Tours, but this year will be different (mark my words). After the cobbled stage he’ll have probably have at least a minute on all contenders, and the only ones within 2 minutes will be Froome, and maybe Tom D and Valverde. If he’s asked to wait for Froome on stage 9, i’m guessing he’ll ignore the instructions and ride for himself, which would lead to a very interesting 2 weeks in the Sky bus.( I don’t think there is any chance the GVA will help Porte on stage 9, he will ride for the stage win.).
The only thing worse than G going downhill is Movistar’s tactics, so they are nothing to worry about. I think Landa will try and light things up in the mountains, but he’ll be minutes off the lead by that time and out of contention for the win (especially with the TT on stage 20).
And if everything written above proves to be fantasy, then I’ll go with Roglic for the win.

David July 7, 2018 at 9:29 am

“The only thing worse than G going downhill is Movistar’s tactics”

Er, Zakarin going downhill?

Gargatouf July 6, 2018 at 5:42 pm

Let’s be honest, except if Froome crashes out, he’s going to win, there’s no doubt about it. For whatever reason, fatigue isn’t a problem for him (I have my ideas as to why that is, but this isn’t the post for it). He’ll take the jersey either on stage 3 or in the first mountain stage and then the Sky train will kill the race. He’ll only have to follow them.

Last year, he had less time to recover between the Tour and the Vuelta and on his only bad day, lost about 20 seconds. Everyone that tried to do 2 GTs had at least one bad day that ended their chances of winning.

Since his announcement that he would ride the Giro towards the end of last year and even more since the news of his positive test came out, I’ve had a feeling that he’ll go for the GT treble this year (Portal spoke about it after the Vuelta last year) and I also think he’ll go for the World Championships. And I honestly think he’ll win both as well.

RolandDennis July 6, 2018 at 5:57 pm

The treble is an interesting idea but talking about it would make anyone who did a fool on the day he failed. The world champs is a non-starter as his one day form is just as absent from his palmares as his grand tour form is present. For me, Froome best quality is not his climbing, ITT or strong team: its his ability to recover. Its why grand tours are his major strength.

Noel July 6, 2018 at 8:05 pm

Veering wildly off topic now, but who is the protected name out of Froome, G, the Yates bros, for the worlds – maybe they all ride for TGH…

RolandDennis July 6, 2018 at 9:15 pm

Wouldn’t be surprised if it was a Yates. I’d be amazed if Froome even took part.

J Evans July 7, 2018 at 5:56 am

The thing about going for the trifecta is that you’ve nothing to lose: say Froome wins the Giro and the Tour and then ends up bimbling around Spain coming in 24th – it would still be an incredible season.
I don’t think it can be done and I don’t think he can win a one day race, but otherwise my feelings are very much aligned with those of Gargatouf.

Paul July 6, 2018 at 6:04 pm

Rigoberto Uran has been the quietest

Larry T July 6, 2018 at 6:22 pm

No predictions from me, just hopes: No nasty incidents caused by so-called fans. An exciting race raced to win rather than not to lose.
As an unabashed Italo-phile I’d like to see Nibali on the top step in Paris again. If not Nibali, Uran. If not Uran, Bardet or Barquil or Quintana would be a nice change.
In the “anybody but Froome/SKY” category I’d be happy enough with Dumoulin or even Yates.
Vive LeTour!

Nostrodamus July 6, 2018 at 11:55 pm

I agree with you Larry, no nasty crashes or incidents brought on by other then natural occurrences
or acts of god unrelated to humans.

escarabajo July 6, 2018 at 6:23 pm

Hoping for Uran and Bardet to both fare ‘OK’ or ‘better than expected’ in the TTT and then go all out on the Roubaix stage.

Dreaming, but not impossible.

Tim July 6, 2018 at 7:54 pm

For Valverde – Are we counting 2013 World Championships as a tactical error?

Foley July 6, 2018 at 8:21 pm

Huge disappointment (with Purito crying on the podium as proof), but mainly down to a lack of legs on AV’s part. Maybe Valverde could have spoken up if he knew he was not good for the finale, but neither Rodriguez nor anyone else was surprised that he did not.

While we’re here I’d criticize him a bit for the Dusseldorf crash too. Accidents happen, but job #1 in a rainy prologue is to make sure they don’t. The severity of the injury was surely bad luck though.

J Evans July 7, 2018 at 6:09 am

Plus countless races – it used to be a habit – where he’d refuse to work with others in any way at the end of races, resulting in the chase being killed, the rider out front winning and Valverde winning the sprint – usually for second or third. See: a lot of one-day races 2013-15.

Ferdi July 7, 2018 at 8:01 am

Or Dan Martin’s Lombardy, or any other time Valverde lost because of not chasing and expect others to tow him to a sprint.

