Chris Froome out of Tour de France 2014: Five reasons why you should keep watching Le Tour

The 2013 champion crashed out of the Tour on stage five to end his title defence, but here's why you shouldn't switch of this year's coverage to the Tour de France

First came the controversial omission of Bradley Wiggins. Then Mark Cavendish lasted all of 200km before abandoning. And now, to put the ill-fated icing on an increasingly terrible Tour de France for British interest, the man expected to defend his title, Chris Froome, has crashed out of the race.

Yet despite these blows to the British cycling psyche, there are still plenty of reasons to keep on watching. In fact, let’s turn this around and suggest that, perversely, the departures of all those well-known names might actually lead to a more interesting race. In that spirit, here are five factors to watch out for as the Froome-less Tour continues to wend its way around France.

1. There are still two Brits left

The Tour began on Saturday with four British riders, and five days later only half their number remain. All the more reason, then, to keep an eye or two on the performances of Team Sky’s Geraint Thomas and Simon Yates of Orica GreenEdge. Thomas is a selfless rider hewn from the hard-old-fashioned mould. He broke his pelvis during the Corsican section of the 2013 Tour but rode on through the pain as crucial support for Froome- and finished the race, too. Yates is a first-year professional who was desired by Team Sky but elected to begin his career with an Australian team for the opportunity to race for himself. Look out for him as the Tour enters the mountains.

 

2. A Battle Royale between Contador and Nibali

They’re two of the most aggressive riders of this generation- and Froome’s departure may well mean that this Tour de France comes down to a battle between the pre-eminent Spanish and Italian riders of the era. After a disappointing performance in 2013, Contador looks to be back on form- although there will always be a slight shadow trailing him after his positive doping test for Clenbuterol and subsequent ban. Nibali is a descender par excellence, and himself appears to be back on form after a scratchy start to 2014.

3. Gallic flair

For the first time in many a year, the French have real and coherent prospects for success in their home race. Look out for the stylish climber Pierre Rolland, who has a penchant for a mad breakaway just like his teammate and compatriot Thomas Voeckler. Rolland has his eyes firmly trained on the polka-dot jersey of the mountains competition. The white jersey for best young rider could well be a Gallic affair, too, with both Romain Bardet and Thibaut Pinot going well.

4. Mountains, mountains and more mountains

There are eight summit finishes in this year’s race, which should ensure thrilling riding and relentless attacking right to the end of each stage. The most beautiful of all is stage 18 to Hautacam which crosses the iconic climb of the Col du Tourmalet, whose history is as legendary as the Tour’s itself. The mountains are where the Tour de France always comes alive- and we’re not even there yet, so keep watching!

5. It’s the world’s greatest bike race

With or without British interest, the Tour is the most entertaining, most vibrant, most ridiculously overblown bike racing pageant in the world. Yes, it can bore and frustrate on certain days (sprints…), but professional cycling doesn’t get any bigger or more relevant in wider sporting terms than the annual scandal-pocked caper around France. Could you ever imagine seeing the World Cup winners sipping Champagne with five minutes to go in the final? That’s the Tour de France- baffling and idiosyncratic to the last- and well worth your attention for the next three weeks.

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