The Roar
The Roar


Is the 2016 Tour de France a race between two?

Chris Froome could take yellow on Stage 5 of the Tour de France. (Image: Sky).
4th July, 2016
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Are we down to just two genuine contenders for the 2016 Tour de France already?

The race may only be three stages old, but Chris Froome (Sky) and Nairo Quintana (Movistar) now shape as the two most likely to salute in Paris after mishaps suffered by major rivals Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) and Richie Porte (BMC) resulted in significant time losses for the unlucky pair.

Contador crashed heavily on Stage 1, sliding across a traffic island and ripping up his shoulder. He fell again on Stage 2. The effects of these accidents were obvious when he was distanced on the uphill finish to Cherbourg-en-Conentin, losing 48 seconds on a climb that he would usually fly up.

He now sits 62nd on general classification, 1:02 behind race leader and teammate Peter Sagan and 48 seconds behind Froome and Quintana. That is not an insurmountable hurdle for the Spaniard, but with ageing legs and a battered, battle-weary body, it could prove damaging.

Porte suffered a puncture with four kilometres to go on the same stage and lost 1:45 while waiting for a wheel change from the neutral service car. The sight of Porte standing forlornly beside his bicycle while the neutral service mechanic fumbled the wheel change invoked memories of Cadel Evans suffering an equally inept wheel change by neutral service at the 2009 Vuelta a Espana.

That incident cost Evans a Grand Tour victory. This incident has severely hampered Porte’s attempt at achieving the same.

Perhaps even more disconcerting than the botched wheel change was the fact that not one of Porte’s teammates stopped to offer him their own wheel. Could you imagine Froome being left waiting on the roadside by the Team Sky armada? No, I can’t either.

BMC have a history of doing this type of thing though. Evans suffered it at the 2012 Tour. He punctured at the top of a climb and good old Tejay Van Garderen rode straight on past him – no offer of a bike, no offer of a wheel, not even a nod. Thankfully, eventual winner Bradley Wiggins (Sky) slowed the peloton down so that Evans (who was the winner of the previous edition) could catch up.


Now, I know that with just four kilometres to go, the peloton was not going to offer Porte the same opportunity. And I know that BMC were also protecting co-leader Van Garderen and potential stage winner Greg Van Avermaet. But surely just one of the remaining six BMC riders could have stopped to assist Porte?

Does something smell here? Or was it just an example of poor teamwork? Let’s hope it was the latter.

Either way, Porte now sits in a lowly 81st position on GC, 1:59 behind Sagan and 1:45 behind Froome, Quintana and teammate Van Garderen, who will most likely now become the team’s dedicated leader.

It is bad luck for Contador and Porte, who have both placed so much emphasis on this Tour. With retirement looming at the end of the year, this was to be Contador’s last Tour, and he wanted to finish it on the top step of the podium. For Porte, it was an opportunity to finally pilot his own team after years of being a highly respected domestique.

At the moment their dreams appear to be in tatters.

But enough lamenting. With two of the main contenders seemingly down and almost out, who remains to challenge the big two of Froome and Quintana?

Astana’s Fabio Aru appears to be the main danger and his recent Grand Tour results make for pleasant reading. He won the 2015 Vuelta a Espana and has recorded a second and a third at the Giro d’Italia. He has very capable support in Jakob Fuglsang and this year’s Giro winner Vincenzo Nibali, but can they all work together as a team?


Petty jealousy seems to hound this mob. As recently as the Giro, there appeared to be friction between Fuglsang and Nibali, while not everything was rosy between Mikel Landa and Aru at the 2015 Giro. Still, they get the job done most of the time, and Aru will be a threat. This is his first Tour de France though and to win it straight up would be an enormous effort.

The French pair of Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale) and Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) are exciting young riders, but they carry the huge expectations of a French public hungry for a Tour victory after so many lean years. Either one of the two may eventually break the drought for their country, but it won’t be this year. If they could combine Pinot’s climbing with Bardet’s descending they would have one super-hybrid rider, capable of mixing it with the very best. But alas they can’t.

Joaquim Rodriguez (Katusha) has one of the most consistent Grand Tour records that you could ever hope to have. The only thing missing for him is a winner’s jersey, which he still won’t have when this race comes to a halt in Paris. At 37 years of age, Old Man Time has caught up with ‘Purito’, and although he will have his moments, the chance of a Grand Tour victory has passed him by.

Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) is another consistent rider, but doesn’t appear to have that something extra to kick him into the top echelon of challengers.

Warren Barguil (Giant Alpecin) is young and full of promise but like compatriots Bardet and Pinot, his time is yet to come.

Which leaves Van Garderen. The ambitious American craves leadership and now that Porte has lost significant time, he most likely has it. It is not his fault that Porte punctured and no bad blood can be harboured if he attempts to optimise the situation, but questions remain about his ability to take the next step and actually challenge the likes of Froome and Quintana.

He may turn out to be the best of the rest, but will that be enough for a team that went into this Tour with hopes of coming away with its second yellow jersey?


Who knows?

Nibali and Alejandro Valverde (Movistar) are wild cards and could step into the breach should their designated leaders (Aru and Quintana) falter. But neither will be at their best having cooked themselves at the Giro. Theirs is a support role only and that won’t change unless something catastrophic happens.

A winner outside of the riders mentioned above seems highly unlikely. Too few have the ability to match Froome and Quintana once the roads tilt skywards. Perhaps Aru, but he will have to be at his very best.

So it is a race between two. The Brit and the Colombian. I reckon the Brit will win.

My top five
1st – Froome
2nd – Quintana
3rd – Aru
4th – Pinot
5th – Contador

What do you think, fellow Roarers?