Marlon July 6, 2018 at 8:04 pm

This TdF is definitely stacked to the brim with talent, fatigue is going to play a big role this year, I would love for Nibali to win another tour, and if not hopefully the colombians can wrestle the win away.

Anonymous July 6, 2018 at 10:27 pm

Froome’s a curious case. He’s won the last three GTs and arguably not been at his best in any of them. My gut feeling was that he was better in last years Vuelta than Tour, and in the Giro he clearly started undercooked and peaked late, so it doesn’t feel impossible that he will have decent form. I think it probably helps him that there is a bit of an aura about him now, even more so after the Giro. The riders he’s facing either have bad experiences of racing against him, or else inexperience.

But… four in a row? The Giro/Tour double?

Well, if he does it he will surely deserve his place as one of the greatest GT riders of all time.

Dime July 6, 2018 at 11:07 pm

I just hope all the contenders and all riders have a safe and good race and there is no side plot of some roadside nutter with a grudge!

Steppings July 6, 2018 at 11:21 pm

I do think Froome will succumb to fatigue and not win this Tour.

J Evans July 7, 2018 at 3:40 am

Although I think the first 10 days will see Froome/Sky in a fairly commanding lead I think Landa is being largely under-rated. If he comes out of the all that fairly unscathed in terms of time, he could be Froome’s biggest challenger. He looked like the best climber last year and although it has been said that he works better as an understudy that has also hampered him: he’d almost certainly have come 2nd in the Giro where he came third and who knows what he could have done in last year’s Tour (and that was after doing the Giro). Done nothing this year, but that’s not always a bad sign. Horrible time trialist, but it is lumpy.

J Evans July 7, 2018 at 4:37 am

Reading through these comments, one thing is clear: the vast majority of us would be far more likely to be more entertained by the race if it wasn’t for the strong likelihood of the TTT ruling out a lot of riders on stage 3.
Seeing a GC rider taking a load of time over his rivals on the cobbles or in a strong crosswind is exciting – seeing them take that time with the help of their uber-strong team in a TTT just isn’t.
A strong team helps riders enough as it is – including on cobbles and in crosswinds – a long TTT tilts the balance too much.
Sadly, a defensive procession by Sky is probably the most likely outcome for the mountains and, unless one’s only interest in cycling is seeing a certain rider win, that’s not going to be interesting to watch.

qualcuno July 7, 2018 at 9:59 am

I never understand where you are going with this criticism. It is a TEAM sport. Complaining the best team wins is perverse. Would you never have any TTT ever again?

J Evans July 7, 2018 at 11:35 am

A strong team helps riders enough as it is – a long TTT tilts the balance too much.
I can’t explain it any better than that.
A strong team helps you in the mountains, on the flat, in every situation.
It’s not only a team sport – otherwise every stage would be a TTT.
I’d quite happily never a TTT again – just my opinion.

osbk67 July 7, 2018 at 9:42 am

Many thanks INRNG, interesting and entertaining summary as usual.
To me picking Froome is too easy. It’s like picking the All Blacks to win at Eden Park. History predicts a win. Perhaps this year the pave on stage nine and the potential for echelons and splits prior to that make it more like picking the All Blacks to win when on tour – chances slightly reduced but Froome’s past results, experience and ability across climbs, descents and TTs mean he’s still the favourite.
What keeps me interested is thinking in terms of:
What would have to happen for Froome to falter at the TdF this year?
Is that likely to happen?
If that does happen who is likely to win instead?
Putting aside crashes and illness, which I wouldn’t wish on any rider, I can’t see Froome losing through being worked over by Porte, Quintana, Landa, Bardet and Uran on the climbs – the TTT and TT provide insurance against any losses there. More likely (although not necessarily probable!) is that he loses time on one or two of the first nine stages. That said, I think Porte, Quintana and Landa, among others, are equally or more likely to do the same. So, in picking from the field against Froome, I’ll go with Dumoulin to emerge from under the radar after stage nine and defend a lead over the chaotic efforts of other GC contenders to win. Bardet and Valverde for second and third, capitalising on their Classics experience and descending skills. Nibali and Uran to round out the top five. In the highly unlikely event we get that sort of result it’ll probably have been interesting getting there…

Eskerrik Asko July 7, 2018 at 4:59 pm

The Crane of Tatarstan.

jim July 6, 2018 at 9:44 pm

I thought it was a good comment by RonDe and enjoyed reading it. A bit long perhaps, but I didn’t see the alleged smugness.

Steve A July 7, 2018 at 1:04 am

+1

Kavan July 7, 2018 at 8:53 am

I agree.

RonDe July 7, 2018 at 10:03 am

We all see what we want to see jim.

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