2016 Tour de France Preview
By David L. Stanley
David Stanley is an experienced cycling writer. His work has appeared in Velo, Velo-news.com, Road, Peloton, and the late, lamented Bicycle Guide (my favorite all-time cycling magazine). He blogs regularly for Dads Roundtable. Here's his Facebook page. He is also a highly regarded voice artist with many audiobooks to his credit, including McGann Publishing's The Olympics' 50 Craziest Stories and Cycling Heroes.
His latest book is Melanoma: It Started With a Freckle. If you have spent time outdoors, you should read it. Really!
The Tour de France starts on Saturday, 02 July, 2016. Normalement, this is the time to break down the race with predictions, prognostications, and cautionary tales. But this year, there’s not much to say except Froome, Chris Froome. There are nine mountainous stages with four summit finishes and only 54 km of individual time trials. That says Froome. More importantly than the terrain, look at who Team SKY brings to the party:
Chris Froome won both the 2015 Tour's yellow yersey and the climber's polka dot jersey.
- Sergio Henao
- Vasil Kiryienka
- Mikel Landa
- Mikel Nieve
- Wout Poels
- Luke Rowe
- Ian Stannard
- Geraint Thomas
Every rider on Team SKY is fully capable of challenging for a Classic win or a Grand Tour podium, yet each is 100% all in for Froome. Chris will stand on the top step as a defending champion for the first time since Miguel Indurain in 1992 and HWSNBN in 2000.
Who will push Chris Froome?
Nairo Quintana - Movistar. I love Nairo. The most talented Colombian rider since Lucho Herrera, he is a winning rider, a great personality, and the face of the future for a new cycling movement in Central America. He’ll win this race soon, but against the most overwhelming British team in any sport since England won the World Cup in 1966, his first win will have to wait.
Nairo Quintana won this year's Tour de Romandie
Alberto Contador - Tinkoff. The greatest stage racer of the last ten years will challenge for the podium. However, while he can still jump away on anything going up, his top end ability to hold the gap seems to have faded just enough. Rafal Majka is a terrific climber and capable of holding his own with anyone, but there are just too many SKYs for one man to battle.
At the Dauphiné this year: Alberto Contador with two-time Tour winner Bernard Thevenet
Richie Porte and Tejay van Garderen - BMC. The outcome of the race may well come down to BMC. If Porte and TVG can successfully co-exist, and there’s no reason to assume they will not, the BMC 1-2 punch may push Froome a bit and that could pry open a door. On the other hand, BMC lacks the climbing support needed to successfully challenge SKY.
Richie Porte leading Chris Froome across the finish line of the final 2016 Dauphiné stage. Froome won the race's GC.
Fabio Aru - Astana. A fine rider, with no help. So Aru? Ah no.
Romain Bardet - AG2R. See Aru.
Thibaut Pinot - FDJ. Ditto.
Should you attack Froome and SKY early in an alpine stage, they have so many strong climbers that when they close down the gaps for Froome towards the end of the stage, guys will be flying out the back on the climb like bats at dusk fleeing the Congress Avenue Bridge in Austin, Texas. When the field is down to a handful, SKY will launch Froome to a stage win.
If you wait until late, you might have a bigger group, but the same scenario applies. SKY ramps it up and !BOOM! goes the Froome with a couple of km to go.
What to do? Try and stick close to Quintana. Remember to smile pretty on the third step of the podium.
The Hot Tip
Keep your eyes on Etixx rider Julian Alaphilippe. This kid is the real deal. If ever France had the chance to say, “here’s the next Hinault,” it is with this 24 year old. He’s got all the skills, and the panache to make the leap. But not this season. This year, it’s the white jersey and a stage win for St. Julian.
Vive le Tour
Everyone on my list will come ready to challenge Froome. We will see plenty of aggressive riding as past history has shown that late challenges to the SKY hegemony are useless. Froome has raced sparingly and well. He is tanned, rested, and ready.
- My head says Aru. My heart says TvG.
Ladies and gentlemen, I’ll return calls and check my email after July 24.