After watching co-favourites Chris Froome and Alberto Contador both crash out of last year’s Tour de France before the halfway mark, Nairo Quintana would have been forgiven for feeling a tinge of regret, having decided to give cycling’s main event a miss in 2014.
The young Colombian set his stall out early last term, deciding to skip Le Tour and concentrate on the Giro d’Italia, which he won easily, as no rider has managed to do the double since Marco Pantani in 1998, although 7/2 shot Contador will try to repeat the feat next month.
Quintana was clearly paying attention to the Astana man’s failed attempt to win his third Tour de France last summer (his 2010 victory was chalked off for a doping offence), as Contador’s challenge began to derail on Stage 5, when having to contend with cobblestones.
Movistar’s number one made his team’s roster for two ‘cobbled’ classics early on in this campaign, and after chasing home Froome for second spot on the podium two years ago, 5/2 hope Quintana looks the best bet to stop the Brit regaining his title in the shadow of the Arc de Triomphe on July 26.
While showing plenty of respect to Quintana and defending champion Vincenzo Nibali, a 6/1 fancy to retain Le Tour, 15/8 jolly Froome has named Contador as his biggest rival, but whether the 32-year-old has the legs after his latest Grand Tour success is questionable.
Three-time winner Greg LeMond begs to differ, calling Quintana “an amazing cyclist and probably the biggest talent that I’ve seen in many years” whose victory “would certainly shake up the sport”, although the American believes Froome deserves to start favourite.
For an outsider, last year’s third-placed rider Thibaut Pinot, who’ll be aiming to become the first Frenchman to win the race since Bernard Hinault’s fifth victory 30 years ago, looks massive at 33/1, after strong rides so far this year in the Criterium International and the Tirreno–Adriatico.
Ladbrokes are paying 1/4 odds on the first three home, and after the carnage of 2014, hedging bets on a big-priced rider is a must.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.
Fancy a flutter? Sign up today to claim up to £25 in free bets.