Tour de France 2014: Favourites

Vincenzo NibaliFroome is the stand out favourite for the 2014 Tour de France after he destroyed the field in 2013. Is there any rider who can beat him? Cyclingstage.com takes a look at those gunning for the yellow jersey this July. (Slideshow route/profile)

Chris Froome
Reigning Tour champion after a dominant showing in 2013 where he won 3 stages and finished with 4 minutes and 20 seconds to spare on his closest rival, Nairo Quintana.

Froome started 2014 in a similar vain, comfortably taking the overall win in the Tour of Oman. However, he then had to pull out of Tirreno-Adriatico with a back injury with his Sky team needing to quell rumours that he would need an operation. But in Romandy he was back and was by far the best. The same scenario was operating in the Critérium du Dauphiné when he started fenomenal with wins in both the time trial and the first mountain stage. The whole week he was leader but in the final weekend he crashed and lost minutes in the closing stage. Was it due to the crash or is his form still not good enough?

Either way, Froome remains the man to beat at this year’s Grande Boucle.

Update: Chris Froome had to leave the Tour due to some crashes in the 5th stage.

Alberto Contador
‘El Pistolero’ is firing his guns on a regular basis this season with a stage win at the Volta ao Algarve and two stages plus the overall at Tirreno-Adriatico. He is looking back to his brilliant best displaying form not seen since the 2011 Giro.

From being written off as a likely also-ran, the man from Pinto is now looking like the most serious threat to Froome. Would the Kenyan have been able to match him at Tirreno? He did in the Dauphiné until the final weekend…

It should also be noted that with a rider like Nicolas Roche, Tinkoff-Saxo should have a team capable of matching Sky in the mountains. Roman Kreuziger will not participate in this years’s Tour de France.

Update: Alberto Contador had to leave the Tour due to some crashes in the 10th stage.

Vincenzo Nibali
Not in his best form yet, but there is no doubting the ability of the ‘Shark from Messina’. Nibali won the 2013 Giro quite comfortably in atrocious conditions and followed that up with 2nd in the Vuelta behind a surprisingly strong Chris Horner.

3rd in the 2012 Tour, behind Froome and Wiggins, the Italian has matured as a rider since. His team is strong, his confidence is high and his amazing descending skills could put Froome and Contador on the back foot.

Pretenders

Tejay van Garderen
Van Garderen leads BMC this year for the first time. The American finished 5th in 2012 and won the white jersey of best young rider, but the 2013 Tour was a tougher experience for him with form deserting him. He did display his stage racing ability last year however with the overall win in the Tour of California.

A lot of responsibility for the young man, we expect him back challenging for the top spots. Hard to see him defeating the trio mentioned above however.

Bauke Mollema
It’s often forgotten the Mollema was in 2nd place in the Tour last year until he fell in during the final week. He still managed 6th place overall and it’s not far fetched to believe he was heading for the podium otherwise.

He may not have the explosiveness of Froome or Contador but he is very consistent and can hang in there with the best on the tough climbs. Will certainly be in the GC mix.

Alejandro Valverde
Valverde was left behind with a mechanical on the amazing stage 13 of last year’s Tour. Was it Mollema’s fault? Froomes? Or maybe his own for past misdemeanors? Either way, his GC hopes died that day after he had looked strong on the early mountain stages.

By the end of that Tour it was clear that his teammate Quintana was stronger but Valverde takes full leadership this year and has started the season in sensational form. If he carries that to the Tour and avoids another mishap, he won’t be far off the podium places.

Rui Costa
Let us not forget the World Champion, winner of 2 stages in the 2013 Tour and the overall winner of the last 2 editions of the Tour de Suisse. Costa is a team leader now at Lampre and it will be very interesting to see how he performs over the three weeks in July.

Update: Costa left the Tour de France during the second rest day due to sickness.

Pierre Rolland
The great French hope. He has a white jersey, 2 top ten finishes and 2 stage wins so far in the Tour. Can Rolland make the step up to challenge for the podium places?

Jurgen Van den Broeck
The Belgian has finished 4th on two occasions in the past and likes to peak for July. Unfortunately for Van den Broeck, crashes are a recurring problem with 2 DNF’s sandwiched between his promising finishes. If the pattern continues, it means the Lotto Belisol rider is due to finish 4th again this year.

Could he go a step higher and make the final podium? Was in good form in the Dauphiné and finished 3rd in a field with Froome, Contador and Nibali.

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