Le Tour de France is upon us again, and with no clear favourite for the 2016 yellow jersey, it’s gearing up to be one hell of a contest - so who's going to win? Who should you bet on for the 2016 Tour de France?
Chris Froome has already stated this year that he’ll be prioritising the Tour ahead of the Olympic road cycling in Rio, in which he’ll be competing in the road race and the time trial this August. He’ll be leading Team Sky on Le Tour and looking to become the first rider to defend a Tour de France title since Miguel Indurain 21 years ago in 1995.
Who will be Froome’s main rivals for the Tour de France title? With Vincenzo Nibali competing only as a domestique this year, it looks like it’s going to be a three way battle between the Kenyan-born Team GB star, Spanish two-time Tour winner Alberto Contador and Colombian climbing specialist Nairo Quintana, though Astana’s Fabio Aru will be hoping to keep in the mix as well.
So, who’s got the main advantage? We had a chat with British cycling legend and gold medallist Chris Boardman to ask him exactly that. So without further ado, let’s take a closer look at the riders who will be gunning for the win, and what their chances will be come July:
Le Tour de France 2016 | The Contenders and Favourites for the Yellow Jersey
“I've been asked the question a lot and I've sort of semi side-stepped the question because I genuinely don't know, which is quite an exciting prospect," Chris told us. “Just the dynamics of there being more than one favourite; that changes the race. Because you can't watch everybody, you've got to make a choice."
Here’s what he thinks of the favourites:
Chris Froome (11/8)*
Chris Boardman says: “Chris Froome is in great shape, but he's not devastating; he didn't do the winning early season that he did last year, but he's obviously there or there abouts and the favourite.
“The advantage Team Sky has is that it’s such an experienced team. They've got the money to buy the strongest riders, and they’ve got some incredible support riders so they've got strength in depth. So when it comes down to the proper fight, they're the people who are likely to have one or two workers still left when you've got a group of ten."
We Say: Chris Froome is the obvious favourite for this year’s Tour de France, simply because he showed he can win it with his second success last year and has already outlined that defending his tour title will be his priority this year – but it won’t be easy.
Froome hasn’t done a whole lot of racing this year, though his schedule before he won in 2015 was also light, albeit due to illness. Chris has been training at altitude in Mpumalanga in South Africa with Ian Boswell and has competed in the Herald Sun Tour, where he soloed to victory at Arthurs Seat, and the Volta a Catalunya, where he was quite far back from Contador and Quintana, finishing eighth overall.
That said, Froome finished 71st in the Volta a Catalunya last year and went on to win the Tour, so it’s hard to say how much you can take from his early schedule riding. He also did manage to fend off several attacks from Contador to take the Criterium du Dauphiné title more recently. Both his previous victories in the Dauphiné, in 2013 and 2015, have been followed by Tour wins.
Chris Froome says: “I’m not at my best yet. I hope to reach that for the start of the Tour de France. I’m coming into it a little bit fresher and I’m hoping that will bring me into the third week of the race in better shape. But I can’t say if that’s going to happen or not. Wait and see, but the third week of this year’s Tour is going to be extremely hard."
Nairo Quintana (2/1)
Chris Boardman says: “Nairo Quintana got to within a minute of him [Froome] last year and was closing fast and one more day in the mountains might have been enough sort of thing.
“We're not going to know anything about him because he's not doing any of the prep events; he's just going to rock up from home. He's done it [like that] before, but that's going to be an unknown."
We Say: After finishing last year just a minute behind Chris Froome, and having come second behind Froome each time the Brit has won the Tour de France, Quintana will have all the motivation he needs to power on and launch a bid for the yellow jersey.
Given that he’s only competed in the Tour twice and has finished second each time, it’s safe to say he’ll be thirsty for the win, and his early season form suggests he could do it too. As well as wins at the Volta a Catalunya and Tour of Romandie, third place finishes at the Tour de San Luis and in the Basque Country, on climbs less suited to his style of riding, showed he’s got the potential for Le Tour.
In recent weeks, while his competitors have been racing away, Quintana has opted for altitude training ahead of the Tour. It will be interesting to see if this pays off for the Movistar man.
Nairo Quintana says: “We have done good preparation. I am healthy and I’m emotionally very well.
