As if you weren’t going to watch the 100th edition of the Tour anyway, here are some key events, plotlines, and possibilities that will be part of the drama of this year’s race, which will take place entirely on French soil.
The Field is Stacked—Three of the last four Tour champions will be racing against each other this year, and the man whom some pundits claim should have won last years Tour, Chris Froome, will finally get his chance as undisputed leader of Team Sky. Even though one of the former champs, Andy Shleck, is probably not in contention for a GC title, Cadel Evans and Alberto Contador are both reportedly in top shape, while Froome and Evan’s team mate Tejay van Garderen will both be coming off impressive victories, and all look to be peaking at just the right time. This Tour’s elevation profile guarantees a battle of attrition of the highest order; let the slugfest begin.
The Green Jersey Showdown—Peter Sagan and Mark Cavendish will be putting on a show, make no mistake. Since neither racer’s team has a legitimate GC contender, each sprinter will have almost full use of their respective roster. Cavendish will have the double motivators of asserting his position as the World’s Greatest Sprinter over the upstart Sagan, and making up for last year’s debacle of a Tour in which he was left on his own to watch Sagan claim the Points Classification title, as Team Sky abandoned Mark to focus on Bradley Wiggins. Cavendish will hold the edge on flat stages and finishes, while Sagan will have the advantage on uphill sprints and stages with elevation changes.
The Alpe d’Huez will be Climbed Back-to-Back, on the Same Stage—Stage 18 features one Cat 3, three Cat 2 and two HC climbs. The two HC’s being ascents of the iconic Alpe d’Huez and it’s twenty-one hairpin turns. The Yellow Jersey should still be in contention at this point, and there will undoubtedly be several brazen attacks in attempts at glory on this one of a kind stage.
The Yellow Jersey Might Make it’s Way Back to the States—Chances are slim, but Chris Froome might fail a test and Cadel Evans might fade after a hard-fought Giro, leaving Tejay Van Garderen to carry the Jersey back to the U.S. for the first time since
2005 1990. TVG’s fitness shown in his convincing win at this year’s Tour of California might not be enough to put him in yellow come July 21st, but hey, it just might. For the record, I am not saying anything about Chris Froome and Team Sky, except that we haven’t seen the kind of form they are showing since, well, 2005.
Internal Drama on Team Sky and Team BMC—Last year’s controversy, which was fueled a bit by Mr. Froome himself, centered on Chris Froome and his leader Bradley Wiggins—who was the stronger rider, thus more deserving of the Yellow Jersey which was Team Sky’s to assign? Well, Froome got his wish, and will be leading Team Sky this year, ironically with a lieutenant—Aussie Richie Porte—who could very easily turn out to be this year’s Froome to 2012’s Froome’s Wiggins… Another brewing sub-plot concerns last year’s White Jersey winner Tejay Van Gerderen and former Tour champ Cadel Evans. Both riders are in great form, with Tejay still basking in the glow of his Tour of California victory and Cadel with a third place in the Giro d’Italia, creating what could be a powerful alliance or a crippling distraction. If Van Garderen and Evans can stick to the plan, which is to deliver Cadel to the top step of the podium, they have a chance of unseating reigning champs Team Sky. Conversely, if entitlement and hubris work their way into the plot—on either team—the door could be left open for an upset.
Bonus Reason, The “Tres Amigos”—Last year’s Vuelta podium of Contador, Rodrigues, and Valverde will all be present, lurking and looking for stage victories and possibly the Yellow Jersey in this climber’s edition of the Tour. With all the attention focussed on Froome, a crack could appear which one of the amigos might slip through to victory.