It’s early maybe, to start talking about the Tour, but these things need time to percolate and fulminate, to gestate and metastasize. It would be easy to say that Alberto Contador will do the double, such was his control at the Giro that it’s hard to envision anyone putting him in real trouble in France, but the double is prohibitively difficult. To peak, win, recover and win again is not something the human body wants to do. You might almost say that a rider trying to be so good again, for three more weeks, would depend on his rivals to be bad in order for victory to come so easily.
So, Nibali. The Shark of Messina hasn’t show much since winning the Tour in 2014, but he is still among the best climbers in the world, and is better than most of the others on the backside of the mountain. Nibali was surprisingly strong last year. Perhaps he’s been keeping his powder dry.
Chris Froome has not. I’d even call him the favorite after winning the Dauphine. With Richie Porte, a pretender to the throne in his own right, as chief climbing domestique, Froome probably has the strongest performing cast, but good god is he ugly on the bike, all knees and elbows and questionable fit. I hope we don’t have to watch too much of the Kenyan on the front of the pack, going uphill.
My favorite is Nairo Quintana, which is not to say I think he’ll win, but he’s my favorite to watch, stone-faced and calm, churning out watts, sitting stock still. Quintana’s Movistar squad also features Alejandro Valverde, who will jump into the leader’s role the minute the younger Colombian falters. I expect Movistar to play a big part in crowning the Tour’s champion, whether it’s one of their own or not.
There are others, of course. Thibaut Pinot is the best of the rest, for me, but Romain Bardet could be coming of age just in time.
This week’s Group Ride asks, who do you think will be this year’s yellow jersey? Is he among the favorites, or is there a dark horse galloping into France to stand atop the podium?