So yesterday, you saw my positive take on the ten guys I think have the best chance of winning the Tour. Obviously, ten different guys can’t all win, this isn’t fifty years of a claw machine. For every positive, there is of course a negative. Or multiple negatives, which historically I’ve found a preference to focus on.
You know, I try not to get nostalgic, I really do, but back in my day we laughed at people who did the Giro-Tour double, and didn’t rank them as favourites. That’s what happened to Nairo last year, anyway, when even an unconvincing Giro say him without the legs to even manage a top ten in the Tour. Now, that’s all apparently changed, even when winning this race would mean winning four consecutive Grand Tours, something only done by Merckx. Now even though he has a free pass on all the ventolin he can breathe, apparently, I think that he’s getting a lot more credit than I expected him to get. Add to that, the fact that his win last year was very narrow and we have ourselves a race. Not to mention the short stages, which Sky are quite simply going to be unable to control. When you have to deal with Valverde, Landa and Quintana all slinging off the front, along with whatever the other teams have to throw at you, team strength can only do so much. Froome will not be carried to a fifth Tour win — he’ll have to do it himself. With a Giro in his legs, that just might not be enough.
I meant every word of what I wrote about Bardet’s climbing skills — I think he might be the best guy in the mountains in this race. However...I don’t think it was his skills in the mountains anyone was doubting. The fact is, there’s a thirty kilometre time-trial to close out this race, and if last year is anything to go by, Bardet is not going to have a leg to stand on. His limping home in Marseille last year inspired no lack of sadness in me as he gave away six seconds every torturous kilometre, almost falling off the podium having stayed right in contact with yellow all race. And while I’ve seen it discussed around here that changes in his position or working to gain flexibility can propel him up the ranks, as of yet that does not seem to have happened. On the cobbles and the rest of the first week, even the TTT, I don’t think he’ll be much or any worse off than the majority of guys on this list, but that’ll be no use at all to him if he gets wiped off the map in the time-trial. Losing two minutes to Froome there would be a fair day out. I don’t think he can afford such a loss.
I’ve already mentioned a lot of the negatives about Quintana — his team is disunited, he’ll struggle on the cobbles and on the time-trials, team and individual, but my main problem with him is that I’m not convinced he has the ability to bury these guys at this level. He has won Grand Tours before, yes. Never the Tour. Never without luck on his side. He’ll need a lot of luck to build enough of a buffer over the better time-triallists. Cancel that — he’ll need a lot of luck to land in Annecy with any GC hopes at all.
Okay, I’m reaching. I admit that. I’m trying to put into words the certain something that whispers that Quintana just can’t do it. I am struggling to put my finger on the exact reason why — maybe it’s just a combination of factors that are building up to form a single thought — it’s not going to be Nairo’s year. Maybe he won’t get one.
Porte will crash, Porte will get a puncture, Porte will fall through a mysterious wormhole never to be seen again — these are the arguments I’m seeing to say why he’s not going to win the Tour, and I consider them fallacious ones. I’m not saying he won’t crash, I’m just saying that there’s no real logical reason why that should be your first argument why a thirty-three-year-old rider with no GT podiums should not win a Grand Tour. The real first argument should be that he’s never been at the front of a Grand Tour. He’s never made an attack that put anyone in danger. On Mont du Chat last year, he stayed with Froome. On Ventoux in 2016 pre-motorbike, he stayed with Froome. He has never put the field in danger in a Grand Tour, he’s just been there or thereabouts. Which would be fine, if he were still a world-beater in the time-trials, but all evidence suggests he’s fallen a little back in that discipline. Porte will need not just to stay in the right groups, but also make tactically sound moves with the legs to back them up. Something he has never consistently done before.
Reading Dumoulin’s and Sunweb’s different statements on Dumoulin’s participation in Le Grande Boucle, I can only laugh. To Sunweb, it’s a fact-finding mission for the year that Prudhomme finally goes “Fuck Bardet!” and shoves twelve time-trials into the race. To Dumoulin, he’s going for the win. He’s not going to get it, and I think we all know that. For Froome, the Giro-Tour double is just-about nearly palatable. For Dumoulin, I think he can look at Quintana’s ever-so-slightly...pitiful is too harsh, but not much too harsh, ride last year. He might win the ITT. He’s not going to stick around every day in the mountains, especially on the all-out attacking days like stage seventeen. I can imagine circumstances similar enough to his 2016 Giro performance. Then, he took the leader’s jersey, seemed impressive in the early climbing, but just didn’t have the legs to keep up in the mountains. Another year, Tom. It’s a shame, really. If he hadn’t ridden the Giro he would be right at the top of this post, and I’d have a lot less written in this paragraph.
