The Tour de France is the oldest of the three grand tours and is arguably the most beautiful and certainly the hardest.
The Giro d’Italia may have more difficult terrain but the Tour de France is raced the fastest.
The tour is rich in history, sporting rivalries, triumphs and failures. Many sporting icons have made their mark at the tour while many others have been brought to their knees.
The Tour de France has a very special place in my heart. Winning the green jersey (pictured below) and stage in 2003 literally changed my life and launched by cycling career to the very highest level.
My rivalry with fellow Aussie Robbie McEwen was a fierce one and we fought each other tooth and nail the entire three weeks right down to the wire on the Champs Elysees in Paris.
It’s the closest margin in Tour de France green jersey history.
Last year’s winner and Team Sky leader Chris Froome is rightfully the tour favourite. I rode on the same team as Chris early in his career and his amazing success since then has totally blown me away.
Chris will be very hard to beat if he doesn’t have any misfortune.
I really like Nairo Quintana for this year’s race. The Colombian is now one year older and is still maturing by the day. This year’s race has short time trials which is his weakness, but his team is quite possibly the strongest in the field.
Fabio Aru isn’t currently in the best condition but he’ll still have three weeks until the business end of the tour where he’ll need to shine.
Alberto Contador is a ferocious competitor and has a never-say-die attitude. He’ll always be looking to put Froome and Quintana under pressure. He’s always dangerous and is tactically very advanced.
Vincenzo Nibali is said to be currently stronger what he was at the Giro when he won in dramatic fashion at the last minute.
If that’s true, then he has to be seriously feared on the tour. Astana have two leaders with Nibali and Aru and have one of the strongest teams.
If they can manage the two leaders and work well together, they could certainly cause an upset.
Froome v Quintana
This year’s race starts off with a flat road stage instead of a prologue time trial.
Expect Marcel Kittel, Mark Cavendish and Andre Greipel to be fighting to wear the first yellow jersey. The first jersey could easily stay on the same shoulders until stage 5 into Le Lioran where it’s certain to be lost.
At this point, the favourite will move up the standings but not necessarily take the lead. Stage 8 into Bagneres-de-luchon is the first big mountain day.
The tour won’t be won in this day but it could be lost. I expect Froome to be in the lead by this point, but he wouldn’t really want to take the lead before here in order to conserve his team’s energy.
If Quintana is going to upset Froome and win the tour, expect him to do it on stage 17 into Finhaut-Emosson.
As usual, the Australian contingent is very strong. Orica GreenEDGE have a very good team lead by Simon Gerrans and Michael Matthews (pictured above).
Unless Matthews has some super results in the dead flat bunch finishes in the first week, he won’t target the green jersey.
An assault on the green jersey can drain an entire team’s energy and is kind of risky for Orica GreenEDGE as it would be extremely hard to win with Kittel, Sagan, Cavendish and Greipel all very fast.
Although Gerrans is suited to the same stages as Matthews, they’ll be working together for the man that is going to be the best on the day.
Richie Porte (pictured above) is in some of the best form of his life and is in a prime position to have his best tour result.
He’s capable of finishing between 5th and 10th overall but will struggle to beat the big three of Froome, Quintana and Contador.
Porte is a fantastic time trialist, so with the time trials being short, I think he’ll have wait another year before being a realistic chance of winning the Tour de France.
Porte is Australia’s only realistic chance of a top 10 overall placing.
Adam Yates although, not Australian, rides for Orica GreenEDGE and is a good chance of a top 10 while Adam Hansen will continue to create history by lining up in his 15th straight grand tour.
I think Team Sky’s Chris Froome (pictured above) will win as he has simply shown no weakness so far and his team is absolutely outstanding.
Quintana is a proper threat considering he has Alejandro Valverde committed to helping him try to win and this is reflected in his short price of 2.75.
Vincenzo Nibali is incredible value at 31.00, that is the each way bet of the tour in my opinion. I doubt this price will stay there long.
My Tour tips:
Tip: Froome $2.15
King of the Mountains Jersey
Quintana will possibly win the polka dot jersey with his amazing class when the road goes skyward.
Expect someone like Tibaut Pinot to go on the attack and due to not being marked closely as the big favourites, is a real chance to win the polka dot jersey.
Tip: Quintana $7.00
Sagan, Cavendish, Kittel (pictured above) and Greipel are all chances to win the green jersey. I can’t see anyone else being on contention.
I would really like to see Kittel target the green jersey and really make a race of it.
In the dead flat stages, he’s the fastest guy at the moment but it all depends on how he survives in the mountains.
Tip: Kittel $5.00
Adam Yates is really coming of age and I think he’ll probably beat Warren Barguil for the young riders jersey.
Tip: Adam Yates $4.50
The Tour de France runs from July 2-24.
-By Baden Cooke (Former Tour de France green jersey winner)
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