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With the Tour de France almost upon us, the excitement is starting to build to a crescendo. For the next three weeks we can indulge in one of the world’s biggest sporting events which will be broadcast in approximately 49 countries and reaching over 10 million people. 198 riders will start the 102nd edition of the Tour de France whose route will take them on an epic three week tour covering some 3500km from Utrecht, the 4th largest city in the Netherlands hosting its 6th Grande Départ, to a thrilling conclusion on the Champs-Élysées in Paris.

To appreciate this assured spectacle properly we need to get to grips with the runners and riders. So, who to watch out for in the general classification and who will be risking life and limb in the sprints?

 

The Main Contenders

 

  • Vincenzo Nibali – victorious in the 2014 Tour de France, “the shark of Messina” has to be on the top of the list to lift the title again. Following a similar progression to 12 months ago, the newly crown Italian national champion’s form is on the rise and we can expect a strong showing from the 30 year old throughout this year’s Tour.
  • Chris Froome – the Kenyan born, British rider crashed out of the Tour de France last year and was forced to withdraw through injury before ever reaching the cobbles of stage 5 which wreaked havoc on the peloton . Now, hungrier than ever, Froome is sure to be one of the favourites to regain the crown he won in 2013.
  • Alberto Contador – the Spaniard is on course to complete an historic double and has his sights firmly set upon victory in Paris. Having battled to victory in the first Grand Tour of the year, the Giro d’Italia, should “El Pistolero”, so-called because of his famous winning salute, claim victory in this year’s Tour de France, he will be the first rider since Marco Pantani in 1998 to achieve the Giro-Tour double – a feat only 6 other riders have achieved.
  • Nairo Quintana – the enigmatic Colombian is youngest of the four big contenders for this year’s race yet despite still being eligible for the young rider’s classification rides with a maturity beyond his 25 years. Claiming his first Grand Tour in last year’s Giro d’Italia, this year’s Tour de France route, with an abundance of mountain top finish and a dearth of time trialling kilometres seems tailored made for the youngster.

 

The Fastest Men on Two Wheels

 

One to watch of course is the cheeky daredevil of the peloton Peter Sagan. Cementing his status as one of the best all-rounders with overall victory in the Tour of California, the Slovakian will be keen to carry his form in to this year’s Tour in his quest for a fourth successive points classification. The aggression and lightning speed of Mark Cavendish is sure to be back to its best this year and with 2nd place at the recent British national road race on a unsuited unsuited to the Manxman we can be certain of him being in the mix on French roads. Alexander Kristoff and André Griepel are both well worth keeping tabs on with the former having won the most races of any rider this year and the latter a common sight in all bunch sprints.

The Young and the Old

 

There are a handful of young riders in the Tour who will be keen to show off their abundant talent. Simon Yates, the 22 year-old Brit riding for Orica GreenEDGE, will be lining up alongside his twin brother Adam Yates in what is sure to be an impressive second appearance at the Tour. With convincing performances in one week stage races throughout this year it will be intriguing to see how the pair perform on the biggest stage of all. Other notable young riders are Warren Barguil, 23, a French star of the future making his Tour de France debut and Bob Jungels, a 22 year-old from Luxembourg recently crown both road race and time trial champion of his country.

 

In contrast, the oldest rider in the field is the 40 year-old Matteo Tosatto whose years of experience will be invaluable to Alberto Contador and his Tinkoff-Saxo team. Luca Paolini of Team Katusha comes in at a relatively spritely 38 years of age and we can be sure to see his bearded visage scything through the peloton in the tough early week of the Tour as the riders once again visit the cobbles of northern France.

The Teams

 

Team Sky

Leading the 9 strong British outfit will be Chris Froome alongside his team mates Peter Kennaugh, Ian Stannard, Geraint Thomas, Luke Rowe, Richie Porte, Wout Poels, Nichols Roche and Leopold König.

Astana Pro Team

2014 Tour de France winner Vincenzo Nibali will lead the team with Jakob Fuglsang, Lars Boom, Andriy Grivko, Michele Scarponi, Lieuwe Westra, Dmitriy Gruzdev, Tanel Kangert and Rein Taaramae providing the support

Movistar Team

An experienced team led by Nairo Quintana with Alejandro Valverde in a supporting role will be joined by José Herrada, Adriano Malori, Gorka Izagirre, Winner Anacona, Jonathan Castroviejo, Imanol Erviti and the British national time trial champion Alex Dowsett.

Trek Factory Racing

Recently back from injury, Fabian Cancellara heads the Trek Factory Racing Team while the Columbian climber Julián Arredondo will lead the charge in the mountains. Stijn Devolder, Laurent Didier, Markel Irizar, Bob Jungels, Bauke Mollema, Gregory Rast, Haimar Zubeldia complete the team.

Tinkoff – Saxo

This exciting and very capable team is packed with talent. Alberto Contador, Peter Sagan, Michael Rogers, Rafal Majka, Robert Kišerlovski , Daniele Bennati, Ivan Basso, Roman Kreuziger and Michael Valgren are all sure to be at the forefront of the action.

