Who Will Finish Third in the Tour?

Tour de France winner odds bookmakers

The odds on Bradley Wiggins winning the Tour de France are now so short that the some bookmakers price him as a safer pick than Lance Armstrong in 2003. Cadel Evans is a close second but as the table above from oddschecker.com shows, everyone else is far out. Madness?

Possibly and we should note that the odds are a price and not a probability, it is likely that a lot of people have been putting a lot of money on Evans and Wiggins and this has shortened the odds. But precision apart, Wiggins and Evans are the two prime contenders. Who are the others capable of finishing on the podium?

À la recherche du temps perdu
First a reminder of the 2012 Tour de France route. There are three time trial stages totalling 101km of solo effort and these will prove crucial to the result. There’s less climbing in the race this year but if it is reduced, it cannot be avoided. Some of the mountains comes in classic set piece stages with summit finishes but other stages are more experimental where the race organisers hope breakaways will succeed and climbers will attempt long range moves to gain time. In short this route favours the time trial specialists but the winner will be an all round rider capable of staying with the front group in the mountains.

Vincenzo Nibali is first on the list after Evans and Wiggins. He’s won the Vuelta and is now looking for success in the Tour de France. But he’s not a TT specialist, and by some way. He can hope for a top-20 position in the time trials and then consistent climbing and wild descending to haul himself up the rankings. But third place? I think the top-5 is a better bet. In the Dauphiné he was well off the pace against the watch and also when climbing.

Denis Menchov is an unknown factor. He’s won the Vuelta and the Giro and finished on the podium of the Tour de France. But the consistency hasn’t been evident this year. Now with Katusha he’s had a quiet season. In times past he has shown some form in races like the Giro and Dauphiné but his best performance this year was in the Tour of Catalonia where he placed second. But a recent win in the Russian TT championships bodes well for him, especially as he was well clear of the rivals.

Jurgen Van den Broeck is another decent pick. He’s so consistent that he’s talked of as a candidate for the Tour de France but he’s only ever won one race during his entire career. He crashed out of the Tour last year but fifth place in the Dauphiné suggests all is on track; he’ll have to share a team dedicated to helping sprinter André Greipel.

Chris Froome is a dark horse but a good pick. He almost won the Vuelta last year but team duties meant he helped Wiggins instead of challenging Cobo. Able to time trial, if he sticks with Wiggins in the high mountains he could be a decent pick. But his Vuelta performance was a surprise and as they French say he needs to confirm.

Robert Gesink has been around for some time but still hoping to make the leap from hopeful to proven stage racer. This year has been different though, he won the Tour of California and is showing surprising ability against the watch. His rangy legs make him appear like a climber but his best performances have been against the watch this year. Fourth in the Tour de France was a good result; he was off the pace in the mountains but if he improves – and he stays upright – a top-5 is likely.

Samuel Sanchez can climb very well and if he makes the front group in the mountains he might be given some leeway to sneak off for the stage win, building a buffer of time that he’ll surely lose against the watch. If you’re betting, perhaps pick him for stage wins and the mountains jersey but third place this year? Unlikely. I think the same for Fränk Schleck who is a pure climber. I’d thought that the arrival of Johan Bruyneel following the team mergers would bring gains against the clock but this hasn’t happened. Instead he’s been playing to his strengths and we saw some great aggressive riding in the Tour of Switzerland. This riding could bring results and a high overall position but I fear the time losses will be big plus he could spend much of July planning his breakaway from the team instead of the race.

Alejandro Valverde is an unknown quantity. Once touted as a race winner, things are different after his two year doping ban. But he’s been versatile this year, I don’t see him in third place. Instead a stage win is a possibility and a high finish overall.

Ryder Hesjedal will be worth watching. A surprise winner of the Giro, every time I thought he’d crack he just broke the others. But if the Giro is a fine race, the Tour is a level higher. He’s Mr Consistent and a candidate for the top-5.

Pierre Rolland is seen as the next big thing in French cycling. His build suggests he’s an all rounder but despite visits to the wind tunnel he’s been struggling in the time trials this year. He finished 34th in the French national TT championships, losing time to range of part-time riders.

