July 11, 2015
Just seven stages in, and the 2015 Tour de France has already been one of the most dramatic in years – Fabian Cancellara withdrew after fracturing two vertebrae in the horrific crash that interrupted Monday’s stage three from Antwerp to Mur de Huy; and after hitting the tarmac in Thursday’s stage six, Tony Martin, the yellow jersey holder, has also had to pull out.
Who does that leave in the pack to take up his mantle? Last year it was Chris Froome and Vincenzo Contador who crashed out leaving Vincenzo Nibali to breeze to victory. However, so far this year the Big 4 of Chris Froome, Nairo Quintana, Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali have all managed to stay safe.
But can they last the whole hog? Let’s hope they manage to hold on throughout the upcoming serious mountain stages, including the quick, shorter ones around L’Alpe d’Huez.
Chris was the favourite going into the Tour, and it is him who will assume the yellow jersey following Tony Martin’s departure. So far this season Froome has won the Vuelta a Andalucia, and then returned following illness to finish third in the Tour de Romandie. He also recently won the Criterium du Dauphine, which is arguably the most important pre-Tour warm-up race.
A main concern for Froome’s fans though will be whether Team Sky can hold it together for him. They showed significant frailties earlier this season, particularly in the time trials. Another worry is if the weather will hold out over the next two weeks – wet conditions have rarely seen him able to produce his best in the past.
Nairo, the Colombian mountains specialist, was second favourite going into the Tour, having already won the Tirreno-Adriatico. Unlike Froome, he also entered this competition with a strong team to back him up, including Alejandro Valverde the newly crowned Spanish road race champion. He is currently sitting 17th in the classifications – two minutes behind the Froome.
Contado is third favourite in this competition. He was dominant when winning the Giro d’Italia in May, and showed he is currently on top form after his June win in the Route du Sud (beating Quintana, who was many people’s favourite). However, given the quality of the opposition, it seems unlikely that Contador will be able to win the coveted Giro and Tour double (even though he is currently 8th in the classifications and just +50 seconds behind the leader).
Nibali completes the Tour’s Big 4, however he has been in quite sporadic form recently. He came in 10th in the Tour de Romandie and had lots of ups and downs during the Criterium du Dauphine. His form coming into the 2014 Tour de France was equally patchy and he has only just retained his Italian Road Race title. He was classified 13th going into the stage 7.
Outside of the Big 4, a dark horse presents itself in the form of Tejay van Garderen. The 26-year-old American came in 5th in last year’s Tour, and this year he came 1st in the Volta a Catalunya and was just beaten by Froome into 2nd place in the Criterium du Dauphine. He is currently 13 second behind Froome in this year’s Tour in second place, and is certainly one to look out for!
About the author
Luke Rees is a sports writer and keen athlete from London who writes on behalf of Bookmakers. Aside from peddling furiously around London city centre on his commute to work, he regularly competes in triathlons and is also planning a cycling tour of Iceland this (UK) summer.