Chris Froome is in the hunt for his third consecutive yellow jersey at the Tour de France
Such is the excitement about le tour, the hairs are standing up on my neck as I write this. Before we get down to this year’s Tour de France yellow jersey contenders, you may want to read our preview of the most important cycle race in the world.
A BRIEF HISTORY OF The Yellow Jersey
The yellow jersey or maillot jaune is worn by the leader of the general time classification. A number of riders will wear the coveted jersey but it will be one of the favourites mentioned in the piece that will be looking to wear it prior to the finale and heading onto the the Avenue des Champs–Élysées.
According to the official history, the first yellow jersey was worn by the Frenchman Eugène Christophe in the stage from Grenoble to Geneva on July 18, 1919 (Jean–Paul Ollivier, 2001). The colour yellow was chosen by cyclist and journalist Henri Degrange (it matched the colour of the paper L’Équipe) and it wasn’t presented until after stage 10 (Lazell, 2012).
In tours gone by riders were given a generic sized shirt and they were often too tight or too big. In today’s modern era of cycling the maillot jaune is tailored to the leader’s measurements.
Chris Froome – Team Sky
Froome is heading into this year’s tour looking for his third consecutive victory and fourth overall. Don’t let that stat suck you in to thinking that he’s going to be victorious once again. Froome is not in the same kind of form that saw him take victories in 2015 and 2016. The Kenyan born rider finished fourth place in thie year’s Critérium du Dauphiné , 1’33” behind the eventually winner Jakob Fuglsang. Froome won the Critérium du Dauphiné, a race regarded as the preparation for the tour in 2013, 2015 and 2016, which coincides with his tour wins.
As you would expect Sir Dave Brailsford has assembled a strong team to support Froome. The omission of Wout Poels was a head scratcher for some but the machine that is Geraint Thomas will be with Froome in the lumps and bumps of the French Alps. Team Sky like to set the tempo for the peloton, often at a frantic pace which looks to wear down opponents.
Froome’s climbing ability is almost unmatched but there are only three summit finishes in 2017. He’s also improved on the technical aspects, especially with regards to descending at speed. The Team Sky leader is the race favourite and if his competitors have dreams of yellow they will have to be on top of their game in order to beat him.
It’s plausible to suggest that Froome will improve his form during the first few stages of the tour, he may not admit it but must be thinking of equalling the five wins of Spanish rider Miguel Indurain. Froome may take comfort in knowing that he’s already beaten his main rivals on the tour, but as anyone knows, it’s so unpredictable. Will he be the first rider to win the tour at the age of 32?
Nairo Quintano – Movistar
The Colombian rider looks effortless in the saddle. Quintana is looking to add the Tour de France to his other Grand Tour victories, Giro d’Italia (2014) and Vuelta España (2016). Any rider wishing to add a Grand Tour to their honours must be able to climb hills to an exceptional standard, and the little Colombian can do just that.
Quintana has already ridden the Giro d’Italia this year, whether or not that will take its toll is another matter, it may turn out to be an advantage for the second favourite. Just as Froome has the knowledge that he’s beaten his rivals on this tour, Quintana knows that he came out on top to take victory at last year’s Vuelta España. Quintana’s Grand Tour pedigree shouldn’t be ignored. The 27-year-old has ridden nine, won two, and stood on the podium four times.
“Logically, at 27, Nairo is continuing to improve, and at 32, Froome will be focused on maintaining his already excellent level of performance. I hope that with time, we’re getting closer to closing the gap on Froome, or maybe even overhauling him. Eusebio Unzue Team Manager Movistar (Cyclingnews, 2017)
Movistar have a trusty lieutenant for Quintana in Spaniard Alejandro Valverde. The Spanish rider will be the team leader for the Vuelta but his job for the next month is to protect Quintana. Don’t bet against Movistar’s main rider taking a place on the podium.
Alberto Contador – Trek Segafredo
The veteran is starting to think about retirement but that won’t stop him trying to win le tour for a third time (Contador was stripped of his title in 2010, when he tested positive for clenbuterol). Contador has had a troublesome time of it at le tour. In 2014 he was forced to abandon after breaking his tibia. In 2015 he withdrew due to fatigue, the toll of winning the Giro d’Italia some weeks earlier was too much. 2016 didn’t go to plan either. The Spanish rider withdrew on stage 9. He’s a talented rider and tactically astute but at 34 age is not on his side.
John Degenkolb, Bauke Mollema, Jarlinson Pantano will play a key role in protecting their leader. Contador’s last win was in 2009 and that fact the he is one of the race favourites eight years after winning his first TdF sums up his abilities. If you like to have a flutter on an outside bet on the winner, this could be it at 16/1 (oddschecker.com).
Riche Porte – BMC
Richie Porte’s abilities were such that BMC signed him as their leading rider. The 32-year-old Australian spent plenty of time in the saddle wearing the colours of Team Sky. Porte once a supporter of Froome will now look to undo his former leader by winning the yellow jersey.
Porte is a competent hill-climber but he must remain consistent if he’s to challenge his rivals. The Aussie rider must also be mentally prepared, by that I mean putting the recent Critérium du Dauphiné disappointment behind him. Having said that Porte has already bagged the 2017 editions of the Tour Down Under and the Tour of Romandie respectively.
Porte will be supported by Ireland’s Nicholas Roche and a rider who has claimed four classics in 2017, Greg Van Avermaet. Porte is a strong climber and his rivals will be watching his every move, especially on the mountain stages. BMC Racing Team are going have to bring their A game with them, it sounds like a cliché, but this could be a prime opportunity for BMC to be victorious on this year’s tour.
Romain Bardet- AG2R La Mondiale
It wouldn’t be a Tour de France blog without discussing a French rider’s hopes of winning the coveted maillot jaune. At 26-years-old Romain Bardet is promising to be a dominant rider. Bardet is France’s main hopes of winning the tour, the first for France since Bernard Hinault in 1985. It’s easy to see why Bardet is one of the hot favourites, he came second to Froome in 2016.
Bardet is considered by most to be much more talented than his compatriot Thibaut Pinot. Neither Bardet or Pinot have paid much attention to the French National championships, much to the curiosity of French newspaper l’equipe.
Bardet’s true pedigree is still somewhat unknown. His stage 19 win on last year’s tour from Albertville to Saint-Gervais Mont Blanc (146k) was impressive. If he has any ambitions to be stood on the podium again, Bardet will need to replicate the same kind of tenacity on multiple stages in 2017. Judging by this season’s results only the Frenchman isn’t in great form. Is he the man to watch on this year’s tour or will his rivals prove to be too strong?
Froome is the favourite once again, he’s adaptable as demonstrated last year when he was forced to run up Mont Ventoux due to a mechanical failure. Second-favourite Quintana will be hungry to add to his other Grand Tour victories. Porte, Bardet and Contador will all undoubtedly have their say on what happens. There will be drama throughout the entire race. The winner is anyone’s guess, it may well boil down to a simple matter of who is in the best condition. There are many intangibles that could affect the final outcome, it promises to be an interesting three weeks of top-cycling. Don’t be surprised to see the little Colombian in yellow at the end of July.
We look forward to discussing the race with you via twitter @inthestandsport
featured image from pixaby