Tour de France's top 5 contenders

By admin
02 July 2014

The first Tour de France was held in 1903. The competition has changed somewhat. Here are the top five contenders.

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.

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.

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.

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.

- Barnaby Chesterman, SAPA

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