 

tinkoff saxo bank

 

Etixx – Quick Step

This squad is tailor made to deliver Mark Cavendish to victory. Michal Kwiatkowski, Tony Martin, Rigoberto Uran, Zdenek Stybar, Mark Renshaw, Julien Vermote, Matteo Trentin and Michal Golas will all be showing their strength within the peloton.

etixx quickstep

Team Katusha

This is a team to keep your eye on. Consisting of Dmitry Kozontchuk, Jacopo Guarnieri, Marco Haller, Luca Paolini and Alexander Kristoff, the latter is showing great from and is a strong contender for the point classification. The experienced Joaquim Rodriguez, Tiago Machado, Giampaolo Caruso and Alberto Losada finish the line up.

Cannondale – Garmin

Dan Martin heads the Cannondale-Garmin team in a three-pronged attack with Andrew Talansky, current American national time trial champion and Ryder Hesjedal all keen to get in on the action. Completing the squad are Dylan van Baarle, Sebastian Langeveld, Jack Bauer, Nathan Haas, Kristjian Koren and the unpronounceable Ramunas Navardauskas.

cannondale -garmin

 

BMC Racing Team

BMC are certainly a team to follow with their strong line up of riders including Damiano Caruso, Samuel Sánchez, Rohan Dennis, Daniel Oss, Manuel Quinziato, Michael Schar, Greg van Avermaet, Danilo Wyss and their team leader Tejay van Garderen.

Orica GreenEDGE

This young and talented line up includes 2 British and 4 Australian riders. Simon Yates, Adam Yates, Simon Gerrans, Michael Matthews, Luke Durbridge, Svein Tuft, Mathew Hayman, Jens Keukeleire and Pieter Weening are all due to start the 2015 Tour de France.

orica green edge

 

AG2R La Mondiale

The French team notorious for their home-grown talent has 5 French riders starting the Tour de France this year. Jean-Christophe Peraud will be hoping to go one better than his 2nd place last year and will have the full support of Alexis Vuillermoz, Romain Bardet ,Ben Gastauer, Johan Vansummeren, Mikael Cherel, Patrick Gretsch, Christophe Riblon and Jan Bakelandts.

Lampre – Merida

Rui Costa rarely finishes any race outside the top 10 and the former world champion will be a worry to his competitors. Nelson Oliveira, Kristijan Durasek, Mário Costa, Filippo Pozzato, José Serpa, Rafael Valls, Jan Polanc, Davide Cimolai complete the team.

Lotto Soudal

Lars Bak, Thomas De Gendt, Jens Debusschere, Tony Gallopin, André Greipel, Adam Hansen, Gregory Henderson, Marcel Sieberg and Tim Wellens

lotto soudal

 

LottoNL-Jumbo

Wilco Kelderman, Laurens ten Dam, Robert Gesink, Paul Martens, Steven Kruijswijk, Tom Leezer, Sep Vanmarcke, Bram Tankink and Jos van Emden. 

IAM Cycling

Wilco Kelderman, Laurens ten Dam, Robert Gesink, Paul Martens, Steven Kruijswijk, Tom Leezer, Sep Vanmarcke, Bram Tankink and Jos van Emden. 

Giant – Alpecin

Warren Barguil, Roy Curvers, John Degenkolb, Tom Dumoulin, Simon Geschke, Koen de Kort, Georg Preidler, Ramon Sinkeldam and Albert Timmer

FDJ

Never far away from the drama, Thibaut Pinot heads an FDJ team with support from Sébastien Chavanel, Arnaud Démare, Alexandre Geniez, William Bonnet, Matthieu Ladagnous, Steve Morabito, Jérémy Roy and Benoit Vaugrenard. 

 

Wild Card Teams 

 

In addition to the 17 World Tour teams that automatically receive entry to the Tour de France there are five wild card teams that have been selected by the race organisers ASO to take part:

  • Bora-Argon 18 – Have a nine man team to start including Jan Barta, Sam Bennett, Zak Dempster,  Emanuel Buchmann,Jose Mendes, Bartosz Huzarski, Dominik Nerz, Paul Voss and Andreas Schillinger.
  • Bretagne-Séché Environnement – with an all French line up Frederix Brun, Anthony Delaplace  Brice Feillu, Pierrick Fédrigo, Armindo Fonseca , Arnaud Gérard, Pierre-Luc Périchon, Eduardo Sepúlveda and Florian Vachon constitute the French pro-continental squad.
  • Cofidis –  Nacer Bouhanni who recently suffered a high speed crash in the French national road race may be feeling a little sore so may be struggling for form during the first week of the Tour. Nicolas Edet, Christophe Laporte, Luis Ángel Maté, Daniel Navarro, Florian Sénéchal, Kenneth Vanbilsen, Julien Simon and Geoffrey Soupe are due to be on the start line on Saturday.
  • Team Europcar – the experienced Thomas Voeckler will start his 12th Tour de France alongside Bryan Coquard, Yohann Gène, Cyril Gautier,  Pierre Rolland, Bryan Nauleau, Perrig Quemeneur, Angelo Tulik and Romain Sicard.
  • MTN-Qhubeka p/b Samsung have some young talent mixed in with some experienced riders. Edvald Boasson Hagen, Steve Cummings, Tyler Farrar, Jacques Janse van Rensburg, Reinardt Janse van Rensburg , Merhawi Kudus, Louis Meintjes, Serge Pauwels and Daniel Teklehaimanot make up the 9 riders heading to France.

Be sure to follow our own unique coverage of the Tour de France over the next 3 weeks as we reflect on memorable moments from the history of the race, delve in to the culture of the towns hosting the Tour, predict our stars of the future and analyse some of the classic climbs of the biggest race on Earth.

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