Chris Froome wins Critérium du Dauphiné 2013 (thumbnail)

Tour de France 2013 favorites

Tour de France 2013 (100th edition of the race) will be held between 29th June and 21st July 2013. 3,479 km route will remain exclusively within France’s borders. And here are the favorites of the oldest grand tour:

Chris Froome (Team Sky)

Chris Froome wins Critérium du Dauphiné 2013
Chris Froome won Critérium du Dauphiné 2013
Chris Froome is the biggest favorite of this years’ Tour de France. He seems even stronger than 2012, when he looked stronger than the eventual winner, his teammate Bradley Wiggins in the mountains (Wiggins won’t participate in this year, due to a knee injury). He won the Critérium du Dauphiné recently, and was a runner-up in Tirreno-Adriatico, where he finished in second, just 23 seconds down to the eventual winner, Vincenzo Nibali of Astana. He has a very strong team, the strongest in the peloton actually, and unlike Tirreno-Adriatico or Giro d’Italia, Tour de France is a more “controllable” race for the strong teams. In Tirreno-Adriatico or Giro, weather conditions and inhuman-steep slopes are making difficult to control the race.He is the strongest rider in time-trials against the other GC contenders in this years’ Tour. A strong team, best in time-trials, one of the strongest in the mountains: that’s all what you need to win the Tour de France.

Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff)

Alberto Contador, Vuelta a España 2012
Alberto Contador won Vuelta a España 2012
Alberto Contador was helping his teammate Michael Rogers (who helped Wiggins to win the Tour last year) in Critérium du Dauphiné, so we cannot compare his latest form with Froome in the mountains. But in the time trial, he was not as strong as the previous years: he surprised everybody surprised when he finished only 61st in the time trial, being caught by Richie Porte (Team Sky) and conceding over three and a half minutes to the stage winner Tony Martin (Omega Pharma Quick Step). He blamed allergies for that poor performance.He appeared better in the mountains as the race progressed. He attacked on the final climb of the final stage, going clear with RadioShack Leopard’s Tony Gallopin, but ultimately sat up when his team-mate Michael Rogers got into difficulty and was dropped. He said: “After the Col de Vars I had a bit of bad luck, because in the only moment I dropped behind the group to get rid of my rain jacket, I had a bad fall. I got up, I went back to the group and the sensation was very good at the last climb”.
His biggest helpers will be Michael Rogers and Roman Kreuziger in the tour, both of them are really strong riders.
He will probably attack on Froome in every mountain stage and try to get a few seconds here and there, because Froome is clearly superior in the time trials.
In Vuelta a España 2012, he showed us that ha can still win when the victory seems impossible. Before the relatively flat stage 17, Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha) was 22 seconds ahead of Alberto Contador in general classification. With 53km to go, Contador attacked from the main peloton on the climb of Collado La Hoz, and joined the breakaway group. Then With 23km to go, Contador’s friend and former teammate Paolo Tiralongo of Astana attacked ahead of the intermediate sprint and Contador gone with him (Contador had gifted a stage win to Tiralongo in Giro 2011). The pair gradually opened the gap over the rest of the break. Then Tiralongo dropped Contador went for a solo win, and tok the red jersey from Rodríguez, wh finished in 10th, 0:02:38 behind Contador.
That showed us, you can never count Contador off.

Alejandro Valverde (Movistar Team)

Alejandro Valverde wins Vuelta a España 2012 stage 8
Alejandro Valverd wins Vuelta a España 2012 stage 8
Alejandro Valverde is not the top time-tralist, but not bad at all. He is a strong climber but not as strong as Contador or Froome. But he never gives up. This year he has a very strong team and a great lieutenant: Nairo Quintana.
I think he can finish in the podium, and maybe win a stage or two, but winning this years’ Tour will be hard for Valverde.

Cadel Evans (BMC Racing Team)

Cadel Evans
Cadel Evans won the 2011 Tour de France
The 2011 Tour de France winner was good in this years’ Giro d’Italia. He is a good puncheur, a perfect time-trialist (he was not good in time trials in Giro, though) and one of the best climbers. His best helper will be Tejay Van Garderen, who is one of the best climbers in peloton. But helping a teammate is another thing, and I am not sure that Van Garderen is as good as, for example, Szmyd of Movistar. Cadel always suffered lack of the strong team support. This is the most important negative point to him. But he can fight alone well, and finishing in top 5 is highly likely. Winning? I don’t think he can win, but not impossible.

Joaquim Rodríguez (Katusha Team)

Joaquim Rodriguez red jersey Vuelta a España 2012 stage 16
Joaquim Rodriguez
Rodríguez was second overall both in Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España last year. He lost the Giro in the last time trial stage to Ryder Hesjedal (Garmin-Sharp), and Vuelta in the stage 17 to Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff). He is one of the best climbers on earth, but it is his lack of time trial ability costs him the grand tours (another example is 2010 Vuelta a España, he lost the red jersey in a time trial stage).
He improved his time trialing in recent years, but is it enough to beat Froome? I don’t think so. But he is a strong candidate for the podium.

Other GC Contenders

Andy Schleck (RadioShack-Leopard): still desperately chasing form ahead of the Tour. Maybe top ten, but even top ten is really hard to him.

Jacob Fuglsang (Astana): his buildup to the Tour de France has been interrupted by a high speed training crash which also took down two Astana team-mates (Assan Bazayev out of Tour, Andriy Grivko may also have to miss race), although the Danish rider is the least injured of the three riders.He will race to win, but I think he can’t do it this year.

Others to watch

Peter Sagan (Cannondale)

Peter Sagan, the Incredible Hulk
Peter Sagan does his Incredible Hulk victory celebration as he edges André Greipel in Stage Three of the Tour de France 2012 edition.
Last years’ green jersey winner Peter Sagan is hoping to wear the Tour de France race leader’s maillot jaune (yellow jersey), before going on to fight for a second points competition green jersey in this year’s 100th edition of the Grand Boucle. The Slovak will be the sole leader of the Cannondale team.

Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step)

Mark Cavendish wins Giro d'Italia stage 21
Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step) wins Giro d’Italia stage 21
No need to say much, the Manx Missile is one of the strongest candidate to the green jersey with Sagan. He won all the five sprint stages in this years’ Giro d’Italia.
Since the Prologue first took place in 1967, the only two inaugural stages fought out in normal racing fashion in 2008 and 2011, favored the punchers. The finish was uphill. This time, it will be on the flat, means, both Cavendish and Sagan have a chance to wear the yellow jersey first time in their career.

Thomas Voeckler (Europcar)

Thomas Voeckler riding Colnago C59 KOM Edition
Thomas Voeckler won the KOM jersey in the Tour de France 2012.
Always a spectacular rider. Last years’ KOM winner has the capability of doing many things: winning stages, wearing the yellow jersey, winning the KOM jersey… Always good to watch him in action.

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