“So far everything is going well [in training]. I always say I’m a professional. I’ve trained one hundred percent to reach the big goal. I am the same as last year, with more maturity and tranquillity, knowing that I have a good team that will help me"
Alberto Contador (7/2)
Chris Boardman says: “[Alberto] Contador is in great shape at the moment. He's really interesting and there will be somebody else who pops up because there always is."
We Say: Alberto may not have won the Tour since 2009, but he’s got the experience and the mindset to win it again this year. He was only nine minutes back last year having won the Giro d’Italia in May before racing.
He’s started strongly in 2016, winning at the Tour of the Basque Country and effectively confirming that his pending retirement has been shelved for now. The TInkoff 33-year-old won a stage at the Volta ao Algarve, almost beat Geraint Thomas on the final day of Paris-Nice and was beaten only by winner Nairo Quintana at the Volta a Catalunya.
Experienced, clever, logical and powerful, Contador can’t be ruled out for the 2016 Tour de France.
Alberto Contador says: “The two time trials stand out and are probably the ones that make the difference from the 2015 parcours. Both time trials are tough, the first one not excessively long and therefore I like them both.
“The mountain stages are evenly spread out from start to finish and you will have to manage your forces very well in order not to reach the final stages worn out. Is it a Tour for climbers? Yes, it is. I will prepare for it one hundred percent."
Fabio Aru (17/1) – Outside shot
Chris Boardman says: “Aru is looking quite good in the Dauphiné at the moment quite interestingly. I think he's still a bit raw personally, but he's probably good enough to cause some trouble, but that's about it."
We Say: Fabio Aru has shown that he has what it takes to win a Grand Tour having taken the win at the Vuelta a Espana last year, and he’ll be leading Astana at the Tour this time around. Neverthless, he’s going to have to work hard and improve his form if he is to challenge for a place on the podium.
Fabio had a slow start to 2016 and it’s hard to know how he’ll handle the Tour, having never ridden in it before, but a victory in Sestriere in May showed that the potential is there. That makes him somewhat of a wildcard, and perhaps not a bad outside bet. Particularly with Vincenzo Nibali as one of his helpers. Nibali looks to have a free roll in the team, and many were unsure whether or not he would compete.
The rider won the Tour in 2014 by a fine margin, albeit following a Tour de France crash from several other riders, so whatever role he plays for Aru, he'll be glad to have him on the team.
If Aru is going to get on the podium or even wear the yellow jersey, he’ll be counting on the mountain stages, and he showed once again he has the power on those climbs with an impressive win on stage three of the Criterium du Dauphiné at the start of June.
Fabio Aru says: “I’m building my form ahead of the Tour de France. I want the best preparation possible for the Tour and I’ll return to Sestriere again for another 10 days on Sunday evening after the Dauphiné. I’ve already seen some of the stages for the Tour in the last week.
“It’s natural in my career that I come to the Tour this year after winning the Vuelta. With the Giro and the Vueltra I’ve competed against the best riders; Froome, Contador, Nibali, Valverde, Quintana and Rodriguez but I don’t know the Tour so I’ll keep my feet on the ground."
Le Tour de France 2016 | The Tour de France Race Route, and Who It Will Favour
Chris Froome will be delighted at the prospect of stage 13 of the Tour – a 37km time trial through the Ardeche region on the 2016 Tour de France route. His performances in the time trials were paramount to his win in 2013, and the route favours his strengths immensely – with the hilly nature of the route playing into his hands. He'll also be looking to put one over his rivals before taking to the Olympic time trial course this summer.
However, Nairo Quintana has also expressed his pleasure that the time trials are not completely flat, and that they should allow him to keep close to Froome. From his perspective, the fact that the time trials are short means that there’s not as much time to be lost on them.
The flowly nature of the stage 13 time trial should also favour Alberto Contador, and he’ll be confident that Froome won’t put too much past him on this stage.
Froome may also struggle to gain much on his rivals during stage 18’s uphill time trial, with gradients up to 11 percent. Quintana meanwhile will be more confident of keeping up with Froome until the mountain stages this year, with less trouble along the way, and when it hits the mountains, you can be sure he’ll make his move.
Fabio Aru will no doubt be targeting these stages too, while Contador, with a team of athletic Tinkoff-Saxo riders around him, will also be looking to grab opportunities on the climbs and take the yellow jersey early.
Stage five will be the first real chance for any of the contenders to make a statement, with some sizable climbs on the route. Froome will be looking to grab the yellow jersey here, but he’s up against some strong climbers.
*Odds provided from William Hill online and correct as of 14 June