Tejay van Garderen has admitted on the eve of the race that his chances of winning the yellow jersey this month are slim.
The 25-year-old American, who finished fifth in 2012, leads the BMC Racing challenge as the Swiss team look to repeat the Tour win they enjoyed with Cadel Evans at the helm three years ago.
A pragmatic Van Garderen accepts that the race for yellow is between Team Sky’s Chris Froome and Tinkoff Saxo’s alberto Contador – who between them have won three Tours de France.
Beyond that Van Garderen believes the rest – people like fellow America Andrew Talansky, Italian Vincenzo Nibali, Spaniard Alejandro Valverde and Portugal’s Rui Costa – are fighting for third place.
Van Garderen said: “I see Froome as the big favourite and Contador as his main rival.
“Other than that I think there are a lot of guys on the same level fighting for that third spot on the podium. I don’t see anyone above anyone else.”
Van Garderen slipped down the general classification at last year’s race and his preparations for his first Tour as team leader have been disrupted by a small hip fracture sustained at the Tour of Romandie in April.
He still managed a 13th place finish at the Criterium du Dauphine last month, the final warm-up race before the Tour, and is confident as he sets off through Yorkshire this weekend that he is back to somewhere near his best.
“I got to the Dauphine with a good level of fitness, but I was flat and didn’t really have the top level of fitness,” said van Garderen.
“The training I had post-Dauphine has put me in a really good place. There is no pain in the hip.”
Talanky, who leads Garmin Sharp, added: “It would be a little presumptuous to come into the Tour de France and say you are here to win the race unless your name is Chris Froome or Alberto Contador, but we’re absolutely going to do everything we can as a team to achieve the highest possible general classification.”