Tour de France: 10 things we've learnt so far at the Tour de France


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The Independent Online

1 Froome is on top of his game

Despite the major defeats of Sky on Stages Nine and 13, the Tour remains Chris Froome's to lose. Froome has a 2min 28sec advantage and has proved strong in the mountains and time trials.

2. Sky are struggling

Sky are not as strong as they were in 2012, and their rivals look prepared to attack them in the mountains, like Movistar, or on the flat, as Saxo-Tinkoff have done.

3. Germany back in the game

Germany are returning to the top table. Marcel Kittel took three stages, Andre Greipel won a sprint, and Tony Martin a time-trial, making Germany one of the few traditional cycling powerhouses prospering this year.

4. Where are the Spanish?

The so-called Spanish Armada – Alejandro Valverde, double Tour winner Alberto Contador and 2012 world No 1 Joaquim Rodriguez – were supposed to be Froome's strongest rivals but have not troubled the British rider.

5. Cadel steps back

In a year when Australia's Orica-GreenEdge squad have taken a leap forward in their Tour presence, 2011 winner Cadel Evans is heading in the opposite direction. After fading badly in the mountains, the BMC leader is way out of the game, even for the podium. At 36, his last chance for a Tour win has gone.

6. Enter the Colombian

Nairo Quintana is the most likely challenger for Chris Froome in the Alps. The Colombian launched the most damaging attack against Sky when he blasted away on the Pailhères climb in the Pyrenees. A remarkable Tour debut for the 23-year-old.

7. Mark Cavendish is on the rebound

Sick in the first week, unable to beat Marcel Kittel in the second, dowsed with urine 24 hours after he was accused of causing another rider to crash, Cavendish had a spectacular victory at Saint-Amand Montrond to reconfirm his status as the world's No 1 sprinter.

8. It's not France's year

The French have taken a step back compared to the huge advances of 2012 when Thibaut Pinot was 10th, Pierre Rolland took eighth and Thomas Voeckler the King of the Mountains title. So far this year, they have won nothing.

9. Kittel

Mark Cavendish has already named Marcel Kittel as "the next sprint super-star." Kittel's repeated defeats of Cavendish confirmed his arrival.

10. It's a great Tour

If 2012's ultra-domination by Sky was boring for everybody barring the British, this year nobody knows whether they can stay in control until Paris. So much the better for the race.