Tuesday, 25 June 2013
2013 Tour de France ..... and the winner will be ...?
Will it be Froome and Team Sky?
Chris Froome last year's runner up to Bradley Wiggins (now Sir Brad) is the clear favourite.
He has had an impressive first half of the season winning The Tour of Oman, the Tour of Romandie and most recently the Critérium du Dauphiné. Froome has only been beaten by Vincenzo Nibali in very cold conditions in the Tireno-Adriatico. Nibali, clear winner of the Giro d'Italia and perhaps potential the biggest threat to Froome, will not be riding the Tour this year. Froome is a great all rounder – fine climber and excellent time triallist.
Of the leading contenders Froome has shown that he is the strongest time trialler. Although I expect that Tony Martin will win the first time trial he is not a contender for overall victory. Froome might well take the hilly 17th stage time trial in the Alps that has two category 2 climbs.
Alberto Contador is the other favourite. However, he was comfortably beaten by Froome in the Dauphiné. Contador appears to have lost some of that killer acceleration that he had previously in the 2009 Tour for example. Certainly he has lost his time trialling ability - this has been evident since 2011 both in the Dauphiné and the Tour that year. In the crucial final time trial that year from Bordeaux to Pauillac, Andy Schleck threatened for a time to take Tour victory from Contador, who in the end put enough seconds into Schleck to hold on. But it wasn't an impressive performance. In the event Contador was later disqualified and stripped of his victory as he failed a doping control with Schleck being declared the winner. Then this year in the Dauphiné Contador rode a stinker of a time trial. Fortunately for Contador there are 65km of individual time trialling this year compared to 110 last year.
It is possible, of course, that Contador will hit peak condition for the Tour. Impressive form in the Dauphiné is not necessarily replicated in the Tour as Iban Mayo and Lance Armstrong showed in 2004, when Mayo comfortably beat Armstrong on a time trial up Mont Ventoux but then disappointed in the Tour. In those days, of course, it may have been a question of ensuring that Armstrong's EPO treatment was designed to deliver him in top form for the Tour, and Mayo had misjudged his! Last year Wiggins won the Dauphiné and then went on to win the Tour, so perhaps with today’s cleaner racing the Dauphiné is a better guide to Tour form than it was previously.
Some of the other contenders include Cadel Evans, who is a threat but I think at 36 is more likely to be a contender for a podium place rather than overall victory. His young team mate Tejay Van Garderen could be a winner, although it depends upon whether he has to support Evans rather than go for victory himself.
Ryder Hesjedal, the 2012 winner of the Giro, has had a difficult lead up to the Tour having to abandon both the Giro and the Tour of Switzerland. Jurgen Van den Broeck and Columbian Nairo Quintana should be discounted. Robert Gesink has frequently been cited as a potential Grand Tour winner but has yet to produce the goods when it matters. It will be a major surprise if Andy Schleck does more than finish in the top ten – that already would be a triumph.
Stages 6 and 7 in the Pyrenees should be the first real indicator of who are actually the leading contenders this year.