Tag Archives: Thibaut Pinot

Froome goes to the limit to win the Tour…Pinot rescues his Tour on the most iconic of mountains

Stage 20: Modane > Alpe d’Huez, 110.5km

It was a stage of two parts. Not a split stage like those from the 1980s, but rather a stage in which two stories were written. The first was the very sudden realisation that perhaps this Tour was not over and that at last the Yellow jersey appeared to be in trouble, with a seemingly won and lost Tour up for grabs on the most iconic climb in the race and the final climb at that. The second was the race to actually win on that iconic climb as a young Frenchman timed his moment of redemption on this years Tour to perfection, much to the joy of his adoring home nation.

When Thibaut Pinot was seen standing on the cobbles of northern France almost three weeks ago, throwing his arms in the air in frustration that a mechanical was sending his Tour dreams up with the dust that surrounded him, it looked as though he might just quit there and then. It might have been the easy thing to do. Likewise on stage 17 when, having long since turned to hunting for stage wins, he crashed on the descent of the Col d’Allos. A younger version of himself might well have folded and rode anonymously into Paris but last years high finish has clearly given him a deep belief in his ability and the 25 year old Frenchman gutted it out and continued to hunt, until today, when on the grandest stage of all at Alpe d’Huez, he got his win.

It was a superb ride by Pinot. He shook off the rest of his breakaway companions, the last of which was the always gritty, always strong Ryder Hesjedal, and soloed to a win by 18sec over a fast charging man on a mission, Nairo Quintana.

From the top of the first mountain of the Tour to the foot of the last, Chris Froome winning this years Tour de France has seemed a foregone conclusion with everyone else either fighting to maintain a podium place or a position in the top ten. Either they seemed incapable of distancing the Sky rider or, dare I say, unwilling to attempt it at the risk of blowing their own position.

Nairo Quintana, who had entered the mountain stages nearly two minutes behind Froome and then lost more time on that first mountain stage, had spent the better part of the past week making small attempts to shake Froome only to find himself consolidating his podium position by dropping most others but with Froome always close by.

That isn’t to say there were signs that Froome was beginning to look tired; no longer was he initiating the major moves, but even yesterday Quintana only managed to pull back a mere 30sec when he finally shed himself of Froome, leaving Froome still 2min 38sec to the good with just this final stage to go. But nobody wins the Tour without some kind of adversity, and while Froome has faced a lot of his from the actions of some idiot fans, on the bike he was, at last, about to get a taste of adversity courtesy of the little Colombian.

There was only two climbs here and the first on the Col de la Croix de Fer was too far out as Quintana found out when he briefly attacked only to sit up on the descent. With a long ride along the valley to the Alpe, it would have been madness for Quintana to push on. It appeared too late for Quintana, just as it had been each time a day ticked by with Froome still in a commanding lead, and so with only the Alpe remaining, focus was already fully upon who from the early break off the front might win the stage itself.

In the end it was too late, but for a short while, Froome appeared to be in real trouble. Quintana attacked early on the Alpe and nobody reacted. Froome watched him go, but this time there was no holding his power threshold and slowly bridging back across. This time the gap continued to open until which times Quintana was no longer on the same stretch of road between hairpin bends.

The gap grew to 30 seconds and it held around there for a while as Froome sat on the wheels of his super domestique, turned bodyguards, Wout Poels and Richie Porte. The last act of Porte in service to his captain before moving away from Sky at the end of the season would be to try and save the Yellow jersey for the Sky leader.

As the crowds swarmed and the threat of attack loomed, the Sky duo in front of Froome powered their way through, the crowds moving back just in time as the clock on the top of our TV screens continued to tick upwards and up over a minute. Froome was in trouble, with several kilomtres still remaining, the Tour appeared to be slipping away.

Everyone was scrambling to do the maths in their heads. How much could Froome afford to lose now and how many kilometres were left? Was he keeping something in the bag…riding to a level he knew he could maintain without losing enough time? Or was he on his limit…starting to panic as the time gap continued to rise and the legs refused to react? He wasn’t looking any stronger as the hairpin bends were counted off, and what if he suddenly cracked?