Janez Brajkovic won the 2010 Dauphiné to the surprise of many. He did this in the time trial stage too. But he’s never seemed consistent enough for a podium spot in the Tour de France. Perhaps he seizes his chance this time and the top-10 is possible.

Tony Martin could win the time trials but he’s too big to survive the moutains. If there is less climbing it is concentrated with steep ramps and if he takes the yellow jersey ahead of the mountains he should prove easy to dislodge. Fellow German Andreas Kloeden could surprise but he thrives on helping others rather than being team leader. He’s versatile but will still lose time against the watch.

Levi Leipheimer is an interesting outside pick with more value than the odds suggest after third place in the Tour of Switzerland but he didn’t have a great time trial whilst team mate Peter Velits was once an outside pick for me at one point the Tour of Switzerland didn’t go so well although he made the top-10 of the TT stage.

Chris Horner is a late call-up for Radioshack-Nissan but he’s a climber and likely to lose a lot of time. Lieuwe Westra pushed Bradley Wiggins close in Paris-Nice, the only rider to really challenge the Briton. But he’s even more unproven in the three week race. He’s in form though, the new Dutch TT champion could surprise.

Thomas Voeckler has been suffering from an injury. He took time last year with breakaways and then staying with the front group in the mountains but unless he’s on the ultimate bluff a top-10 looks rare. Another surprise from last year was J-J Cobo who has since been invisible since winning the Vuelta. An attacking climber when he’s on form, I can’t see him going near the top-10 in this race.

Tom Danielson is often picked as an outsider and every year Jonathan Vaughers brings a revelation to the Tour. If they haven’t used up their karma quota in the Giro maybe the Colorado rider will impress, seventh place in the Tour of Switzerland hints at this but there haven been a lot of hints during the past too.

Rui Costa Suica

Finally there are others that aren’t on the list from the bookmakers (whilst Kreuziger and Fuglsang are listed but they are not riding). Astana’s Andrey Kashechkin was the only rider able to follow Jérôme Coppel and Cadel Evans on Stage 1 of the Dauphiné when a small climb split the field. Team leader Vinokourov has tipped “Kash” to finish on the podium. He would say that but Astana are having a surprisingly good year although I think third place might set alarm bells ringing. As for Coppel, third place is fantasy but his aim is to crack the top-10. Tejay van Garderen is like Froome, if he can stay with his team leader Evans then he can build on the time trials for a good place. Rui Costa won the Tour of Switzerland, if you want a guide to form then this is the biggest test and he beat the rest but largely thanks to his climbing skills; again he’s a stage hunter this time. Luis Leon Sanchez is better against the clock but I don’t see him in the top-10, he’s more likely to win a stage in the Pyrenees after a long breakaway. And I will add Richie Porte who again isn’t on the list above but can time trial very well and if he stays with the leaders in the high mountains can get a high finish, it is just a question of how hard he works for his team on the front against helping himself.

Finally Ivan Basso is riding and if you want Mr Consistent, he could be a pick. He’s promised to “devote” himself to Nibali but we’ll see, his team knows Nibali is leaving for Astana so they might offer more support.

The bookmakers put money on future events but all the same, the certainty implied about Bradley Wiggins and Cadel Evans seems excessive. If a grand tour is about consistent performances every day, one mistake or mishap can ruin everything.

However for the sake of argument I’ve run through the contenders for third place and it’s a hard pick. Wiggins and Evans do seem on a level above the others. The need to gain time in the time trials but finish with the leaders in the high mountains means only a few can hope for the top three. If the bookmakers have Nibali in third place recent form suggests otherwise. Instead I think Jurgen Van den Broeck and Chris Froome could offer better chances, the same for Robert Gesink and Denis Menchov.

But forecasting is for fools. It’s far from certain that both Wiggins and Evans make it to Paris. As I type the weather forecast for Saturday’s prologue in Liège is uncertain so trying to predict the outcome of racing over several weeks is something to do for fun rather than a calculated assessment. And rightly so, the next month will hopefully bring surprise, amazement and excitement. What if a breakaway escapes early in the race and takes a big lead?

52 thoughts on “Who Will Finish Third in the Tour?”

