Vincenzo Nibali (Editors note: Nibali decided to skip the Tour de France to focus on the world championships)
Vincenzo Nibali, currently riding for Astana, is a powerhouse. The 28-year-old Italian was this year's Giro d'Italia champion, marking his second Grand Tour win (his first being the 2010 Vuelta a España). This season, he also took first at the Tirreno-Adriatico and the Giro del Trentino. In fact, in his entire professional career, Nibali has done no worse than 20th place in any race. Combine all that with his third place ranking in last year's Tour, there should be no wonder we think he'll be a strong force this time around. And if Nibali wins? He'll be in the history books with just seven others (the last was the late, great Marco Pantani in 1998) who have managed to win both the Giro and the Tour in the same year. That said, the cold snowy Giro does take time to recover from, but we wish him the best.
|Peter Sagan at the Tour of California|
With a nickname like "The Terminator" and a race record like Peter Sagan's, of course this 23-year-old Team Cannondale cyclist is on this list. Sagan was second this year at the Tour of Flanders, second in the Milan-San Remo, first in the Brabantse Pijl, first in the Gran Premio Città di Camaiore, among others. At last year's Tour, he won stages three and eight and took first in the points classification—so he's definitely one to look out for this time around. And with two stage wins at the recent Tour of California, the Slovak is looking good.
What with his teammate Wiggins unable to compete because of a knee injury, Chris Froome is looking to be a top pick to take the whole thing. He's currently in the lead in the Dauphiné Libere. He took second at this year's Tirreno-Adriatico, first in the Tour de Romandie, first in the Critérium International and first in the Tour of Oman. At last year's Tour de France, he placed second. Will the 28-year-old Team Sky rider take first this year? I guess we'll just have to wait and see.
In recent interviews, Froome pointed to the 30-year-old Alberto Contador as his "biggest threat" in this year's Tour de France. Post doping scandal, Contador took first in the Milano-Torino and Vuelta a España in 2012 and second at the Tour of Oman this year, as well as a third place finish at the 2013 Tirreno-Adriatico (finishing first in points classification). Plus, he did win the Tour in both 2007 and 2009. (He also won in 2010, but tested positive for doping.) Is the Team Saxo-Tinkoff rider as big of a threat as Froome suggests? We will soon find out.
|Tejay Van Garderen at the Tour of California|
Fresh off of his 2013 Tour of California win, Tejay van Garderen is likely to have a strong showing at this year's Tour. At last year's, he came in fifth overall and first in the young rider classification (he's 24)—all the while doing a ton of work for teammate Cadel Evans. Besides his California win, Tejay's had a pretty strong showing elsewhere, coming in second at the Tour de San Luis, third at the Critérium International (first in the young rider classification) and fourth in the Paris-Nice. It'll be interesting to see how he fairs in France this time around. We're guessing he'll do well.
Ryder Hesjedal (Editor's note: Hedjedal crashed out of the Tour de Suisse and we're not sure if he'll be competing in the Tour de France.)
Maybe this hasn't been Ryder Hesjedal's best year racing, but last year he won the Giro d'Italia and he just signed a contract for three more years with Team Garmin-Sharp, so it's best to not discount the 32-year-old. He's Canada's best hope for a Tour de France win and we're looking forward to seeing what he brings to the race this year.
Currently riding for Omega Pharma-Quick Step, Mark Cavendish, 28, has had a hell of career. This year he placed first in the points classification, as well as the Azzurri d'Italia classification and most combative rider classification at the Giro d'Italia (along with four stage wins at the race), as well as first in the general and points classifications at the Tour of Qatar, among others. The British cyclist is doing quite well, that's for sure, and it'll be fun to see what's got for us at the 2013 Tour.
|Andy Schleck at the Tour of California|
When Contrador was caught for doping and his 2010 Tour de France win was revoked, Andy Schleck received the glory retroactively. The next year, he came in runner-up. With previous great showings at our favorite French tour, we wouldn't be surprised if he managed do well again this year. We'll definitely be keeping a look out for this Team RadioShack Leopard Trek rider.