Behind the Team Sky bus paced Sir Dave Brailsford, going through all these emotions with the sane side of his brain telling him that the allowable gap versus the distance remaining left a power requirement of Froome that he could surely manage. The other side of his brain was remining him (and all of us) of the human element of the Tour in which sometimes power numbers, data, stats and everything else could become irrelevant when troubles come and all that stood between you and the glory was the desire to suffer that little bit more, to find the strength to hang on.

Into the final kilometre and Brislford could begin to relax. Quintana hadn’t gained enough. That moment in which it looked like we were witnessing one of the greatest comebacks/collapses in Tour history was fading. Quintana finished and 1min 20sec later, so to did Froome. He looked to the clock, a look of a man that didn’t have it all under control after all, but took note that he had won the Tour by a mere 1min 12sec; a figure nobody could have imagined his lead dropping to when the day began.

Quintana will surely question his bad timing today. A little too late to overhaul Froome for the Tour win and a little too late to overhaul Pinot for the stage win and he will head home as the winner of the young rider competition, but empty handed without a stage victory unlike those two men who got in his way overall and for the stage. That said, he will win stages and should win himself a Tour one day, and what he did perhaps do was prove himself as the finest climber in the world, one who stays strong over the course of a three week race. It will have left him and his fans wondering what if regarding that treacherous first week where on stage two in the cross-winds he lost 1min 28sec to Froome, more than which he has now lost the Tour by.

Of course, for Froome he has proven to have timed this Tour to perfection. You can say ‘what if’ there had been another mountain today, or another mountain stage tomorrow, but there wasn’t and there isn’t and Froome stands in Yellow. And while Quintana can say he lost the Tour in the winds of Holland, Froome could also point to that first mountain stage to La Pierre-Saint-Martin where, with the stage win, he put 1min 14sec (including the 10sec time bonus) into Quintana, 2sec more than that he won the Tour by.

In the end though, the best man always wears Yellow in Paris and Froome has proven himself to be the best across the entire three weeks of the route that was put in front of them and not just the four days in the Alps. He’ll ride into Paris tomorrow and baring some kind of unforeseen disaster will win his second Tour in three years and Sky’s third in four.

Result: Classement:
1. Pinot (FDJ) in 3h 17′ 21″

2. Quintana (MOV) +18″

3. Hesjedal (TCG) +41″

4. Valverde (MOV) +1′ 38″

5. Froome (SKY) s.t.

6. Rolland (EUC) +1′ 41″


15. Nibali (AST) +3′ 30″
16. Contador (TCS) s.t.

1. Froome (SKY) in 81h 56′ 33″

2. Quintana (MOV) +1′ 12″

3. Valverde (MOV) +5′ 25″

4. Nibali (AST) +8′ 36″

5. Contador (TCS) +9′ 48″

6. Gesink (TLJ) +10′ 47″

Martin blizes time-trial; Nibali honours yellow; Frenchman sweep remainder of podium

Stage 20: Bergerac to Périgueux, 54km individual time-trial.

The man expected to win, did win and, thanks to his position in the general classification, had completed the job long before the battle that would garner all the attention got under way: The fight for the final podium positions. Tony Martin could well have gone back to his hotel, had a shower, a bite to eat and returned to the podium such was the certainty of his ride that nobody to come after would beat it, but instead he was made to sit beside the finishing line, watching various riders come up to the line and fall well short of his mark.

As a result however he got to enjoy the exciting climax to this years tour podium. Coming in, Vincenzo Nibali held such a lead that nothing short of a disaster would have put his Tour into jeopardy, but rather than play it safe and coast around, Nibali still went out hard, determined to honour the yellow jersey. The effort put him into fourth for the stage and resulted in him taking yet further time from those around him in the overall standings.

