The 103rd Tour de France gets underway on Saturday at the UNESCO World Heritage Site of Le Mont-Saint-Michel and it’s a suitable send-off too for what could be a Tour for the ages.
Chris Froome looks to defend his Yellow jersey for Team Sky, but behind him lurk numerous rivals also hoping to be wearing yellow when they hit the Champs-Elysees on July 24.
The route this year is a balanced one, and doesn’t favour one rider over anyone else, again alluding to a brilliantly close battle.
Here’s how the leading men are looking heading into Monday’s Grand Depart…
Chris Froome (Sky) – 5/4
The defending champion, Froome is seeking a third General Classification this year, and he’s in strong form to go about achieving that aim
Froome won the Criterium de Dauphine last month for the third time, the previous two being precursors to a victorious tour a few weeks later.
With one of the strongest support teams on the Tour, Froome is going to be notoriously hard to be once again.
Nairo Quintana (Movistar) – 7/4
It seems inconceivable that Quintana won’t get the better of Froome one day, and after going so close 12 months ago, this year represents the Colombian’s best chance yet.
Last year’s runner-up has been in sterling form, claiming the Volta a Catalunya, Tour de Romandie and Route de Sud plus two more third places.
That, coupled with a rather favourable route this year, means the 26-year-old has never had a better shot at securing that yellow jersey.
Alberto Contador (Tinkoff) – 9/2
Contador is the most unpredictable rider of the leading trio to predict given inconsistent form.
The two-time Tour winner was in fine spirits to win the Tour of the Basque Country, but had nothing to offer Froome at the Dauphine.
He may be 33, but unrivalled pedigree ensures Contador can never be discounted.
Fabio Aru (Astana) is one of the future’s stars, and at 16/1 many may find him the one to back, but question marks remain over his form and temperament, though his talent and potential are unarguable.
Australia’s Richie Porte (BMC Racing) is another who, on his day can mix it with the best. At 18/1 sustaining that over a full Tour may be too much to ask of the 31-year-old, but Porte could certainly land a podium spot.
Thibaut Pinot (FDJ.JR) is another to keep an eye on at 20/1. Should be in contention after posting seven top-five placings this year, but struggled in the Dauphine, and can he cope with being the home favourite?
Former champion Vincenzo Nibali (Astana) is likely to start-off by supporting team-mate Aru, but a strong start could see those roles reversed. At 33/1 some will find that price too tempting.
All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing.