2014 Tour de France Preview and Predictions
The parcours of the 2014 Tour de France favors climbers.
will include a long descent to the finish after the Port de Bales. Stage 17 from Saint Gaudens to Saint-Lary-Soulan Pia d’Adet will be the first Pyrenean stage. It will feature four stiff climbs, including the ascent to the finish. On the following day, Stage 18 will take the riders over two classic Pyrenean climbs, the Col du Tourmalet and Hautacam. Stage 19 will be the last chance for a breakaway to take a stage, while Stage 20 will be a 54-km time trial from Bergerac and Perigueux that will provide a final chance to take the yellow jersey or move up a place on GC. Stage 21, a 136-km run from Evry to Paris, will be a procession for the winner.
Who will win the race? Two riders appear to ride ahead of the pack. The first is Chris Froome (Sky). The defending champion has not consistently shown the dominance that won him the Tour last year. Froome won the Tour of Oman and the Tour de Romandie. He won two stages of the Dauphine Libere and the yellow jersey before crashing and plummeting to 12 th overall. Moreover, Froome’s team is experiencing uncertainty, with 2012 Tour champion Bradley Wiggins not making Sky’s Tour lineup and Richie Porte, Froome’s chief lieutenant, showing less than the best of form. These qualifications make the Sky captain a good bet to win, but not the only one.
Alberto Contador (Tinkoff-Saxo Bank) is the other rider who is a Grade A favorite. The two-time Tour winner has rediscovered the form that won the race in 2007 and 2009, although he must limit his time trial losses against Froome better than he did in the Dauphine Libere. Moreover, he has a strong team to support him, albeit one that has a question mark. Roman Kreuziger was supposed to be one of the Spaniard’s mountain lieutenants, but he was withdrawn from Tinkoff-Saxo Bank’s Tour de France squad after irregularities were discovered in his biological passport. Rafal Majka, who finished sixth in the Giro d’Italia, will replace the Czech despite not being recovered from that race. As is the case with Froome, Contador is a strong bet to win, but not an unequivocal one.
Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) has had a slow start to the season, one that made his paymasters on the Kazakh squad upbraid him. The Italian, however, won his country’s road race championship, which suggests that he has found his form. Nibali is a very good to excellent climber, a very good time trialist, and an excellent descender. These strengths should put him on the podium.
Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) is a strong climber, but time trialing is his Achilles heel, and the penultimate day’s flat, 54-km race of truth will be too long for him. The Spaniard will have a strong supporting cast, even with Nairo Quintana recovering from the Giro d’Italia and Rui Costa having departed to Lampre-Merida. The Movistar man will acquit himself well in the mountains, but the time trial should keep him off of the podium.
Andrew Talansky (Garmin-Sharp), the surprise winner