Nibali will ride into Paris with a 7minute, 52 second lead over the nearest man, the biggest winning margin in the Tour since Jan Ullrich beat Richard Virenque in 1997 by 9 minutes, 9 seconds. Thinking back to that day who would have though it would be the last (and only) time the then 23 year old Jan Ullrich would win the Tour de France and also the last time a Frenchman would stand on the podium…until now.

At least one podium spot was all but guaranteed between second place Thibaut Pinot and third place Jean-Christophe Péraud with Spaniard Aljeandro Valverde the only one who could potentially strip one place away from them, but it became evident early that Valverde wasn’t going to be doing that. Valverde was the slowest of the top six and it soon became a battle between Pinot and Péraud to sort out which order they would stand on the podium. Pinot came in with a 13 second lead over his fellow countryman, but Péraud stormed off the starting ramp and had overturned the entire defect plus a further 12 seconds by the first time check at 19 kilometres.

Indeed, Péraud was the fastest of the main contenders at the first check taking 5 seconds from Tejay Van Garderen and 6 seconds from Nibali, but a bike change slowed his progress and he himself began to lose ground on that pair as the course wore on. By the second check Péraud was now well behind Nibali and Van Garderen and 24 seconds up on Pinot who had matched Péraud for pace, shy a single second.

By the third check Péraud had studied himself and put 36 seconds into Pinot’s time and it was clear the elder statesman of the pair at 37 years of age would not only live out his dream by finishing on the podium but would do so in second place. He hit the line with the seventh best time on the day, 45 seconds better than the young Pinot.

Péraud broke down crying after the finish and Pinot will be satisfied with a top three. The French waited 17 years for someone to do this and two have come along at once. It’s the first time two Frenchmen have finished on the podium since Laurent Fignon and Bernard Hinault in 1984.

It also had the potential to be the first time three Frenchmen finished in the top five since Charly Mottet, Luc Leblanc and Fignon in the 1991, but Romain Bardet struggled almost as badly as Valverde and, like his teammate, was forced to make a bike change. Unlike Péraud however, Bardet’s change cost him: Van Garderen, who required 2’07” coming into the stage, put 2’09” into the youngster and took fifth place by a mere 2 seconds. It was like a miniature version of Fignon vs. LeMond all over again…the Frenchman losing out right on the final stretch to the American, albeit for minor placings this time.

And so Tony Martin could finally move away from the waiting area and onto the podium and head back to his hotel for a long overdue lie down. His ride was on another level to the rest. He beat Tom Dumoulin by 1 minute, 39 seconds, Jan Barta by 1’47” and was two seconds shy of putting two minutes into the yellow jersey. Still, Nibali won’t mind; he proved himself the strongest over the three weeks as a whole and further illustrated that against his rivals today. He will coast into Paris tomorrow to win the Tour de France.

Result:
1. Martin (OPQ) in 1h6’21”
2. Dumoulin (GIA) +1’39”
3. Barta (TNE) +1’47”
4. Nibali (AST) +1’58”
5. Konig (TNE) +2’02”
6. Van Garderen (BMC) +2’08”
Others
7. Péraud (ALM) +2’27”
12. Pinot (FDJ) +3’12”
26. Bardet (ALM) +4’17”
28. Valverde (MOV) +4’28”

Overall:
1. Nibali (AST) in 86h37’52”
2. Péraud (ALM) +7’52”
3. Pinot (FDJ) +8’24”
4. Valverde (MOV) +9’55”
5. Van Garderen (BMC) +11’44”
6. Bardet (ALM) +11’46”

Pinot v Péraud v Valverde in the time-trial

Forget Vinenzo Nibali. He’s won the Tour now. Nothing shy of serious mechanical trouble or a crash is going to stop him and so with the points, king of the mountains, and team competitions all settled, attention turns to the rest of the podium; the battle for 2nd and 3rd, separated between three men by just 15 seconds and with a 54km time-trial set to decide it.

Here is the current General Classification between the three protagonists of Valverde looking for his first Tour de France podium in six attempts, and Péraud and Pinot looking to become the first Frenchmen since Richard Virenque in 1997 to finish in the top 3:

Pinot
Péraud +13″
Valverde +15″

So who is going to make the most of this time-trial and grab second, or at least third? It’s extremely hard to say. None of the three are time-trial specialists, but all of them have shown an ability to do well against the clock when required. In particular Valverde and Péraud who have won their national time-trial champions, with Valverde doing just that this year.

