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Five For Fighting: Riders to Watch at the Tour de France

June 28, 2011
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Alberto Contador (right) and Andy Schleck finished first and second, respectively, in the last two Tours de France. They’re riders to watch certainly, but who else makes our list? Keep reading to find out.


Already a triple Tour de France champion in 2007, 2009 and 2010, Saxo Bank’s Contador is the clear favorite for the 2011 Tour title. Contador can do everything; explosive climber, strong time trialist and clever tactician. With loyal henchman Dani Navarro, Benji Noval and Jesus Hernandez together with awkward Danish climber Chris Anker S?rensen supporting Contador in the mountains along with Aussie phenom Richie Porte and the guidance of Saxo Bank boss Bjarne Riis, the 28 year old Spaniard will be very tough to beat.  
Like a horse and carriage, these two brothers go together oh so well on their new, purpose-built Leopard-Trek team. Younger sibling Andy has the brawn; the 26 year old is a super talent but often seems to loses focus in crucial moments. Older bro Franck can be a huge asset to keep Andy focused and fighting for the win. In last years Tour, Franck crashed out early and his absence hurt Andy in the battle against Contador for Tour laurels. Andy also has a bone to pick with Contador, who attacked him when he had that famous chain incident in Stage 15.  As in 2010, Contador and Andy Schleck will battle for race supremacy and the gap might be less than 39 seconds this year, but Schleck seems destined for the second step on the podium in Paris. 
Radio Shack’s dynamic Yankee duo could upset the Tour de France apple cart this year. At 39, Horner is having his best year ever with a win in the Tour of California, while 38 year old Leipheimer just had his biggest win ever in the Tour de Suisse. Both Shacksters can climb and time trial well and have strong team support from Andreas Kloden and Jani Braikovic. The edge here just goes to Leipheimer with his superior time trialing, but don’t underestimate the audacious, attacking Horner’s chances to end up on the podium at Le Tour.   
Cadel Evans: The enigmatic Australian has had a very quiet build-up to the 2011 Tour de France. His stealth approach has allowed the tempermental BMC rider to focus only on the Tour and it should serve him well this July. Evans is a rare rider who has worn all three Grand Tour leaders jerseys. Twice second and four times in the top 8 at the Tour, Evans has the experience to win the race and with BMC will have a decent team to support him. Cadel will need some luck to win Le Tour but don’t count the tough Aussie from the Northern Territory bush out of another podium at Le Tour 2011.

The long, lean British champion has transformed himself from a trackie, then prologue specialist into GrandTour contender. Already 4th in 2009 at the Tour, Wiggins succumbed to the pressure as leader of the new Sky squad and flopped big-time. This year Wiggo is back and after a win at the Dauphine’ in the French Alps at the beginning of June, he may be a contender, not just a pretender. But there is a long way from 4th at Le Tour to the podium and most observers (save the Brits) don’s see Wiggins making the leap.


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