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Tour de France

Tour de France 2017 power rankings: Riders #6-3

These Tour de France contenders look to dethrone defending champ Chris Froome. What are their odds of winning yellow?

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The Tour de France kicks off in Dusseldorf, Germany on Saturday, July 1. In the lead-up to the Grande Boucle, we’ll be counting down the top-10 GC contenders this week. Here are riders #6 through #3. Want to brush up on the other contenders? Read up on riders #10-7  or rider #2 and rider #1.

#6 Esteban Chaves (Orica-Scott)

Esteban Chaves
Esteban Chaves keeps getting closer and closer to a grand tour victory. Photo: Tim De Waele | (File).

ALWAYS SMILING, ALWAYS AGGRESSIVE: That sums up the budding Colombian superstar Esteban Chaves. The 27-year-old overcame a career-threatening arm injury early in his rookie season, and patience and hard work paid off dramatically in 2016, when he was second at the Giro and third at the Vuelta. A huge win at the Giro di Lombardia confirmed his arrival. Only Quintana is bigger on Colombia’s stage.

Tour debut

NEW THIS YEAR: Though the Giro or Vuelta seem a better fit for Chaves’s qualities, Orica-Scott knew it was time to give him a shot at the Tour. An early-season knee injury, however, hampered his approach, prompting team brass to tap Simon Yates as co-leader for the Tour.

WHAT HE NEEDS TO DO TO WIN: Like any Tour rookie, Chaves will need to find his feet. The unconventional Tour route, packed with punchy climbs in the first half, could be ideal for an early Chaves raid. He won’t start as one of the five-star favorites, and that could tilt in his favor. Chaves has been surpassing expectations his entire career.

THE SCORE: 34/40

CLIMBS: 9/10
Chaves was second at the 2016 Giro (and winner of the queen stage in the mountains) and third at that year’s Vuelta, which was also heavy on the climbs. Can he become the first Colombian in yellow in Paris?

Behind his happy façade — “the smiling assassin” is his other nickname — Chaves is a very focused athlete, always ready to deceive his opponents. Tactically, he knows how to do so. And he listens to the great Australian strategists: his teammate Simon Gerrans and the team’s sport director Matt White.

Time trials are not the strong point of “the Colombian kangaroo,” but he is working on them. His 33rd place in the Giro’s flat opening time trial in the Netherlands last year encouraged him to work harder still. He chose the Tour this year partly because there is minimal time trialing.

The first time that Orica-Scott focused on the Tour’s overall classification, it guided Adam Yates to fourth place and the
title of best young rider. Now in its fifth year of existence, it is ready to support Chaves as leader. With this in mind, it has taken on veteran Roman Kreuziger as a superdomestique.

#5 Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo)

Alberto Contador
Alberto Contador wants one more Tour de France victory before he retires from pro racing. Photo: Tim De Waele | (File).

CONTADOR HAS POSTPONED RETIREMENT to ride the Tour de France at least one more time. Always a crowd favorite with his aggressive racing style, the 34-year-old Spaniard has blossomed at his new home at Trek-Segafredo. Though he didn’t win this spring, he finished second in four of the five stage races he started, losing Paris-Nice by two seconds and Ruta del Sol by just one. The rider who once beat back Lance Armstrong in 2009 looks back on form, and is determined to win one more yellow jersey before he retires.

TOUR RECORD: 9 starts; 2 overall victories; 3 stage wins; best young rider, 2007

NEW THIS YEAR: With his move to Trek-Segafredo, Contador is no longer burdened by the fiery relationship he had with former team owner Oleg Tinkov. Both on and off the bike, his new team is giving him the support he needs to thrive; Bauke Mollema has stepped back from a leadership role to help Contador this summer.

WHAT HE NEEDS TO DO TO WIN: Contador needs to avoid the crashes and mishaps that have handicapped him the past few seasons. Like the other climbers, he needs to limit his losses in time trials, and then attack incessantly to drop Froome. Unlike some of his younger rivals, Contador is one of the few riders in the bunch with the experience to know what it means to win the Tour. If he gains an early advantage, no one is better than Contador at defending a lead.

THE SCORE: 36/40

CLIMBS: 9/10
A glance at his palmarès says everything about Alberto Contador: He’s won seven grand tours (two were stripped from him by the Court of Arbitration for Sport). He has recently yielded to injury (in 2014 and 2016) and less than perfect form (fourth in 2013 and fifth in 2015). Still, he refuses to accept the idea of finishing his career without taking another Tour victory.

Contador is a bluffer. While he tended to hurry things in his younger years, he has subsequently matured, while continuing to wrong-foot his rivals. His most recent grand tour victories (2014 Vuelta and 2015 Giro) showcased his tactical trickery.

The Spaniard has had varying fortunes on the flats: While he gained time on the cobbles on Lance Armstrong in 2010,
he lost time there to Vincenzo Nibali in 2014. He took advantage of the echelons in 2013, catching out Chris Froome and Alejandro Valverde on the 13th stage. In time trials, while not at his level of 2009 when he won the Annecy time trial, he is still competitive.

Contador was clearly unhappy at Tinkoff, where the team owner’s eccentricities created an unstable environment. He has found a niche for himself at Trek-Segafredo. With Jarlinson Pantano, who was very impressive at Paris-Nice, Bauke Mollema, Haimar Zubeldia, and even John Degenkolb, a very team-minded sprinter, Contador will be well supported.

