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When you sit down to watch a bike race, do you ever feel that dissonance between who you hope will win and who you expect will take the flowers? We do too, and the Tour de France is no different.
Starting this Saturday, the Tour is the ultimate face-off between the world’s best cyclists, and I’ll admit that it would be thrilling to see some surprises this July. Isn’t it fun when a relatively unknown rider rips up the script with a daring breakaway? Don’t we all enjoy a bit of schadenfreude when the five star favorites falter?
In today’s roundtable, five VeloNews editors look ahead to the Tour and name their heart vs. head picks, and consider how we’ll remember this edition of the Grande Boucle after the Champagne has spilled on the Champs-Élysées.
My heart picks _______ to win the Tour:
Spencer Powlison @spino_powerlegs: Pierre Rolland. Could you imagine a Frenchman finally claiming the yellow jersey after a 30-year drought? And plus, Jonathan Vaughters’s Twitter would be all-time.
Andrew Hood @Eurohoody: Alberto Contador. One more Tour would confirm him as one of the greatest (despite that clenbuterol asterisk). There’s no one who fights with more grit or attacks with more frenzy than el Pistolero. Despite saying he wants to race for two more seasons, I think this could be his last, best shot at winning.
John Bradley @johnwbradley: Nairo. The guy just seems like a class act. And he climbs like an angel. Plus it would be great to have a South American winner.
Fred Dreier @freddreier: Nairo Quintana. I suggest everyone go read Andrew Hood’s profile on the NairoMan in the July issue of VeloNews (on newsstands now!). I guarantee you’ll be a fan of his after reading his origin story.
Caley Fretz @CaleyFretz: Romain Bardet. You can’t help but root for the French.
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But my head picks _______ to win the Tour:
Spencer: Chris Froome. He’s too good, Sky’s too good, and he’s finally stopped crashing, it seems.
Andrew: FroomeDog — “Fortress Froome” is frightening, and the man shows no chinks in his armor, so if anyone can seriously attack him, Froome will counter with metronomic efficiency.
John: Froome. If the other GC riders couldn’t topple him on last year’s course, 2016 is his for the taking. And the Sky squad he’ll have backing him is the strongest yet.
Fred: Chris Froome. Even the bookies are loading up on Froome. Europe’s big online gaming sites have his odds at 11/8.
Caley: Nairo Quintana. We’ve seen so little of him this this season, but what we have seen has been pretty spectacular. I think he’s going to do something special this Tour.
The 2016 Tour will be best remembered for:
Spencer: A snoozy GC battle. Ventoux followed by a TT in the second week? Froome will pulverize the others with that nasty one-two punch, and unfortunately, guys like Nairo Quintana, Alberto Contador, and the others will be fighting for table scraps, minutes behind Froome and his SkyBOTS.
Andrew: The year Nairo Quintana becomes the first Latin American Tour de France winner. The final half of the Tour is brutal, harder than it looks on paper, and one that’s ideal for him to chop away at Froome’s flanks. If Quintana can arrive to the mountains equal to Froome, I think NairoMan will have his number this year.
John: A very interesting battle for leadership at BMC and an all-out assault by Quintana on Ventoux as he tries to build up a buffer ahead of the TT that will likely be his undoing.
Fred: Team Sky’s high water mark. I think that all of the GC teams — BMC, Katusha, Astana, Tinkoff — are going to throw haymakers at Sky during the Tour’s third week (stages 17, 19, 20). If Sky survives, it’s going to be one of the most impressive feats in modern Tour history. After this year, I wouldn’t be surprised to see teams offer big contracts (and leadership roles) to guys like Wout Poels, Sergio Henao, and Nicolas Roche. So this could be the team’s pinnacle.
Caley: The Quintana/Froome rematch on Ventoux that we’ve all been waiting for — and Quintana will win.