  1. Dan Martin. Garmin always surprise and I think he could be their joker this year. They say he’ll target the mountains jersey and he’ll lose time in TTs but if he gets up the road on a mountain stage he could put himself in a prime place. It’s happened before.

  2. Why not Richie Porte? If Froome is still a chance with his domestique duties, why not Richie? He’s been in great form and putting the hurt on on the front in recent races.

    • Thanks… I think the list was long enough already. But Froome seems the most complete after the Vuelta. But Porte and Rogers are good picks for the top-10 for the same reason: if they stay with their leader in the mountains then they can take time on many others in the TT. The whole squad was very strong in the Dauphiné. I’ve added Porte to the text above.

    • I love Chavanel, but I suspect he’ll be doing what he does–spending large portions of the Tour off the front. I suspect he’ll have a long leash, too, since Boonen won’t be racing, and Leipheimer or Veltis could always use a guy up the road on mountain stages. Perhaps Chavanel will grab a stage win or two.

  3. Gesink has never put it together for a whole GT, but if he does he’s a big threat to win–one of the few who can threaten to drop Evans, and his TT ability has improved markedly. Unfortunately, he’s inconsistent and injury-prone.

    There are a lot of downhill finishes this year, and that could make for some interesting tactics. Nibali and Sanchez are two of the best. Of course, Evans is no slouch at this, but a Nibali/Sanchez attack at the crest of a climb could make for some tense racing.

  4. This article dares to consider MULTIPLE French riders, yet Richie Porte is mentioned only once, and in the comments at that.

    Unlike any of the Frenchmen, he is Grand Tour proven, riding in support of Wiggins, and anything but a slouch against the clock.

  5. A lot of folks are giving too much importance to the time trials. They cannot be viewed out of context of the entire race. Leipheimer has an incredibly strong team and has not yet found top form in the ITT. He is the strongest all-arounder after Wiggins and Evans and has stood on the podium before. He will finish third again.

    • Levi’s likely to show up with ITT form, and when he’s in form, he’s a major contender in all ITTs.

      He’s got Sylvain Chavanel and five strong domestiques for the mountains, so I also wouldn’t be surprised if he finished 3rd, again:)

      That being said, a little voice in the back of my head does wonder about the 2007 podium,
      as Contador (1st) and Leipheimer (3rd) were both riding for Discovery Channel with Bruyneel. …need I say more?

      Evans stood second that year and I’m confident that he was clean.

  6. Assuming from the order of battle we have seen so far this year that the Sky hierarchy for GC is Wiggins, Froome, Porte , Rogers (the order of the last two is debatable), then neither Porte or Rogers will go hard enough in the TTs to be top 3 contenders. When they have done their turn of pace making in the mountains and they pop they will loose time. For Rogers in particular when they are setting up for Cav, when his turn is done in the chase or leadout same thing, pop and sit up, save energy for tomorrow.

    If Wiggo crashes, then they have a shot at being Sky no.2 and starting to limit losses and stay high on GC.

    • I think Port will actually be Wiggo’s deputy this time round, he’s been on fire all season and has never left his side – the interesting thing to note with him and Froome is that they don’t seem to actually pop in the mountains either, they do their turn and fall back a few places at best: I wouldn’t be surprised to see Sky place 2-4 riders in the top 10 with 2 on the podium

      • You could be right, the year started that way but Froome wasnt racing then. As for not loosing much time, in a one week race that may be so but if you are rationing your energy for 3 weeks things are different. Asan Aussie having Mick and Richie in the top 5 or 10 with Cadel would be great but I cant see it happening.

    • I agree. There is no doubt in my mind that Froome is Plan B if Wiggo crashes or blows up. He hasn’t been asked to do any “work” in any of the lead-in stage races, whereas Porte has been charged with taking up the duties once EBH blows a gasket. I think Rogers has a dual role involving Cavendish but he could be Plan C. I would love it if Sky used these numbers aggressively (sending one or more of them up the road) rather than defensively but I am probably dreaming.

      VdB and Leipheimer are the other two I think although I’d prefer it if Gesink got above the latter to round out the top 5.