If you read what I wrote about Adam in the other post, the bones of it was “his brother did this, so he should be able to do this.” Now, I’m a twin myself, and I have, on numerous occasions, had to remind people that there is no abnormal connection between twins. Adam is very good, and he’s had
second fourth place in the Tour before, but there’s no real logical reason to assume that his level will jump to the same extent that Simon’s did. Adam has been unconvincing in Grand Tours ever since that 2016 result. Not to mention, his time-trial could let him down when it counts.
Nairo Quintana is wearing the #1 dossard for Movistar and I think the Colombian will expect Landa’s support unless he proves himself to be materially stronger. Which to be fair, he hasn’t been this season. Before writing this piece, I had thought Landa may be a rider who only peaks when it counts, but his 2017 season was littered with better results than have been seen this year. He’s also the Movistar I find most likely to get hit by a stray cobble. In fact, I’m beginning to think he will. If he’s still in contention by the Alps, however, I think he is Movistar’s best shot.
Can you imagine Nibali being the strongest guy in this Tour? I simply can’t. He has won four Grand Tours in his career. He has been the strongest rider in...one, arguably two of them. Now, I would be the last person on earth to say that power in the legs is the most important thing here — a victory is a victory however it is achieved. However. I don’t believe Nibali is going to have it in his legs to beat everybody on this list unless there are a number of crashes or an equal amount of dips in form. Which has worked out for him before, I will admit.
I’ll tell you the truth here. I wanted ten on this list. I am very happy with the other nine. For Fuglsang’s position on this list it was a toss-up between him and Primoz Roglic. Oh, and Ilnur Zakarin, Geraint Thomas and Dan Martin. Roglic didn’t make the list because he’s done way less in GTs than any of the others except Thomas, who is the Dauphiné champ. Zakarin didn’t make it because he’s been as invisible as his fanbase this season. Thomas didn’t make it because he’s behind Froome in the hierarchy and I don’t trust him over three weeks. Like, at all. Martin didn’t make the list because he’ll be three minutes down after three stages. And so I was left with Fuglsang. I know he’s not going to win. You know he’s not going to win. Because, simply, there’ll be someone better. Which is the sobering truth of it, no disrespect to the guy.
Uran is on this list because he finished second last year and you can’t leave the guy who finished second last year off. Theoretically, he can repeat his performance last year, but that’s where Rigoberto Uran does really well — theory. In practice, he won’t hit his form of last year, especially with more summit finishes and less predictable stages. The TTT won’t suit him either. He just won’t hit the heights. And there isn’t a whole lot wrong with that.
So, what this two-part article has hitherto lacked is the magic ingredient called nuance. That’s what I’m going to try to add here, but not before I show you my tentative guess at a top ten:
Fuck yeah, Porte. (That nuance is going great, isn’t it). Okay, it starts here. Yes. Richie Porte is my pick to win the Tour de France. I have multiple reasons for this. Why will he beat Froome? Well, about eighteen months ago, if you asked everyone in the cycling media if the Giro-Tour double were possible, I think the vast, vast majority of them would have said no. I don’t see how that’s changed. Froome’s Giro, bar that one amazing performance, did nothing to convince me of anything otherwise. As I’ve said earlier, nobody is being carried by their team through this race. Froome will need multiple individual displays of strength to win this race. I don’t think he can beat everyone who doesn’t have a three week race in their legs. Why Porte? He’s better in the time-trials and team time-trials than Yates and Bardet. I can’t put my finger on why exactly Quintana won’t win, but I am convinced he won’t. Porte has all the climbing skills he needs to be in the right place to win this race. He’ll do well in the TT if he has to. As for a crash, puncture, or what have you, saying that that is likelier to happen to Porte is just an unfair thing to take seriously. Which leaves a jour sans. Can one strike? Absolutely. This year, however, I think he will avoid one. Then, the yellow jersey is his for the taking.