Just over a week into the 100th edition of Le Tour de France and its already hotting up.
Whilst Chris Froome is holding the yellow jersey, the race is far from over. In the course of the article, I will look at some of the riders who aim to finish top of the General Classification and evaluate the chances of achieving their aim.
Once considered the next person to take the Tour by storm, Andy Schleck has fallen way short of his enormous potential. Despite technically winning the race in 2010 due to retrospective action on Alberto Contador's drug charges, Schleck himself stated that he deemed it worthless.
This year he has once again failed to overwhelm the opposition and at the time of writing is currently four minutes down on the yellow jersey. Short of a huge break-away or a monster attack in the mountains, Schleck’s lack of conviction so far and his incompetence in the time trials, leaves his chances of winning very slim indeed.
Alejandro Valverde had been at the pinnacle of cycling for a long time and shows no sign of slowing down coming into his 11th year as a professional. Currently second in the overall standings, Valverde presents a realistic threat to Team Sky's crown.
His ability to handle himself in the long mountain stages will allow him to remain close to the leaders, whilst also using his experience as a 'puncheur' to gain time in the hilly stages. Perhaps not fully strong enough in the highest mountains or time trails to win but a podium place should be achieved.
Only five people have ever won all three Grand Tours: Jacques Anquetil, Felice Gimondi, Bernard Hinault, Eddy Merckx and Alberto Contador. The controversial Spaniard will go down as one of the greatest bike riders of all time even after his third Tour title had been stripped.
He is one of the strong favourites to win the Tour this year and despite his poor showing in the mountains so far, the talent is still there. As one of the only riders to be able to challenge Chris Froome in both the mountains and the time trials, despite him currently being sixth overall many deem him Froome's closets rival this year.
Only those in the know tipped Quintana before the start of the Tour following strong displays in the Tour of the Basque Country, however, many more are now touting him as one to watch.
An incredible display in the early mountains left him as the bookies second favourite to win the race. Attacking the leaders left, right and centre Quintana is clearly one of, if not the strongest climber in the race and as such currently leads the Young Riders classification.
By far and away the favourite to win the 100th Tour de France, Chris Froome seems the complete cyclist. Strong in the time trials and even stronger in the mountains, a second placed finish last year was a signal of what was to come.
Many even said then that Froome looked the stronger rider than Bradley Wiggins, but this year his time has come and already over a minute ahead of his nearest rival the Tour is Froome's to lose.
Barring a crash or a horrendous day in the mountains it seems inevitable that Froome will become the second British rider to win the Tour de France.
Who do you think will win this year? Write your ideas in the comments below.
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