It’s difficult to say who will be feeling the best on the day, who the course will suit the best and who has come out of the mountains with the most in their legs. The Pyrenees would suggest Pinot is going the best and Valverde the worst but that rarely stacks up in an individual time-trial.

The only evidence we can really look at is their past head-to-head action, and even that is circumstantial at best. It turns out they’ve done three time-trials in the Tour de France against one another before; two in 2012, one in 2013. There was a second time-trial in 2013 but Pinot had abandoned by then and Péraud crashed out during the warm-up for it.

Here’s how the three time-trials stacked up:

2012 TOUR, STAGE 9, 41.5KM
29. Péraud in 55’03”
34. Valverde +22″
59. Pinot +1’33”

2012 TOUR, STAGE 19, 53.5KM
41. Pinot in 1h09’44”
76. Péraud +1’07”
113. Valverde +3’05”

2013 TOUR, STAGE 11, 33KM
13. Valverde in 38’41”
19. Péraud +10″
55. Pinot +1’16”

Each one of them going the fastest in one of the three. But you have to factor in what was happening at that moment in the Tour. Was one of them a GC contender, was any of them saving energy for a potential stage win instead, were they all feeling at their best? It’s unlikely they done any of those three time-trials with the same mentality that they’ll do this one tomorrow.

Yet it does give an interesting look and it is clear that they’re all pretty close…exactly what we want given how close they also are on GC in this Tour.

There is one other benchmark with which to draw it again. A race far from the prestige of the Tour and a time-trial in which none of them stood to win a podium place but which all three competed as recently as this season: The Tour of the Basque country. It sorted itself as follows:

2014 TOUR OF BASQUE COUNTRY, 25.9KM
5. Péraud in 39’08”
8. Valverde +27″
10. Pinot +50″

Once again, there wasn’t much between them.

It really is up for grabs, though if I had to come down off the fence for just a moment I’d stick my neck out and say Péraud will do enough to grab second and Valverde might do enough to take the third overall place. Or maybe they’ll all finish on the exact same time and we’ll wonder what a scenario that might have been had Nibali not been there!

Three Frenchmen in the top six…all targeting the podium; it’s a great sign for cycling

With a week left in this Tour de France there are three Frenchmen in the top six; it is something we haven’t seen for years and it raises serious prospects of at least one of them, if not more, making the final podium in Paris. Unfortunately for them there is also Vincenzo Nibali, who at this moment is in complete control of the yellow jersey and baring a disaster of Froome, Contador, or on the road, of Porte proportions, it looks as though only two of the three spots are up for grabs.

It’s three Frenchmen against one American against one Spaniard and ignoring Nibali, here is the top five on GC fighting for second and third.

2. Valverde (Spain)
3. Bardet (France) +13″

4. Pinot (France) +29″
5. Van Garderen (USA) +1’12”
6. Péraud (France) +1’31”

And for what it is worth, another Frenchman, Pierre Rolland is in tenth, 6’11” behind Valverde. It was Rolland whom a few years ago might have been seen as the future hope of French cycling to break what has become a long podium drought, but who has since been overtaken by these three Frenchman in the pecking order…at this tour, at least.

The last time a Frenchman finished in the top three of the Tour de France was Richard Virenque in 1997. Before that was Virenque again in 1996, Laurent Fignon in 1989, Jean-François Bernard in 1987, Bernard Hinault in 1986 and Hinault once more in 1985 when he won it for a fifth time.

Seventeen years. And all of them in the pre-Festina affair era.

It’s widely accepted that post that 1998 scandal, French cycling clamped down on rampant doping within its teams’ structures. The law tightened and the idea became a big no-no among young riders. Of course, there could always have been some taking the risk, but the French moved to the forefront of anti-doping in a way the Spaniards, Italians, Americans and others did not and in doing so they moved to the rear of cycling’s big hitters on the result sheets.

