Bookmakers have installed Chris Froome as the Tour de France favourite, which is nothing short of remarkable given the words of the 2013 winner shortly after this year’s route became public knowledge at a Paris ceremony in October.
For those of you who did not hear or read Froome’s words at the time, here is one’s attempt at summarising them: the Tour de France is going to be about the mountains and I may be better off riding in the Giro d’Italia and attempting to compete in the Vuelta a Espana if my body is back in good shape when that event rolls around in September. Ultimately, Froome decided to skip the Giro d’Italia and focus on the Tour de France but his are not the words of a competitor in the world’s toughest sports event whom one wants to back, particularly in what looks like a very competitive edition.
Froome is one of three recent Tour de France winners in the field – Alberto Contador and Vincenzo Nibali are the others – while the cycling world has huge raps on Nairo Quintana, who was runner-up to the Briton in the 2013 race before taking out the following year’s Giro d’Italia. And the French are talking up Thibaut Pinot as a live contender.
Harsh as it may seem one is going to put a pen through the Tour de France favourite because one thinks that his remarks after seeing the route for the first time were honest ones. One believes that Froome is competing in the Tour de France because it is the world’s highest profile cycling event, not because he thinks that it is the event on the calendar that is best suited to his talents. Also, one believes that the French are being somewhat optimistic about Pinot. So that leaves one to choose between Contador, Nibali and Quintana.
Contador is attempting to become the first cyclist since the late Marco Pantani to win the Giro d’Italia and the Tour de France in the same year. Only six cyclists have done the Giro d’Italia-Tour de France double – Fausto Coppi (1949 and 1952), Jacques Anquetil (1964), Eddy Merckx (1970 and 1972), Bernard Hinault (1982 and 1985), Miguel Indurain (1992 and 1993) and Pantani (1998) – and it would be fair to say that most of them were absolute legends of the sport. In a hot Tour de France field, one is willing to risk Contador.
Nibali, who we tipped last year, is the defending Tour de France champion but there is a feeling that he won last year’s race by default because both Contador and Froome crashed out. Nibali has won all three grand tours so he is worthy of considerable respect but his best in a stacked field has not been good enough previously and his form this year has been fairly patchy.
Quintana is one’s idea of the Tour de France value in the winner market, with several bookmakers, including Coral and SkyBet, quoting him at odds of +250 . Quintana is the most natural climber in the Tour de France field and, in a year that seems likely to favour the mountain goats, he has to have a decent chance. Quintana was ahead of Contador in last year’s Vuelta a Espana before he hit the tarmac in the individual time trial, an accident that cost him the race leader’s red jersey. Quintana has had a quiet 2015 so far, obviously because he has set his sights on winning the Tour de France. However, Quintana did win the Tirrenoâ€“Adriatico to show that he is a force with which to be reckoned.
At the odds, not only in the Tour de France winner market but also the market on the King of the Mountains, Quintana is the way to play. Quintana won the 2013 Tour de France polka-dot jersey by 11 points from Froome so his ability climbing mountains is proven and, if for some reason is attempt to win the general classification’s yellow jersey goes awry, he may fall back on the secondary competition.
One suggests backing Quintana to win the Tour de France at odds of +250 and having half one’s stake again on him to take out the King of the Mountains at odds of +500 with several bookmakers, including 888Sport and Coral.
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