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Inside the Tour with John Wilcockson: Rating the top 20 contenders


Ivan Basso (I), 33, Liquigas-Cannondale
The two-time winner of the Giro d’Italia and twice podium finishers at the Tour, Basso on paper is the one rider who can unseat Contador. But he has been enigmatic this year, never in good condition and riding poorly in time trials. His team is a solid mix of young and experienced riders who’ll do all they can to help their leader, but he may not find his best form until it is too late.

Chris Horner (USA), 39, Team RadioShack

2011 Amgen Tour of California, stage 5, Casey B. Gibson gallery
Horner in the lead at the Tour of California. Photo: Casey B. Gibson.

Like a fine wine, Horner simply gets better with age. Eating healthier (and less) has brought his weight down from the 70 kilograms (154 pounds) listed in his team book to 63.5 kg (140 pounds), which in turn has helped turn this “good” climber into one of the very best. Whether he can improve on the scintillating form that won the Amgen Tour of California and shoot for the podium, we’ll have to wait until the first mountain stage in the Pyrénées.

Samuel Sanchez (Sp), 33. Euskaltel-Euskadi
The Beijing Olympic road champion has placed second and third at the Vuelta, and was fourth at last year’s Tour, but he lacks the spark to go higher in a grand tour. His poor time-trialing ability works against him, while his excellent downhill skills won’t be too important in a Tour with so many mountaintop finishes.

Jorgen Van den Broeck (B), 28, Omega Pharma-Lotto
By placing fifth at the 2010 Tour, Van den Broeck raised Belgian hopes that he can shoot for the podium this year. He overcame a mental block in June by winning a semi-mountain stage at the Dauphiné, his first victory besides criteriums in nine seasons, but he’s a poor time trialist and his team isn’t built for the mountains.

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