Tour de France 2014: Five contenders remaining after exits of Alberto Contador and Chris Froome
Two of the favourites are already out after stage 10, so who are the contenders to be in yellow in Paris?
Dropping like flies, like bowling pins, like confetti scattered at a particularly mountainous, sweaty wedding.
Take your pick from one thousand hyperbolic analogies- what’s clear is that few words can properly justify the insanity of this Tour de France.
Now Alberto Contador has joined Chris Froome in crashing, burning and optimistically targeting the Vuelta a Espana, the door of opportunity has been well and truly kicked open for a selection of riders whose chances of overall victory seemed unthinkable nine days ago.
Here are five riders who have passed from outsiders to contenders, almost by virtue of having simply stayed upright amid the chaos.
The Tasmanian came into the race expecting to be nothing but a pack-horse to carry the load of Chris Froome’s Tour de France challenge. Nine days in and he’s the default leader of Team Sky, who will want at least a podium finish from a man who can time trial better than perhaps any other overall contender. Froome once described Porte as the ‘angry little man’ of the peloton- but he will need ice in his veins to sustain his yellow jersey challenge from here on in.
Nibali took the yellow jersey in Sheffield but ceded it to Tony Gallopin of Lotto-Belisol prior to today’s brutal mountain stage. The man nicknamed ‘The Shark’ is one of the only riders left amongst the contenders to have won a Grand Tour- the 2010 Vuelta a Espana and the 2013 Giro d’Italia- so he has the knowledge of how to finish a three-week stage race. A letter sent to him by his team manager warning him about a poor early-season performance seems to have spurred the Italian into form good enough to win the Tour.
Vincenzo Nibali in yellow
At 34, this is surely one of Valverde’s final- and best- chances to win the Tour de France. So far he has hidden from view, deep within the bowels of the peloton- and with the disastrous way things have gone for his competitors, that’s looking like a wise move. Valverde’s Kryptonite comes against the clock- with a 54km time trial looming on the penultimate day of the race, he will need to take large chunks of time in the mountains in order to win the race.
Romain Bardet/Jean-Christophe Peraud
In the vacuum that is the 2014 Tour, the French duo who joint-spearhead AG2R’s challenge look like they might just be able to bring about home success for the first time in many, lovelorn years. Bardet and Peraud’s biggest strength is their ability to work as a team- whilst the latter is a better time-trialist, Bardet has the punch on the climbs. What’s that saying? You wait years for a French contender, and then two come along at once…
Tejay van Garderen
Andrew Talansky was the pre-race favourite amongst the new clutch of young American riders, but van Garderen has upstaged him so far. The BMC rider endured a fairly miserable 2013 Tour and has suffered so far this season with injuries and illness- but it appears that he’s coming into form just at the right time- with the Tour de France gate unlocked and well and truly banging in the wind.
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