French cycling fans changed from hoping to see a French winner of their Grand Tour to hoping to simply see a stage winner. The hero’s of the likes of Hinault and Fignon were gone and it was plucky stage riders who showed enormous heart and fighting spirit that became the new hero’s of their nation. The likes of Thomas Voeckler.

But the nation has still longed for the day someone would come along and compete again to win the Tour. Note the reaction in France when Voeckler stole all those minutes from a breakaway on stage 9 of the 2011 Tour de France and almost clung on for the victory, losing his yellow jersey to Andy Schleck and then Cadel Evans with just three stages to go. His fighting spirit as he rode in the mountains like he ought not to have, won over the hearts of many, but many knew that it was a fleeting attempt, that Voeckler would never get such a chance again.

Rolland finished 11th that year (later upgraded to 10th when Contador had his result stripped) and won on Alpe d’Huez — the same day Voeckler lost the jersey — and with it came the weight of a nation to push on. He was 24 years of age at the time but since then has only bettered his final overall placing once in 2012 when he finished 8th.

A year later while all eyes were on Rolland, a young 22 year old Thibaut Pinot won a mountain stage to Porrentruy and finished 10th in the GC; second to Tejay Van Garderen in the white jersey competition. Pinot v Van Garderen looked like a prelude to a new rivalry one day for yellow…a flashback to LeMond v Fignon, and which today makes up two of the five going for second and third.

Seeing French cycling on the up again with names like Pinot coming through followed by Bardet, expected to be followed by Warren Barguil — who some think is the most talented of the lot and who won a stage in last years Vuelta aged 21 — is a good sign for cycling. That staunch anti-doping approach by French law and French cycling seen a nation left behind as other nationalities continued to win in a post-Festina affair cycling world.

Now however with the tide in attitudes in the pro-peloton changing, with those cycling clean overtaking the numbers of those cycling dirty and a young wave of talent coming in, French cycling is once again able to compete where maybe it always should have had things been fair. The likes of Bardet and Pinot born a generation later than someone like Christophe Bassons should count themselves fortunate.

And there’s one other in that trio going for the podium that highlights this culture change that has allowed French cycling to thrive again, best: Jean-Christophe Péraud. Unlike Pinot and Bardet, Péraud is an old man of the peloton…37 years of age. A mountain biker who only turned to the road full-time in the 2010 season aged 33, the Frenchman should be slowing down with age but is only getting better.

He was 9th in his first Tour in 2011, fell back to 44th in 2012, but was again sitting 9th in 2013 when a crash on the final time-trial forced him to abandon. He was 3rd in Paris-Nice last year and this year placed 4th in Tirreno-Adriatico, 3rd in the Tour of the Basque Country, 2nd in the Tour Méditerranéen, and 1st in the Critérium International.

Péraud would never have arrived into road cycling in any previous era at that age and been competitive at the front end of races. He certainly would not have landed into a tour ten year ago, even aged 27 and found himself competing for a podium place — as he is in this years Tour — against the likes of Lance Armstrong, Ivan Basso and Jan Ullrich as we now know how they where. The question though isn’t therefore whether he’s getting better, but rather whether everyone else is that little bit more normal? Has a race that would have been impossible for him to win in his prime riding clean — which as a staunch anti-doper, he is — suddenly within reach into his mid-30s?

It may be the best sign of the lot that cycling is improving itself for the good. Some will always cheat but in tackling the issue properly, cycling has opened the door to the French once again and Péraud exemplifies that opportunity, and we’re all the better for it. There are some who believe he could have won the Tour in his pomp had he been racing against a clean field but perhaps for that reason he never made the switch until much later.

That said, it isn’t the swing towards a cleaner sport that has exclusively opened the door to the French again; talent plays a large roll too. French cycling appears to have hit a golden generation and lets hope it works out for them. Péraud may be showing what is possible now, even at his age, but the likes of Pinot, Bardet, Barguil, even Rolland, have the best opportunity to seize it.

