The Tour de France begins at Mont-Saint-Michel on Saturday. Here Ollie Haggart looks at the runners and riders for the yellow and green jerseys, and the King of the Mountains classification.
Yellow jersey - overall winner
With the first road race of the Rio Olympics being held only 13 days after the closing stage of the Tour de France, Chris Froome will want to prove himself as the best. The course favours the Brit with a 37km time-trial, as his performances against the clock were key in his 2013 win. This could be hugely influential towards the Team Sky man’s cause of getting a third Tour title - which would make him one of only four to achieve such a feat. His climbing ability, as shown in 2015, is phenomenal, but he will struggle against the power of Quintana.
Nairo Quintana is a deceptive character. At only 26-years-of-age, the Columbian has only competed in two editions of the Tour de France; however, two second-placed finishes for the Movistar rider show why he is rightly a race contender in the 103rd edition of the Grand Tour. With an abundance of challenging gradients on offer throughout all three weeks, Quintana can play to his overwhelming strengths, and aim to distance himself from Froome et al in both the general classification as well as his favoured king of the mountain challenge.
After stating that he will retire after the 2016 calendar draws to a close, this is likely Alberto Contador’s final Grand Boucle. His last official win in the race came in 2009, but he is always up-and-around the top come the final stage. The Spaniard is saving himself for the Tour de France, having not raced since early April in the Tour of the Basque Country, making him a force to be reckoned with; expect him and his Tinkoff-Saxo team to make an early charge for yellow.
Having never raced in the second Grand Tour of the calendar, it is hard to predict the Italian will fair up against the likes of Froome and Quintana. Aru cannot be ruled out, however, as the Astana man still has a Vuelta a Espana title to his name along with a second- and third-placed finish in the Giro d’Italia at the age of just 26. Aru’s competitors will review the first few climbs of the 2015 Giro to find ways to contain him, as he looked unconvincing in pursuing eventual winner Alberto Contador.
Green jersey - Points classification
Despite having a poor stage record, with the Slovak’s most recent of his four wins coming in 2013, Peter Sagan has held the green points jersey for four successive years. This immense reputation makes Tinkoff’s terminator one to watch in terms of the points classification, and perhaps in terms of stage wins, with stage two featuring a kick that will suit puncheurs such as Sagan, giving him the perfect opportunity to end his drought.
Marcel Kittel will have yellow in his sights at the end of the first stage, but will be predominantly focused on winning the green jersey. The German giant will be hoping to add to his previous eight Tour de France stage wins, and will have plenty of confidence going into the race, following points classification wins in the Tour of Dubai and the Volta ao Algarve.
Another German powerhouse who will be amongst the best come the end of the race will be Lotto-Soudall’s Andre Greipel. The 33-year-old may not have the youth of Kittel and certainly Sagan, but he certainly has a fearsome track-record; 20 individual stages at all three of the Grand Tours with half of them coming in France prove that Greipel will not give in easily.
Three stage wins in as many years is not the sort of return Cavendish and his fans were accustomed to during his run of total domination between 2008 and 2012, but the Manxman insists his training numbers show he is as fast as he ever was, and he still has big targets. This year’s opening stage gives him another chance to claim the yellow jersey which has thus far eluded him, and he is only two stage wins behind Bernard Hinault for second all-time. However, Cavendish must leave the Tour mid-way through if he is to pursue his Olympic ambitions in Rio.
Polka-dot jersey – Mountains classification
After winning both the Volta a Catalunya and Tour de Romandie as part of the 2016 UCI World Tour, Quintana asserted his ever-growing dominance in mountain stages. With four summit finishes between the races, both clearly favoured climbing specialists – and Quintana may be the best of the best. Surprisingly, the general classification contender has only won the polka dot jersey once in his career, when he was only 23-years-of-age, but he will certainly be challenging once more in this year’s edition.
Chris Froome was a suprise winner of the polka dot jersey in 2015, after Team Sky only expected him to challenge for yellow. A series of ambitious and well-executed attacks on the various mountain stages of the race saw the Brit finish a total of 11 points ahead of generally stronger climber, Quintana. It proves to be a very close race this year between the two rivals, as both are likely to take a jersey one way or another.
Team Direct-Energie don’t really have a rider suited to challenging the likes of Froome and Contador for the GC, so will aid 2012 mountain classification winner Thomas Voeckler in producing moments of magic. The fan favourite has only competed in two stage races this campaign in the form of the newly-formed Tour la Provence and Tour de Yorkshire, so may not be fit enough to repeat his heroics from four years ago, especially with ageing legs. With his whole team – and France behind him, Voeckler is definitely one to watch.