  7. Garmin’s got Ryder Hesjedal and Tom Danielson, both potentials for the third step, as INRNG states.

    If Ryder’s got form like he had in the Giro, then we’re in for a treat. He’s also got the confidence of a GT win under his belt now and the weight of a nation off of him:) Solid TT, too, but will he be able to follow the lean Wiggins in a breakaway in the high mountains? His climbing style is more like Cadel’s.

    If not Ryder, then it’s time for Tommy D! Forty-eight secs off Rui Costa’s winning time in TdS. He’s had impressive Top 10s for years, but that won’t cut the mustard in his mind this year, I’m sure.
    At 178 cm / 58.5 kg, he’s got the body of a pure climber with solid TT skills, too. With Dan Martin and CVV as superb domestiques for this edition, the foursome from Garmin should be able to put something exciting together.

  8. Hope fully Vande Velde will get it all together this year. A few times before he was in form of his life & team leader, but injuries/accidents have got better of him.

  9. Nibali, Sanchez are good picks for third and even the win in the Tour! If they are close to the top by stage 16 I think they will really go for it.

  10. The fact that some forecasts seem so wobbly, because we’re basically talking about riders who are either perhaps past their prime, or largely unconfirmed, makes me think there are going to be surprises this year. The Kreuziger-less Astana bandwagon (Brajkovic, Kessiakoff, Kashechkin, Kiserlovski, Vinokurov) could provide some of those. Movistar has decided to leave home young Quintana, who was riding like a new Herrera, and pick mysterious Cobo instead (probably for PR reasons).
    But still, the basic question is who will be able to outclimb Wiggins or Evans. It is very difficult, but probably someone around here has it in his legs. Like Jason, I’d love it if it was Níbali o Samuel, but come the Alps & Pyrenees, it could be someone else.

    • It is not only the climbs, it is the downhills as well. In the Dauphine Wiggins showed some weakness in that area so I believe that all serious contenders will be looking to take time in such situations.

  11. Bookmakers can only put money on future events by offering odds which the public find compelling. They seem to find Wiggins and Evans very compelling.

    Forecasting maybe for fools, but there is a deep, liquid market out there if you think you know better….

  12. As alluded to above, Garmin have a lot of cards, but no trump card, but this coud make for an extremely exciting race. Garmin should throw the kitchen sink at Sky and BMC, attempting to throw any combo of Ryder, CVV, Martin, and Danielson up the road in the lumpy days (especially watch out in the Jura) and cause them to burn their guys before they get to the Pyrenees.

    I hope JV plays aggressive.

  13. I don’t think Dan Martin can be used as a wild card for GC, his TT results so far have been more Schleck than Wiggins.

    I think it’s wise to put some money on Sanchez and Gesink. I can’t see their odds staying that long into the third week, so could be sold for a profit before the final TT.

  14. There’s always someone who’s going to be a surprise that makes guessing pointless – 2006 was Perreiro (who would’ve been second regardless of Floyd), 2007 was Contador (and, err, Rasmussen), 2008 was Sastre winning it (and, err, Kohl), 2009 was Wiggo (and Lance 2.0 coming third if we’re being honest), 2010 was van den Broeck (no-one really saw him coming) and 2011 was Tommy Voeckler.
    There’s going to be someone no-one’s thought of as a contender in the top 5, just a question of where in the top 5.

  15. I’m picking an American. It will be Horner, Leipheimer or Vandevelde. Which one, who knows? I think Horner will kick butt in the climbs, but with the climbs not as selective this year, he may not be able to get enough time in hand for the time trials. He’s not a bad time-trialer though. And, as has been proven time and again, the final time trial of the Tour is less about the best time-trialist and more about who has the most gas left in the tank. Levi will be predictably deisel-like in the climbs and solid in the time trials. The big question mark for me is Vandevelde. When he is on form, he can climb and TT with the best. And with this being the first time in a few years that his health and preparation have gone smoothly, look out!

  16. As it has been pointed out by a few persons many people seem to put too much emphasis on TTs. Consider 2006 and 2007 that had respectively 116 and 117 km of time trialing and still it was long breakaways or climbing that made the difference.

