Tour de France – The Battle For White

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Who will be the best young rider in the tour?It is awarded to the best rider aged under 26 on January 1st of the following year.There are a number of very strong contenders,but as usual,you have to look a bit deeper.

Reigning champion is TJ Van Garderen.He beat Thibaut Pinot into 2nd place last year with a winning margin of 6 minutes and 13 seconds,but you have to remember that Pinot lost 7 minutes to Van Garderen in the time-trials.Pinot has improved his time trialling this season and he recently beat TJ in the Tour de Suisse mountain time-trial.

Van Garderen has had an excellent season.He finished 2nd in Tour de San Luis,4th in Paris-Nice,3rd in the Criterium,1st in the Tour of California and 7th in the Tour de Suisse.It should be pointed out that winners of California rarely go on to do well in the Tour de France.It has been widely reported that TJ is here to support Cadel Evans.I don’t see him being able to maintain his 5th position from last year as he is going to work incredibly hard for Evans and lose time.He knows that the team leadership will be his from next year.How far down the order he will fall is a bit of an unknown.

Contender number 2 is Nairo Quintana.The revelation of the season so far,he won the Tour of the Basque country and has seriously impressed with his climbing and time-trialling skills.From the age of 15 till 18 he cycled to and from school everyday.It was a 15km climb at an average of 8%!It is little wonder the boy can climb.He is riding his 1st Tour de France and he is also here to ride for his team leader,Alejandro Valverde.Another strange point is that he hasn’t raced since the 21st of April,deciding to head home and train at altitude.I have a sneaky feeling that he will not go well in the 1st week and lose some time.A lot of people think he’ll finish top 3 but I don’t,I think he might sneak into the top 10.

Contender number 3 is Thibaut Pinot.The star of 2012 returns with extra pressure.Last year he was relatively unknown but now people are expecting big things from the young Frenchman.He is the team leader of FDJ and this will make a big difference.He will be protected during stages,and can save his energy for the big days in the mountains.The route should really suit him and I expect him to go well.

Contender number 4 is Andrew Talansky.He is part of the super-strong Garmin team.After finishing 8th at the 2012 Vuelta big things were expected from the young American in 2013.He had a great start to the season with 2nd place in Paris-Nice and 6th in the Criterium but illness ruined his Dauphine and deprived us of the chance to compare him with the very best.He had recovered in time for the final stage,where he finished an excellent 3rd.He won’t be team leader and if Hesjedal or Martin is in a good position,he will be expected to work for them.This should ruin his chances of winning the white jersey.

Contender number 5 is Michal Kwiatkowski.He had a wonderful early season,finishing 2nd in Algarve,4th in Tirreno,4th in Amstel and 5th in Flèche.After a long break he returned at the Dauphine but wasn’t at the same level as the rest,despite a 5th place finish in the TT.A lot of people have been far too quick to write him off based on this performance.Due to his long break he was not going to be at his best during the Dauphine but then went on to finish 2nd in the Polish TT nationals and win the road race.It’s safe to say that he is back to form.OPQS have Cavendish as their main man,so he won’t have to ride for someone in the mountains like Van Garderen,Quintana and Talanksy.

So,who do I think will win?

I’ll stick my neck on the line and say Thibaut Pinot will be the winner,mainly due to being the protected rider but I do like the look of Kwiatkowski at 28/1 with SportingBet and BetVictor.Well worth a little punt.

Thibaut Pinot
Thibaut Pinot (Photo credit: Petit Brun)
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