Jul 4, 2014

Tour de France Why and Why Not Yellow Jersey Edition

Top Favorites
Chris Froome
  • Why he’ll win - He is the strongest man in the time trial and he and his Sky teammates have successfully controlled the race to spring him and Bradley Wiggins to victory the last two years.
  • Why he won’t win - A combination of stronger opponents than the last two seasons, a lack of time trial kms (only one time trial and it has hills taking some of Froome’s advantage away) and a weaker team than the previous two seasons.

Alberto Contador
  • Why he’ll win - Has been equal to Froome at every point this season and is the best racer in the peloton as designing long range tactictal raids. The time trial at the end often favors the strongest rider instead of time trial skill, especially when there are hills on the course.
  • Why he won’t win - Still likely to lose time to Froome in the time trial. Also those long range attacks are incredible when successful, but blowing up on the final climb after trying one is a possibility.

Podium Contenders
Vincenzo Nibali
  • Why he’ll win - All of sudden, Nibali seems to have the form he has been chasing since his victory in the 2013 Giro (he fought well but was ultimately a bit short of highest level both in the Vuelta where he was second and in the World Championships where he was fourth). His team might be the strongest in the race.
  • Why he won’t win - Often prone to attacking too early, if he does so here, he risks doing the work for/dragging Contador around (especially since Nibali is basically a poor man’s Contador skill wise when both are in top form). On top form in 2012, Nibali couldn’t match Sky (though he was significantly better than everyone else).

Alejandro Valverde
  • Why he’ll win - He’s won or been near the front of everything he has raced in 2014. His team is fully devoted to him this year and the string of awful luck in the Tour has to change some time.
  • Why he won’t win - He isn’t quite as good as Froome or Contador and he has that awful Tour luck. Last year he was headed to a podium finish before his back wheel broke through no fault of his own just as the peloton accelerated on the crosswinds stage. Nine minutes were lost that day.

Andrew Talansky
  • Why he’ll win - He just won the Criterium du Dauphine with an audacious last stage raid from long range. If he can carry that form, he can be close enough that a major mistake from the two favorites could open the door.
  • Why he won’t win - Froome and Contador won’t be as willing to let Talansky lose as they were in the Dauphine. Also has never been great over three weeks, having a bad opening week last year and a bad closing week in the 2012 Vuelta.

Jurgen Van Den Broeck
  • Why he’ll win - He won’t. Van Den Broeck follows wheels to a high result. I expect him to do the same this season as well, just as he did on the way to 4th place in 2010 and 2012.
  • Why he won’t - He lacks the power to drop people and win solo in the mountains. Combine that with above average but not exceptional time trial ability and you have someone that is a podium threat depending on how the race develops, but nothing more.

Bauke Mollema
  • Why he’ll win - He can climb, rides a decent time trial and can attack when necessary
  • Why he won’t - Froome and Contador do everything he does better. Also, his team have no sponsor for next season and might be tempted to go for their own glory (and future contracts) instead of working for the team leader.

Tejay Van Garderen
  • Why he’ll win - He showed he has some turbo to go with his normal diesel climbing engine when he won the Queen Stage in the the Volta a Catalunya, dusting Froome and Contador in the process.
  • Why he won’t - Van Garderen still didn’t win Catalunya overall (he was 3rd) and his form is uncertain after a small hip fracture during the Tour of Romandie.

Other GC Leaders
Rui Costa
  • Why he’ll win - His form from winning the Tour de Suisse for a 3rd straight year will carry over to the Tour in his first crack at GC leadership.
  • Why he won’t - This is his first time as a GC leader at a Grand Tour. Expect some growing pains, especially in the final week.

Thiabult Pinot
  • Why he’ll win - Talented climber and seems to be over the descending issues that felled him in the Tour last season.
  • Why he won’t - He’s French. The pressure is immense. Also he isn’t in the same league as the top guys yet (he may get there as he is still eligible for the white jersey).

Joaquin Rodriguez
  • Why he’ll win - He’s the best pure climber in the field on a pure climbers course.
  • Why he won’t - He says he’s not targeting the GC and his form is uncertain after all manner of injuries from crashes in the Amstel Gold and Giro d’Italia.

Michal Kwiatkowski
  • Why he’ll win - He can time trial with the best of the GC men and also is well suited to some of the early stages.
  • Why he won’t - High mountains seem to be a problem with struggles there last year and in both Tirreno-Adriatico and the Criterium du Dauphine this season.

Pierre Rolland

  • Why he’ll win - He is one of the best climbers in the field and he showed new tactical awareness during the latter half of his 4th place run at the Giro d’Italia.
  • Why he won’t - The Giro isn’t the Tour and 4th there doesn’t translate to a Tour win in the same season. Additionally, when was the last time someone seriously attacked the Giro and then finished in a high Tour position?

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