[Article was written before the start of La Grande Boucle and has not been updated.]
In advance, Bardet and Porte are Froome’s most likely rivals to thwart a fourth win in the Grande Boucle. In 2016, the French rider was the best of the rest – 4 minutes in arrears -, but the 26-year-old should be growing to his best years.
Last year, Porte finished in fifth, yet he is in flying form in 2017. With the exception of an echelon marked off-day, he was strong in Paris-Nice and he bested his former leader in a direct confrontation in the Tour of Romandie. It wasn’t his first win this year as he wiped the floor with his competition in the Tour Down Under as early as January. Recently, he was the best rider in the most important preparation race for the Tour, the Critérium du Dauphiné. He led the GC on the final day with number two Froome more than 1 minute behind. His former leader put huge pressure on him and Porte didn’t really crack – in fact, he turned the tables on Froome and put more time into him. The Tasmanian didn’t win the Dauphiné though, as Jakob Fuglsang seized the opportunity to win the overall thanks to the two former friends fighting. Yet, Porte was the moral victor.
On occasions, Bardet showed his potential in the Criterium du Dauphiné, but because of a weak time trial he did not go past sixth place overall. His chrono-race must worry the 26-year old Frenchman, especially since the penultimate stage in the Tour de France is an ITT in Marseille.
ITT’s always suited Froome, but in the Dauphiné Porte outclassed him on a similar route as in Marseille. The Briton certainly could use some extra confidence. Every Tour de France he won was preceded by the overall victory in the Critérium du Dauphiné, which did not happen this season. In fact, he did not win any race at all in 2017 – we have to go as far back as 2011 for such a drought. Is it his age (32)? His glittering palmares? Or is it the team? SKY’s omnipotence seems to be waning, which might be bad news for Froome, but good news for an immersive month of cycling…
Contador did not win a race either in 2017. Instead he seems to become a dedicated collector of second places. In Ruta del Sol, Volta a Catalunya and Tour of the Basque Country he was runner-up behind Valverde, while Sergio Henao got the better of him in Paris-Nice – albeit with merely 2 seconds.
Valverde has been flying this year. The 37-year old did not only pick up wins in Ruta del Sol, Volta a Catalunya and Tour of the Basque Country, but he pocketed La Flèche Wallonne and Liège-Bastogne-Liège as well. Winning La Grande Boucle would be the ultimate crown, but the likely scenario is that he will run out of steam before July. Furthermore, his last (and only) Grand Tour victory dates back to 2009 (Vuelta).
Valverde’s team-mate Quintana targets both the Giro d’Italia and Tour de France. The first goal went sour with Tom Dumoulin seizing the win ahead of the Colombian. It’s difficult to predict his Tour de France condition though. Besides, Quintana seems to be better in his second Grand Tour in one season. Last year he won the Vuelta after a disappointing Tour de France (although he finished the Grande Boucle in third). By the way, his pre-season was perfect with wins in the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana and Tirreno-Adriatico.
Favourites Tour de France 2017
***** Chris Froome, Richie Porte, Romain Bardet
**** Alberto Contador, Nairo Quintana, Fabio Aru,
*** Jakob Fuglsang, Esteban Chaves,
Alejandro Valverde, Rafal Majka, Thibaut Pinot
** Simon Yates, Louis Meintjes, Daniel Martin, Rigoberto Uran, Primoz Roglic
* Sergio Henao, Warren Barguil, George Bennett, Bauke Mollema
Tour de France 2017: Route maps, height profiles, and more
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