    In 2007 Michael Rasmussen build a +3 mins. lead over contador (and even more to Cadel Evans and Leipheimer in the following positions) due to his climbing abilities before he was disqualified (for giving wrong information about his whereabouts). He never did the last TT, but despite his weakness in TTs there is little doubt that he would have held onto his lead with contador 3 mins. down and Evans about 5 mins. down.

    • Interesting point, Hunun Ghulk, but without hugely decisive climbs this year, I don’t see where any of the GC guys are going to get 3-5 minutes. And so far this season, no one looks that much better on the climbs. I think this will be a close Tour – only seconds gained/lost in both the climbs and time trials – not minutes. In fact, I wouldn’t be too surprised if this turned out to be the closest Tour ever! However, it would be exciting to see someone really animate the climbs, instead of the usual wait for the final kilometer or two. And with only 3 mountaintop finishes, maybe a great descender like Nibali could get enough time to make a difference. Another thought: One of the favorites could easily lose the Tour in the first week on a windy, echelon day. Can’t wait!

  17. Wrong and wrong….That Monty Python mugged Wiggins is going to get left on the side of the road like he was getting hit on the head lessons from Ryder Hesjedal!!!! Evans will be even further back pretending he’s got mechanical problems when he can’t keep up……Ryder(1)..Nibs(2)..Wiggy(3)

  18. Christian Vande Velde is conspicuously absent from that chart. He’s been mentioned in the comments already, but let me flesh out my vote for CVV as the dark horse for 3rd. Hesjedal could well be tapped out from the Giro. Tommy D is talented and quite able, but historically inconsistent. But CVV’s form is definitely coming on and looks to be peaking for the TDF. Also, that 4th place in 2008 serves the dual purpose of being both painful and a confidence builder. He can use either or both as incentive. Finally, CVV is the most experienced guy on the team and knows how to read a race. If Hesjedal and Tommy D don’t emerge as the clear protected riders, he’ll be looking for every opportunity to assume that spot. He’s also a fine time trialist, which will serve him well in this year’s TT-heavy TDF.

  19. I’m looking at how deep “the bench” is for each team and clearly BMC and Sky have a load of talent to shepherd their lead guys. I think Garmin has put together a very strong team to rival what the bigs have in place. Over a long tour the team sure helps when things get tough it certainly was evident at the Giro in lieu of someone just up and turning the tables on the field, like on the Stelvio. Although my heart would love to see Ryder up there on the podium I will certainly expect one of the Garmin boys delivered to the podium, but not without a fight. As JV says its not the size of dog in the fight but the size of the fight in the dog…. or something like that! It’ll be good fun, just hope its not spoiled by a couple early stage crashes .

  20. Here is something I find interesting. We’ve heard over and over how this is a tour for time trialers and how few mountains there are. And yes, there are a lot of time trial miles, or kilometers depending on where you’re from, and yes, there is one less summit finish. However, there is one fewer “flat stage” compared to last year, and one more “medium mountain stage”. And, which I find odd that I can’t remember anyone mentioning this, there are more categorized climbs (Cat 2-HC), 25 v 23, this year compared to last year. I’m not saying that a pure climber will win this year, but I think the mountains will play a much bigger role than people are giving them credit.

  21. What about Rein Taaramae for a top 10? While I know he hasn’t produced this year and is recovering from Mono, last years performance in the Tour is promising, especially taking 10th in the TT. Could the turmoil at Cofidis with Boyer’s sacking affect his odds of a solid finish?

  22. Don’t think anyone has mentioned Scarponi for 3rd. I’d put him top 10 myself but still, surprised he isn’t noted. Gesink is my pick for 3rd.

  23. Forecasting is for fools but there is a lot of money in it for us fools! I nominated Chris Froome as a likely podium place at odds of 40/1. Now his price is almost half that. If you’re a trader, then that’s profit. It should be pointed out that Wiggins lost all his time to Martin and Froome on Stage 10 of the Vuelta 2011, Froome was going that well, that early. With the time trial before the climbs this year over 42 kilometres, he’s almost certain to have a buffer of time before the real climbing begins and if he follows and controls as per team orders then there shouldn’t be any time lost going into Week 3 which would see his price fall even further. So it’s advisable to get on him now at 25/1 as that won’t be available anywhere close to the Alps.

Comments are closed.