Your Top 5 To Watch at Tour de France

RBA/AFP

Düsseldorf, Germany, June 28, 2017 (AFP) – The 2017 Tour de France begins in Dusseldorf on Saturday with a 14km time-trial before finishing in Paris on July 23. Here AFP Sport looks at the five main favourites for overall victory:

CHRIS FROOME
Nationality: British
Team: Sky
Age: 32
Best result: Winner 2013, 2015, 2016
The reigning champion and three-time winner remains the favourite despite a poor season to date by his standards. Over the last four years he has always won at least two stage races before arriving at the Tour in July and the three years he emerged as champion, he had also won the Criterium du Dauphine. This time around, his best result of the season so far was his fourth place at the Dauphine in early June. He will still be able to count on the Sky armada but the Kenyan-born rider certainly looks more vulnerable than ever before.

 

 

 

NAIRO QUINTANA
Nationality: Colombian
Team: Movistar
Age: 27
Best result: 2nd 2013, 2015
Ever since springing onto the Grand Tour stage with a stunning runner-up finish in 2013, when he dropped Froome on the last two summit finishes, he has been expected to soon win the Tour. Yet having also finished second to Froome in 2015, when his Movistar team seemed more intent on getting Alejandro Valverde onto the podium than trying to help Quintana win the race, the Colombian was a major disappointment last year. He finished only third and never went on the attack or looked capable of challenging Froome and Sky’s supremacy. He went on to beat Froome to the Vuelta a Espana title later in the
year and his team decided he rides better in a second Grand Tour of the season than he does at the first. So he rode in May’s Giro d’Italia, showing good form to finish second behind surprise winner Tom Dumoulin, although he was again conservative. Quintana will need to be more aggressive in France if he is to finally win the Tour.

 

 

 

RICHIE PORTE
Nationality: Australian
Team: BMC
Age: 32
Best result: 5th 2016
After the Dauphine, Froome said Porte had been “far and above the strongest man in the race” and claimed he was now the Tour favourite. Porte finished second behind Jakob Fuglsang but Froome put that down to the Australian getting “caught out tactically” rather than the Dane being the stronger rider. Questions have long been asked of Porte’s ability to ride consistently over three weeks despite a stellar record in one-week races. He’s twice won Paris-Nice and also claimed victory in the tours of Romandie and Catalonia. But when forced into the role of Sky team leader in 2014 when Froome crashed out of the Tour, Porte cracked repeatedly in the high mountains and could
finish only 23rd. Last year, though, he produced a strong ride and but for an untimely puncture near the end of the second stage that cost him 1min 45sec, he might have finished second to Froome.

 

 

 

ROMAIN BARDET
Nationality: French
Team: AG2R
Age: 26
Best result: 2nd 2016
France has been crying out for a serious Tour challenger for 25 years and in Bardet they might have that. A great climber and descender the AG2R leader is also the picture of consistency, finishing 15th, sixth, ninth and second at the Tour over the last four years. His one failing, though, is that he’s never won a major race and he is perhaps not daring or aggressive enough to make things happen.

 

 

 

JAKOB FUGLSANG
Nationality: Danish
Team: Astana
Age: 32
Best result: 7th 2013
In four of the previous five years, the winner of the Dauphine (Bradley
Wiggins once and Froome three times) has gone on to win the Tour. Fuglesang’s Dauphine win was a surprise and he might need to take heed of Andrew Talansky’s success in 2014 as the American then had a disastrous Tour, quitting after several crashes. Fuglsang was crucial in helping Vincenzo Nibali win the Tour that year but it will be interesting to see how he copes now as a team leader in his own right.

 

 

Photos: Betini

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