Tour De France Preview
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Few sporting events have the ability to capture the attention of a nation like the Tour de France. The rise of Team Sky, alongside British winners Bradley Wiggins and Chris Froome inconsecutive years, has seen cycling go mainstream in the UK. The spellbinding aerial shots of the French country side, and the packed roads of the mountain stages, return Saturday for the 102nd edition of cycling’s most famous race. There are relatively few things we can be certain of on a 21 stage bike race between over 200 riders. However, there will be crashes, breakaways, winding descents that make TV viewers cover their eyes in fear and gruelling mountain climbs in front of thousands of adoring, and slightly crazy, fans from all over the world.
Team Sky had a nightmare Tour in 2014. After seeing a rider in their colours win the Tour twice in as many years, Britain’s Chris Froome suffered a series of unfortunate accidents that ultimately led to his abandonment in stage five. Yet Froome is back and looks fitter than ever. Victory in the increasingly important Tour of Oman over direct rival Alberto Contador certainly sent a message earlier this year, as did his mountain attacks in the Criterium de Dauphine when he simply rode away from quality riders like Tejay van Garderen. Although Contador will certainly be a worry for Froome, his biggest concern must be the diminutive Colombian Nairo Quintana of team Movistar. Cycling fans will need no help in remembering his daring attacks on Froome in the mountains in 2013, and Quintana may just have a better support team this time around.This year’s tour begins in Utrecht in the Netherlands, but the real action for overall classification contenders will be stage four – Seraing to Cambrai. The daunting stage will include multiple sections of cobblestones normally reserved for the famous Paris to Roubaix one day race that has claimed many a scalp in its time. The weather looks set fair, but if it rains expect only the minor teams to be pushing for a stage win as a safety first approach is taken on by the peloton.
Both Froome and Quintana are priced at 26 on the General Classification Index. Stage one is the traditional individual time trial which, at just under 14 kilometres, should favour guys like Fabian Cancellara and former hour record holder Alex Dowsett.
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