Friday Group Ride #125

After another crazy week that has eliminated several pre-race favorites, the 2012 Tour de France appears to have become the two-rider battle between Sky’s Bradley Wiggins and BMC’s Cadel Evans that many expected it to be.

Or has it?

With men like Vincenzo Nibali, Jurgen Van den Broeck, Andreas Kloden, and Samuel Sanchez positioned near the top of the GC as the race hits the mountains, there are still several men capable of upsetting the apple cart. And with talented teams like Garmin-Sharp, Rabobank, and Europcar gunning for stage wins now, these mountain stages could be faster, more aggressive, and harder for teams like Sky and BMC to control.

In other words, let’s not hand the race to Wiggins and Evans—at least not yet. There’s still room for an upset.

Take Katusha’s Denis Menchov for example. The Russian is actually the most successful grand tour winner in the bunch, having won the Tour of Spain twice and the Tour of Italy once so far in his career. He’s also finished inside the Tour’s top-3 on two occasions. Physically, Menchov should have no problems with the mountains of this year’s Tour de France and he can certainly hold his own in the race’s two long time trials. And with Wiggins and Evans marking one another heavily, Menchov is perfectly poised to add the one grand tour still missing from his palmares.

He’s the perfect dark horse in a race that still contains several of them.

Who’s yours?

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Image: Fotoreporter Sirotti

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  1. Adam

    Chris Froome. Less than two minutes down, can TT with the best and could ride himslef into position just by covering attacks.

  2. MIke

    Was rooting for Ryder, now Wiggo.

    I’ve a thought about the crash today. I noticed that the road was fairly empty up to the point of the crash and there on the side of the road was a lonely camper van. The crash happend right after that. I’ll bet anything that this was another fan interference incident.

    I hope they can come up with some video of the event.


  3. Champs

    Richie Porte.

    Side note: Menchov is a great rider, but never one to pounce on the GC. The only “surprise” I expect is when he inexplicably hits the deck.

  4. P Poppenjay

    What about Peter Sagan? I’m no scholar of the Tour and competitors,but he certainly has excited me.

  5. Souleur

    you mentioned mine: jurgen Vdb

    but denny has really moved up and is IMHO not a dark horse any longer, probably a very marked man as they eeek into the mtns tomorrow.

    And, lets not completely knock out our own yet, Levi, he is in the bunch if something funky went down

  6. Matthew Zullo

    There are only a handful or riders left who can win the Tour. Wiggins & Evans and then Nibali & Menchov. They will probably be the top 4 with Kloden, Sam Sanchez, Monfort and Leipheimer having an outside shot to make the top 3. After tomorrow we will have a better idea. Leipheimer will have to really improve his TT. Monfort can climb and rode a very good TT at the Tour de Suisse, he is my off the radar pick to make top 3. Others lost too much time today, Schleck, Gesink, Valverde, to be factors. Schleck had no chance this year with 100k of TT, he will lose 3-5 minutes in the TT and there are not enough Mtn top finishes to make that up. It will shake out tomorrow. Can’t wait.

  7. randomactsofcycling

    As a dark horse for the podium, I would say Pierre Rolland, if Thomas Voeckler lets him off the leash a little. He showed last year that he can certainly climb, and he’s no slug when it comes to the ITT. Perhaps, given TV’s dodgy knee and lack of form, he’ll be given some freedom and some support.
    My other dark horse is Michael Rogers. Should anything happen to Wiggo (and I genuinely hope that the rest of the GC contenders maintain some good luck), Rogers is in good form and while not the best climber, is certainly a more than capable TT’er.

  8. Alex TC

    I admit, it’s hard for me to judge these guys’ strenght at this point. Maybe after a glimpse of their performance on the mountains I’ll be able to form an opinion. But Robot’s and in fact all the posts here show some good points I think.

  9. Mr Bad Example

    RE: Rolland – Voeckler is on record as saying he’d have no problem working for him, if he’s on form and competing for yellow.

    Upside to Voeckler being 8 minutes down is now HE gets a leash to start animating the race a bit.

  10. Y. Satchel

    Was gunning for Rolland, Gesink, and Hesjedal to do well on GC this tour. a crime amongst some crowds, but I find it boring to support Cadel, and difficult to get behind anything Wiggo does, ever. Dunno WHY, that’s just the way it is.

    With Ryder out, and Robert several minutes down and likely out of contention, my hope is to see People like Rolland, Chavanel, Samuel Sanchez, and other puncheurs and mountain men animate the race and make it an exciting affair for the remaining 2 weeks

    Froome Shredded the competition today–as Phil and Co took great pleasure reminding me again and again, and I find him both compelling to watch, aggressive, and humble, which is a winning combo in my book.

    I’d say he is my Darkhorse for an admittedly unlikely top-3 GC finish should Wiggins crack or injure out for some reason.

  11. Big Mikey

    With the way they’re riding, it might be a sky podium sweep…….brutal.

    I find myself thinking that the cost of attempting to win/race the TdF might be too high. A lot of these victims of a crazy first week will have the rest of their seasons compromised by their injuries. You have to be constantly vigilant and very lucky to pull off a win. Which is probably the single most amazing thing about LA’s seven wins… he avoided bad luck for that long a time.

  12. adam

    Just like to point out 15 days later that I was the only one to mention Froome pre-his incredible performance.

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