Tour de France 2016 yellow jersey race: Can Nairo Quintana upset Chris Froome?

Chris Froome Sky

Does the route suit him? Yes. The defending champion said in October that he prefers the 2016 edition to last year’s route. “It’s a very well rounded Tour,” he says. “I think it’s going to take a complete cyclist to win.” Froome will be licking his lips at the two time trials – 37km on stage 13 and 17km on stage 18 – although neither is flat, which will lessen his chances of gaining huge chunks of time on Quintana and Contador.

The right team-mates? It’s hard to argue with Team Sky’s recent Tour record, given they have won three of the past four races. And while the departure of Froome’s lieutenant Richie Porte to BMC is a blow, his new No2, Geraint Thomas, has performed impressively in 2016, winning the Volta ao Algarve and Paris-Nice.

What form is he in? After a slow start to 2016, Froome’s recent victory at the Critérium du Dauphiné suggests he is still the man to beat.

Biggest plus point? Pedigree. He has won it twice before.

Biggest worry? That Quintana, who pushed him so close last year, is stronger still in 2016.

He’d be secretly happy with … not facing a barrage of questions about doping and his watts to kilograms ratio if he is ahead.

Nairo Quintana Movistar

Nairo Quintana


Nairo Quintana has a well-suited course and form in his favour. Photograph: Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Does the route suit him? Definitely. There are nine climbing days in this year’s Tour, which is a big plus for the Colombian. And while there are also two time trials, the fact they are both uphill should mean that Quintana stays competitive in both. Indeed he won an uphill time trial on the way to taking the Giro d’Italia in 2014, which is not too dissimilar to stage 18 in this year’s Tour.

The right team-mates? Movistar are proven Grand Tour winners – and judging by their team for the Giro they have saved some bullets for the Tour. Last year both Quintana and Alejandro Valverde made the podium behind Froome.

What form is he in? Excellent. After winning the Volta a Catalunya in March, Quintana then took the Tour of Romandie in May, a race in which Froome was way back. However the Colombian skipped the Critérium Du Dauphiné and Tour de Suisse in the buildup to the Tour to focus on altitude training instead.

Biggest plus point? The favourable course and his form. As he says: “This route reminds me of the Vuelta a España or even the Giro, with hard stages all over the three weeks of racing.”

Biggest worry? That he might just fall short to Froome again for a third time.

He’d be secretly happy with … the time trials aren’t flat, which should mean that his prowess in mountains comes to the fore.

Alberto Contador Tinkoff

Alberto Contador


Alberto Contador impressed in Paris-Nice but does he have what it takes, at 33, to win the Tour this year? Photograph: Sebastien Nogier/EPA

Thibaut Pinot


Thibaut Pinot does not have the team backing of some of his rivals but is in excellent form. Photograph: Lionel Bonaventure/AFP/Getty Images

Does the route suit him? Yes. After the route was announced last October, he called it “beautiful, attractive”, and said it had “encouraged him”. Over the winter he admitted he “starved himself to get thin”. At 33 he knows he won’t get many more chances and skipped the Giro D’Italia to make sure he is spot-on for the race.

The right team-mates? Tinkoff are one of the strongest in the peloton, but they will also have half an eye on helping Peter Sagan win the green jersey.

What form is he in? Decent enough. This year he has won a stage at the Tour of the Algarve and took second to Quintana at the Volta a Catalunya. But was only fifth to Froome in Critérium du Dauphiné.

Biggest plus point? Experience and talent. He is a six-time Grand Tour winner and insists that his power data is still “very encouraging”.

Biggest worry? Understandably some will question whether he can still perform at a supremely high level for three weeks at 33. Then again, older men have won the Tour before – including the 34-year-old Cadel Evans in 2011, but Cantador has a lot of miles in those legs.

He’d be secretly happy with … proving those people who have written him off wrong in the most spectacular way possible.

Thibaut Pinot FDJ

Does the route suit him? The Frenchman will certainly be pleased that there are no cobbles in this year’s race. He went into last year’s Tour being talked up as a potential first home winner since Bernard Hinault in 1985, after finishing third in 2014, but struggled on the cobbles before finishing 16th overall. As he put it recently: “It is a beautiful course. It suits me.”

The right team-mates? FDJ are not at the level of Sky or Astana, and you certainly won’t see them putting five riders at the front of the peloton before the first mountain-top finish. If Pinot does get into yellow he will struggle to control the race compared with the other GC contenders.

What form is he in? Top-five placings in his first seven races this season, including victory in the Critérium International, but only came 16th in the Critérium du Dauphiné – a long way behind Froome.

Biggest plus point? He is still improving at 26, and 2014’s race showed he has talent to mix it with the biggest names.

Biggest worry? There are question marks over whether he will handle the pressure of being the home darling. Also, surprisingly for an accomplished climber – he won Stage 20 at the Alpe d’Huez solo last year – he is a better time-trialler on the flat than when it goes uphill.

He’d be secretly happy with … still being in the mix in the final week. If that is the case maybe the home crowd will help him to a famous victory?

Fabio Aru Astana

Fabio Aru


Fabio Aru celebrates winning the 19th stage of the Giro d’Italia. The Italian is young and fast-improving. Photograph: Daniel Dal Zennaro/AP

Does the route suit him? There are plenty of mountains, which will be right up his street.

The right team-mates? Astana are undoubtedly strong, but many of their best riders were supporting Vicenzo Nibali at the Giro d’Italia so there are question marks about how much support Aru will get in his first Tour de France.

What form is he in? Hard to say. Aru’s best result this year is a sixth-placed finish in the Volta a la Comunitat Valenciana but while his results aren’t overly impressive he may be keeping his powder dry.

Biggest plus point? He is young and improving fast. Last year the 25-year-old was second in the Giro D’Italia and followed that up in the autumn with victory in the Vuelta a España.

Biggest worry? That he can’t handle the unique pressures of the Tour. As his team-mate Vincenzo Nibali put it recently: “Fabio often gets upset and he’s short-tempered … Ivan Basso was very open, you rarely saw him angry – not because he was old but because he was wise. There is an abyss between him and Fabio.”

He’d be secretly happy with … the fact that Nibali will not be racing alongside him.

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