#4 Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale)

Romain Bardet
Romain Bardet is France’s best hope for a top result in the Tour. Photo: Tim De Waele | (File).

PERHAPS NO OTHER RIDER has so captured France’s collective imagination over the past decade as the astute, unassuming, but highly ambitious Bardet. As one of the leading lights of France’s cycling revival, Bardet’s birdlike physique confirms his climbing pedigree. Highly meticulous in his preparation, Hinault-like in his intensity on the bike, he will be a protagonist in this year’s Tour. With two career stage wins and a confidence-boosting second overall last year, Bardet is putting everything into becoming France’s first Tour de France winner since 1985.

TOUR RECORD: 4 starts; 2nd in 2016; 2 stage wins; most combative prize, 2015

NEW THIS YEAR: Now in his sixth season as a pro, Bardet is the unquestioned leader of Ag2r La Mondiale. The long-running French team will back Bardet all the way to Paris. He wanted to race the Giro, but team boss Vincent Lavenu convinced him he has a legitimate shot at yellow.

WHAT HE NEEDS TO DO TO WIN: This year’s atypical Tour course should suit Bardet’s attacking style well. He needs to follow his aggressive instincts and hold nothing back. Like Nairo Quintana, he’ll have to limit his losses against the clock, and shoot for the stars in the climbing stages.

THE SCORE: 36/40

CLIMBS: 10/10
Fifteenth, sixth, ninth, and second in Paris, Romain Bardet is tackling his fifth Tour de France with a new status. Runner-up to Chris Froome last year, he is arousing enormous expectation, which he plays down by reminding everyone of his deficit (4:05) to Chris Froome. Focused and determined, he has enormous drive in the mountains.

At 26, he is considered a master tactician. As a youngster, he watched Michele Bartoli and Frank Vandenbroucke in the classics. He reads the action very quickly and follows the advice of teammate Mikaël Chérel, exactly as he did on the Domancy descent where he launched himself to victory at Bettex in 2016.

Time trials are not his forte, but Bardet commits himself to them, as he does to all areas of racing. The low amount of time trial kilometers will reduce his disadvantage. With the climb of La Planche des Belles Filles early, the flat stages shouldn’t handicap him as they did in 2015.

Romain Bardet is the sole leader, but is even more demanding in terms of professionalism and is very well supported on every kind of terrain.

#3 Nairo Quintana (Movistar)

Nairo Quintana
Nairo Quintana has won both the Giro d’Italia and the Vuelta a Espana. Can he win a Tour title this year? Photo: Tim De Waele | (File).

THE 27-YEAR-OLD COLOMBIAN seems destined to become the first South American to win the Tour de France. Quintana has never finished worse than third overall in three starts. His dramatic debut in 2013, with a stage win and the king of the mountains jersey en route to second place overall, made him an instant idol in Colombia. The man fans call “SuperNairo” and “KingTana” has no limit to his ambition. Another runner-up effort in 2015 saw him nearly drop Chris Froome on the famed l’Alpe d’Huez, while last year he still managed third despite lacking some of his previous luster. If Froome missteps, Quintana will be ready to swoop in.

TOUR RECORD: 3 starts; 2nd 2013, 2nd 2015, 3rd 2016; 1 stage win; best young rider 2013, 2015; king of the mountains, 2013

NEW THIS YEAR: Quintana surprised everyone by deciding to attempt the Giro d’Italia this year before racing the Tour. Only seven riders have ever pulled off the Giro-Tour double. Quintana came up short, finishing second to Tom Dumoulin after losing the lead in the final-stage time trial. He won stage 9 on Blockhaus along the way.

WHAT HE NEEDS TO DO TO WIN: With a Giro d’Italia and Vuelta a España victory already on his palmarès, Quintana won’t stop until he wins the yellow jersey. Backed by the powerful Movistar team, including former podium finisher Alejandro Valverde, Quintana will need to drop Froome in the mountains and limit his losses against the clock. So far, he hasn’t been able to do it, and this year’s atypical Tour course provides fewer mountains for Quintana to turn the screws.

THE SCORE: 36/40

CLIMBS: 10/10
Already a stage winner in the mountains, at Semnoz above Annecy (2013), and crowned the best climber and best young rider on his first Tour appearance, Quintana is one of the two best climbers in the world, along with Chris Froome. He should thrive on this year’s demanding route assuming he has energy left after the Giro.

Having come to Europe at a very young age with the Colombia es Pasión team, Quintana has gained plenty of stage race experience since his victory in the 2010 Tour de l’Avenir. He reads races well and has the qualities required to win.

Time trials aren’t a crippling handicap for Quintana, although it’s not his favourite discipline. All the same, the 2:16 he lost to Chris Froome over 37 kilometers in the 2016 Vuelta are cause for concern. This year’s relative lack of time trialling is to Quintana’s advantage. On the flat, he likes to be in the thick of it, even when echelons form.

Movistar has made 34 consecutive appearances at the Tour (previous title sponsors include Banesto, Illes Balears, and Caisse d’Epargne). It has taken seven overall victories, 31 stage victories, 10 victories in other classifications, and 73 yellow jerseys. Winner of the WorldTour in 2013-2016, the Spanish team is as strong as ever.

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