This Sunday, all being well, one of Pinot, Bardet or Péraud, or perhaps two of them, will stand on the podium in Paris and the shadow of Virenque will be wiped away at last. A line drawn and a real opportunity for the French and all of us to look forward with serious optimism.

Majka makes it stick this time; Nibali takes more time

Stage 14: Grenoble to Risoul, 177km. High Mountains.

I first really noticed Rafal Majka at this years Giro when the young 24 year old Polish rider burst onto the scene and finished in sixth overall with some big displays in the mountains, though in hindsight, his seventh place the year before should have been better remembered. And when I seen that, unlike any of those that finished around him in this years Giro with the exception of Pierre Rolland, that he would be lining up for the Tour de France, I sensed he was selected exclusively to help Contador where he could in the mountains. That was proven to be the case when he lost a heap of time over the first week of the race, saving what energy he could, but when his team leader crashed out on stage 10 and Saxo-Tinkoff went into Tour salvage mode, his objectives changed to winning them a stage.

Yesterday he made that bid for glory only for Vincenzo Nibali to swallow himself and fellow escapee, Leopold Konig, up in the closing kilometres to the summit at Chamrousse. Today he tried again. It could have been easy to wait until the Pyaranees, but he must have felt good. He got in the days early break and made his move on the final summit finish.

When news crackled over his radio that Nibali had once again dropped his rivals — all except Péraud, that is — and was on the chase, Majka must have feared the worst. But Nibali’s sudden surge aside, the time didn’t fall quickly enough and Majka was able to hold on to win solo — his first Tour de France stage win — in superb style at Risoul.

Not only has Majka shown himself to be a star of the future, one who if sent to target the Tour could well finish in the top five one day, or better, but he has gotten a little pride back for his team after the loss of Contador.

Further down the road a similar scene to the day before was playing out: Nibali up the road and the two young Frenchmen, Bardet and Pinot chasing, desperate to become the first Frenchman since Richard Virenque in 1997 to finish on the podium of their home race. Unlike yesterday however, they were together coming up to the line and the sprint to finish a mere fourth on the stage showed all the signs of trying to gain the psycological edge. Pinot took it but remains 16 seconds behind Bardet for third place overall.

Nibali may be wrapping up the victory in this Tour but the scramble for the podium is going to be fascinating in the coming week. Alejandro Valverde showed his first signs of serious weakness on the stage when he cracked and lost 34 seconds to the two young Frenchmen and one minute to Nibali, though he did just enough to keep his second place over Bardet by 13 seconds. Still, he’ll need to recover quickly or the two Frenchmen won’t have to worry about one of them being the first Frenchman onto the podium for 17 years.

So 29 seconds separates second, third and fourth with Tejay Van Garderen a further 43 seconds back in fifth and looking stronger by the day. Don’t count the American out. He’s been steady throughout these stages and he has kept himself in the mix. Given the bad day we seen from Richie Porte and then, less dramatically so, Valverde today, it’s clear that anyone could have a bad one in the high mountains and it could well be about who limits their losses rather than who gains what on the rest that truly dictates who follows Nibali onto the podium in Paris.

And all that is, of course, assuming Nibali himself doesn’t have a bad day. Stranger things have happened in this sport and it is why the rest must not ignore him while they look at one another entirely. It is also why Nibali is making his hay now while the proverbial sun of good form shines upon him.

Result:
1. Majka (TIN) in 5h 8’27”
2. Nibali (AST) +24″
3. Péraud (ALM) +26″
4. Pinot (FDJ) +50″
5. Bardet (ALM) s.t.
6. Van Garderen (BMC) +54″
Others:
10. Valverde (MOV) +1’24”
27. Porte (SKY) +5’16”

Overall:
1. Nibali (AST) in 61h 52’54”
2. Valverde (MOV) +4’37”
3. Bardet (ALM) +4’50”
4. Pinot (FDJ) +5’06”
5. Van Garderen (BMC) +5’49”
6. Péraud (ALM) +6’08”

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.