I’ve been swotting up on riders’ form for the Tour de France.
Chris Froome seems to be a notch down on last year’s level, and Bertie looks to be at a higher level than 2013. Both of them (and their teams) were caught out tactically in the final stage of the Dauphine Libere.
Movistar have a strong team, and Valverde has had a terrific season. Van den Broek and Talansky rode strongly and astutely in the Dauphine. Talansky has the benefit of powerhouse Hedjesdal as a teamate. Bauke Mollema had a good Tour de Suisse and has improved markedly (especially in TTs) over the past 18 months.
Pierre Rolland can light the touchpaper when the road hits the mountains and had a good Giro. Nibali’s doctor will cure him of his ailments and put him right for the Tour, Kwiatowski is an attacking rider, a champ in the making from a strong team. Rui Costa is world champ , but probably not good enough in the high places, and Joaquim Rodriguez has recently recovered from injury, but can attack on the climbs with the very best.
In summary, I think that the top two will be put under more pressure than we have seen in recent years. The first week includes narrow roads, cobbles and plenty of oppos for the sprinters. It will be hairy for the GC guys. Expect some surprises.