White jersey competition a four-way (at least) battle of the future

One jersey competition that is often more unpredictable than the Yellow jersey is the White jersey for the best young rider simply because there is often someone in their first or second Tour who comes to the fore and stakes their claim as a future winner of the race. We seen it last year in Tejay Van Garderen who is still young enough to contend for it again. He wasn’t on many peoples radar to win the White jersey but he did and he beat another young upcoming star in Frenchman Thibaut Pinot.

Both are eligible to compete for the prize again and we can only hope that this is a sign of a future rivalry between a Frenchman and an American that we haven’t seen since Laurent Fignon and Greg LeMond in 1989. But despite the fact nobody else finished within an hour of the young duo, that doesn’t mean they’re a lock to win it in 2013. New protagonists arrive on the scene every Tour looking to stake their claim and this year is no different. Indeed, another American will be out to beat them both.

His name is Andrew Talansky. Second in Paris-Nice this year and seventh in the Vuelta last year, Talansky who rides for Garmin, looks a huge talent and a potential future winner of the race. Of course with Ryder Hesjedal as his team-leader as well as Dan Martin ahead of him in the pecking order, Talansky’s hopes of a White jersey challenge might be hampered by the work he’ll be required to do for the team. Still, that work will bring him up the standings in the mountains and will see him fight it out with Van Garderen and Pinot.

Pinot is the leader of his team which will be of an advantage. No Frenchman has won the Tour since Bernard Hinault in 1985 so you can imagine the pressure that’s on his shoulders after his stage win and 10th place finish last year not to mention where that hype might go should he move further up the GC this year. I just hope that pressure doesn’t get to him.

Van Garderen is in an interesting position when it comes to team leadership. Technically Cadel Evans is the BMC team leader, but Van Garderen beat him in the overall last year showing strength into the third week that Evans — 12 years his elder — could not possess. Evans has bounced back this year with a third place in the Giro, but then again, Van Garderen at 24 and really coming into his own won the Tour of California. His time to start showing his talent really is now and while the official line from BMC is that Van Garderen will ride for Evans, don’t expect him to hang around long if Evans starts to run into trouble. I personally can’t help but think that perhaps BMC have elected Evans team leader in order to keep some of the pressure off of Van Garderen and leave the rest watching Evans allowing for Van Garderen to surprise.

Then there is Nairo Quintana, the young 23-year old Colombian climber who looks another potential winner of a Grand Tour in years to come. A chip off the Colombian climbers block of names such as Luis Herrera and Fabio Parra, Quintana is primed for a solid Tour and thus being in the mix for the White jersey. But he isn’t just a pure climber despite what his 130 lbs frame might suggest. No, Quintana can time-trial also, finishing just 17 seconds behind time-trialing master Tony Martin at this years Tour of the Basque Country proving himself to be a bit of an all rounder. If Quintana can display that ability in this Tour, hang in there in some of the climbs, and even grab himself a stage win he could well finish in the top fifteen overall if not higher.

Or maybe someone new that nobody was expecting will come through and show their potential. Van Garderen, Pinot, Talansky and Quintana will be the ones to look for but nothing is ever a given in the Tour, not least when it comes to young talent looking to make their name while trying to gain experience and find out exactly what kind of rider they are.

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