Who will win the 2016 Tour de France?

With the Tour de France just days away and the final tune-up races over the debate about who will win the coveted yellow jersey is spinning up. Team line ups are being announced everyday for the most watched annual sporting event on the planet, so let us guide you through the possible winners and losers, jersey by jersey, maillot by maillot…

Yellow Jersey (Maillot Jaune)

Chris Froome, Team Sky

The stand-out favourite of the 2016 Tour de France has to be Britain’s Chris Froome. Having won every edition that he has taken aim at and managed to compete it is hard to see how anybody could beat him this year. He has one of the strongest teams in the world around him and they have proven very useful in the past.

Last year when our second favourite for the race attacked him on the final climb up to L’Alpe d’Huez, Froome could well have slipped out of the lead had it not been for the tireless work of Wout Poels and Richie Porte. The Australian has sinced moved teams but Sky’s selection still boasts at least two or three riders who could lead at a Grand Tour themselves, as well as previous stage winners of big three week races and one day classics.

Froome will be very hard to beat and his record shows this. His preperation has seemed recognisably perfect. Froome won the Critérium du Dauphiné warm up race reasonably convincingly over big rivals and every year he has managed that he has gone on to win the Tour.

Nairo Quintana, Movistar

The Columbian who put Froome to the sword on that final climb last year boasts almost as strong a team as the Brit and has also looked very strong this year, winning almost every race he entered. His final tune up was at the Route du Sud though where he had very little comparable competition.

The bridesmaid to Froome on two editions of the Tour, Quintana is probably his most able rival and he will be incredibly motivated to finally snatch that yellow jersey this year. He could and probably will be a real and dangerous threat to Sky’s continuing dominane in the race.

Alberto Contador, Tinkoff

The veteran of Grand Tour winning has never looked like seriously challenging Froome since his comeback from a doping ban in 2013, but he is back and saying he is up to the task once more.

With a defeat at the Dauphiné, despite an admitedly impressive opening mountain prologue victory, this looks unlikely once again. But nevertheless one thing to know about Contador is that you should never count him out. Tell that to Joaquin Rodriguez who he took over two and a half minutes off on a seemingy rather safe stage during the 2012 Vuelta a España.

Fabio Aru, Astana

The Italian has an incredibly strong team to support him with 2014 winner Vincenco Nibali, Tour de Suisse champion Miguel Angle Lopez Moreno and Jakob Fuglsang and many more at his disposal, should they all be squeezed into one team. Having said that, he was soundly beaten by Contador in the 2015 Giro, made hard work of overcoming Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) in the Vuleta he won last year and failed to impress in June’s Dauphiné despite a stage win.

Richie Porte, BMC Racing Team

Having had a muted start to the season on his new team, most notably trying and failing to take the yellow jersey off Geraint Thomas in Paris-Nice, Porte was right up there with the big favourites in the Dauphiné. Every time has has entered a Grand Tour as team leader though he has failed to turn any heads…not for the right reasons anyway. One thing is for sure,, he will not be taking a wheel off another team after being slapped with a two minute time penalty in last year’s Giro for just such an offence, effectively killing his chances of an overall challenge. A solid bet for the podium but not for the yellow jersey.

Other notable riders:

Sky do not seem happy with just trying to get one rider on the podium and have been talking up Geraint Thomas (Sky) as a potential suitor to join him. But a lacklustre performance at the recent Tour de Suisse say otherwise. Similarly, Tejay van Garderen (BMC) has been knocking on the big favourites’ door for some time now but will have to perform better than he did in riding to fifth place in that race. Home favourite Thibaut Pinot (FDJ) always manages to conjure something even in bad form. Look at his stage 20 victory last year or recent win in the Dauphiné over compatriot and exciting racer Romain Bardet (AG2R la Mondiale). 

White Jersey (Maillot Blanc)

Warren Barguil, Team Giant-Alpecin

Barguil has also performed well in the pre-Tour warm up races, finishing second place in the Tour de Suisse. His 14th place last year suggests potential but does not necasarily call for hysteria. Either way Barguil has done remarkably well to come back from a horror crash his team suffered during a training camp earlier in the season.

Adam Yates, Orica-GreenEdge

The white jersey this year is very open with many of the young prodigies graduating past the age of 25. He was beaten to it in this year’s Dauphiné by Julian Alaphilippe (Ettix – Quick-Step) but will probably have the making of him over three weeks. He is a strong, strong rider in the mountains and this jersey could see a good battle between the Yorkeshireman and Barguil.

Green Jersey (Maillot vert)

Peter Sagan, Tinkoff

It is hard to imagine a way in which Sagan could be beaten to this jersey. He will be up there in the pure bunch sprints, even closer to winning on the harder stages, and is able to get in breaks through the mountains and gain points there. The World Champion may find winning stages themselves hard but the green jersey should be a welcome consolation once more.

But for argument’s sake, we should look at other conteders too. With plenty of out and out sprint stages in the race it could be a Marcel Kittel (Etixx – Quick-Step) whitewash. The big German is certainly the man to beat and few will look past him given any straightforward, flat-out sprint to the line. Nacer Bouhanni (Cofidis) is also worth a mention here but you would struggle to picture him beating Kittel in a fair race. Mark Cavendish (Dimension Data) may be in the twilight of his career and will have one eye on the Olympics in August, where he will be competing on the track, but he should never be counted out either.

In a few of the more complicated stages though, where the organisers have thrown in a nasty little climb towards the end or even a ramp right to the line then Kittel and the others may not be your best shout. In those cases we can look to Alexander Kristoff (Katusha) or André Greipel (Lotto Soudal), who is more and more suprising every time he appears in a sprint after a finish like that.

(But really, Sagan has this down.)

Polka Dot Jersey (Maillot à pois)

This category has been culled of much excitement nowadays with bigger points on mountain-top finishes. This means that General Classification contenders are going to be likely to win it for years to come. Froome bagged it last year and Quintana got it in 2013, but Rafal Majka (Tinkoff) managed to steal it away from the yellow jersey contenders in 2014 so you never know what could happen.

If that were to be the case again it will be down to a serial breakway artist. Maybe a GC rider who does not quite have what it takes to be up there all of the time. This could be one for the likes of Dan Martin (Ettix – Quick-Step) or Tony Gallopin (Lotto Soudal) but it really is one for the imagination to wonder about.

The 2016 Tour de France begins on Saturday 2nd July from Mont-Sant Michel and finishes on Sunday 24th July in Paris.