It’s that time, we go from being saddos to the ‘go to guys/girls’ for info; the papers even pay attention to cycling for a week or two; Viktor hates it but watches every stage and Dave Brailsford is spending a lot of time in church praying for ‘Froomey’s’ form to come good… yes, it’s Tour time. But before the first low pro rolls off the ramp in Dusseldorf – incidentally, ‘the sixth most “liveable” city in the world,’ strangely we couldn’t find Kirkcaldy on the list.
VeloVeritas will be bringing you a word or two each day about the greatest annual sporting event on earth.
We’ll be going over for the middle week and will try to give you a good flavour of what it’s all about.
Never mind, here’s the ‘who we think will do what’ for the 2017 Tour de France:
ARU, Fabio, Italy and Astana: missed the Giro through injury so he’ll be fresh – he rode a surprisingly good Dauphine and then won the Italian Elite Road Championship.
Whilst winning the Giro or Vuelta by no means you can win le Tour the Sardinian has been second in the first and won the latter.
His head will be good after the Dauphine and with those red, white and green bands around his chest.
Astana are a wily bunch and a podium seems highly possible; especially with Fuglsang’s blooming – they’re in an ideal position to play ‘the old one-two game’ with their rivals.
BARDET, Romain, France and AG2R: was second last year, displaying real panache.
He was good but not amazing in the Dauphine but his management and coach will have everything geared to those ’23 Days in July.’
AG2R is a strong squad with good management and Bardet seems to handle the pressure of an expectant French Media well – he could just win it.
CHAVES, Esteban, Colombia and Orica-Scott: podiums and stage wins in the Giro and Vuelta remind us of this man’s talent but this year has been compromised by a knee injury.
He rode the Dauphine and ‘got round’ – but being a slightly built rider he won’t need the kind of workload some of his more robustly built rivals need to gain form.
Watch for him in the last week – top 10, maybe?
CONTADOR, Alberto, Spain and Trek: Viktor reckons he’s ‘milking it’ for the pay cheques but he’d obviously forgotten the last stage of Paris-Nice where ‘Bert’ showed why he’s one of the greats with a show of aggression which just failed to win him the race.
He was second too in the Ruta del Sol, Catalunya and Pais Vasco, so erecting that headstone is perhaps a tad premature.
In the Dauphine it looked like he’d done what he had to do before he sat up to finish 11th overall.
Given the way his opposition have been riding a podium is certainly possible.
FROOME, Christopher, GB and Sky: we’re puzzled, what happened to the Sky mantra that if you’re riding preparation races, you’re as well riding them to win?
Fourth on GC in the Dauphine is as good as it’s been this year – but like Greg Lemond and that dude from Plano would tell you, there’s only three weeks in the whole year which really matter.
We wonder if he’s trying to finish the season with more gas in the tank?
The Vuelta is still a saddle burr for the man.
But this review is about the Tour of France, not Spain and with his experience and team it would be unwise to regard him as anything but the number one favourite for final victory in Paris.
And Dave Brailsford needs him to win, real bad…
FUGLSANG, Jakob, Denmark and Astana: his Dauphine win was pure class, nothing less.
With Aru he gives the Kazakh squad the ability to play tactical games with their rivals – but can he withstand three weeks of pressure?
MAJKA, Rafal, Poland and Bora-Hansgrohe: he’s been on the Vuelta podium, can climb with the very best, won Slovenia and was second in California.
We say top 10 at least.
MARTIN, Dan, Ireland (via Birmingham) and QuickStep: he can’t win it but a podium is perhaps possible; he too can climb with the best and whilst his team will be ‘all for Marcel’ on the sprint stages, they’re pure quality and he’ll be as well looked after as all but the very best – except in the big mountains.
MEINTJES, LOUIS, Republic of South Africa and UAE: top 10 in the Dauphine and there when it mattered we just wish we could move him out of our, ‘just difficult to drop’ file…
PORTE, Richie, Australia and BMC: he won the Tour Down Under, Romandie but was then mugged in the Dauphine.
He’s come on well year on year but his Grand Tour podium stats tell a story – nil.
He always contrives to fall off/miss the move/puncture at the wrong time – the podium? maybe; the win? no.
QUINTANA Nairo, Movistar and Colombia: despite the Media telling us prior to ever Grand Tour in which they compete together that Valverde will stab him in the back, it’s never happened – and it’s unlikely to happen in this Tour.
But where has the little chap’s ‘sparkle’ gone?
Yes, he’s won the Giro and the Vuelta; and did look like a Tour winner in waiting – but much less so now.
Like Stephen Roche says, maybe he needs to ride a Grand Tour to ‘warm up?’
There’s a Giro in those little legs already this year and lots of terrain to suit; let’s see what he can do.
VALVERDE, Alejandro, Movistar and Spain: his form in the spring was stunning; he was hardly beaten with the Fleche/Liege double shining like a beacon.
He took time and came back for the Dauphine where he loosened his legs with ninth overall.
With Quintana, Movistar have tactical options aplenty and it’s not hard to imagine them both back on the podium.
YATES, Simon, GB and Orica: sixth with a stage win in the Vuelta last year; he was 13th in the Dauphine and second in Romandie – but he’ll have to do Chaves bidding if the little Colombian rides how he’s capable of.
Top 10 surely possible though.
And tomorrow’s winner?