The Tour de France is finally back. Let the summer begin.
The 2017 Tour de France sets off from Düsseldorf on July 1st. This is the fourth time the Tour starts in Germany, and we will also have stages in both Belgium and Luxembourg. The main portion of the race will obviously be in France, and both the Alps and the Pyrenees will be featured in the 2017 race. There are 2 time trials, 9 flat stages, 5 hilly stages, and 5 incredibly hard mountain stages. It all ends, as usual, with a mass sprint on Champs-Elysees in Paris. What’s not that normal with this years race is that the general classification will be decided by a time trial. The last time it happened was in 2014, but Vincenco Nibali had such a big lead that it really didn’t matter. Hopefully we’ll get a closer race this year, but no matter what, we’ll have 23 days of fun, heart pumping, exhilarating cycling drama where anything can happen. It’s finally back. Let the summer begin.
General Classification – Yellow Jersey
The yellow is what it’s all about. Stage wins, polkadots and green jerseys are all fine and dandy, but there’s really just one winner of the Tour de France. The winner of the general classification. The 2016 race had 9 mountain stages. The 2017 edition only has 5. That means fewer climbs to get ahead, more attacks, more action. Chris Froome has three TdF GC wins on his resume, from 2013, 2015 and 2016, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he gets his fourth in 2017. In previous years, riders have struggled to distance the Kenyan-born brit in the mountains, and it gets even more difficult when it all ends with a tough time trial. There’s not many that can challenge Froome on a time trial, and especially not in week three of a grand tour. He did, however, disappoint at the Criterium du Dauphine, but I suspect he didn’t really care about winning that race. Nairo Quintana came close to challenging Froome in 2015, but that was a race without any decisive time trials, and he didn’t try to win the Giro d’Italia the same year. Quintana went for the Giro this year, but didn’t manage to keep his lead on the final TT. He ended 2nd, behind time trial specialist Tom Dumoulin. It’s extremely hard to peak your form two times within three months, but then again, Quintana didn’t look like he was 100 % at the Giro. Maybe he aimed for the Tour de France after all? Richie Porte served as Chris Froome’s helping hand from 2013 to 2015, before he got the opportunity to fight for his own chances at BMC last year. He had mechanical trouble early in the race, but fought back and ended 5th overall. He’s been looking good at the Dauphine this year, and really stood out on the time trial. He should be able to challenge Froome this year, bar any unfortunate incidents. Alberto Contador is always a name to look out for, steak or no steak. He showed some promising signs at the Paris-Nice this spring, but hasn’t been riding a lot of races leading up to the Tour. It’s hard to predict where he’s at, but that’s pretty much always the case with Alberto. He didn’t come close last year. After crashing on the opening stages, he quit the race on stage 9. He rides for a new team this year (Trek-Segafredo), and will be eager to prove he’s better than the 2016 version. Alejandro Valverde looks like he’s in the best shape of his life, and could be Movistar’s team captain if Quintana fails. Even though Valverde might struggle on the hard mountain stages later on in the tour, he should be a guy to watch out for in the first week. I can see several stage wins in the Spaniards future. His TT at the Dauphine was also really good. Could this be the year? Jakob Fuglsang needs to be mentioned after he distanced everybody at the Criterium du Daphine, and won the yellow jersey. That sky-rocketed him into GC contention for the Tour de France, but I believe the dane will struggle in a longer race like the TdF. He is a very strong climber, and could potentially ride into yellow on the 9th stage into Chambery. Fuglsang isn’t that great on TTs, though. Roman Bardet is (as always) the big french hope, but I just can’t see him following Froome & co. Thibaut Pinot just went through a really hard Giro d’Italia race, and I doubt he’ll go for the yellow in Tour de France. Fabio Aru was a disappointment for Astana last year, but maybe the Italian can bounce back in 2017. Esteban Chaves is another with GC hopes, but the potential Orica-Scott captain isn’t quite at that level.
Prediction: Chris Froome, Team Sky.
Points Classification – Green Jersey
Less mountain stages means more sprint stages. The nine flat stages matches 2016’s nine, but the difference is the “hilly” stages. 2016: One. 2017: Five. Peter Sagan has won the green jersey every year since 2012, and more hilly stages is only a plus for one of the most versatile rider in the peloton. He has showed time and time again that he can hang on way longer than any of his rivals in the points classification. That gives him a huge advantage, as he gets a lot more intermediate sprint points. He doesn’t even have to make an effort to win this jersey again in 2017. Marcel Kittel will be more focused on stage wins and Champs Elysees, but might eye the green as well. It all depends on if he will be able (and motivated) to follow Sagan on the hilly stages. Alexander Kristoff has not been looking good leading up to the Tour, and also struggles with illness during the Dauphine. At the Tour of California, he couldn’t even pass his own lead-out man. I believe this is the last year we’ll see Kristoff in the red Katusha jersey, and he has a lot of pressure to succeed. I doubt he’ll get close to the green. Andre Griepel tested his form at the Giro d’Italia, and he wasn’t even close to what we expected from him. Hopefully he peaked his form to the Tour, and he should get at least a few stage wins. Green jersey though? Most likely not. Mark Cavendish still is a wild card for the Tour de France, but if he’s healthy – he’s a potential winner. Arnaud Demare has looked very good lately. He won the points classification at the Dauphine, and has several stage wins this season. He’s also a rider that can stay in the peloton on the harder stages, and is potentially a threat for Sagan. Guys like Michael Matthews, Greg Van Avermaet and Edvald Boasson Hagen could also challenge Sagan, as they also can be involved in more mass sprints than usual on those hilly stages.
Prediction: Peter Sagan, Bora.
Mountains Classification – Polkadot Jersey
The polkadot is actually pretty hard to predict this year, because those five mountain stages will be all about the GC. Question is if break-aways will get clear, or if the big favorites fight for stage wins and mountain classification points. I think stage 9 will be very important for this classification, and I will be surprised if the winner isn’t in the break-away on that stage. Rafal Majka won the jersey in 2014 and 2016, and will attempt to get a third one this year. Majka is also a good enough climber to follow the GC riders, but will get distanced when the attacks starts. The 2014 edition is actually pretty similar to this years edition, with only 6 mountain stages and a decisive time trial. That could lead us to believe that a non-GC rider will take polka in 2017 as well… but then again, both Froome and Quintana was excluded from the 2014 race. Chris Froome could celebrate with the jersey in 2015, even though the yellow obviously was more important for the Team Sky rider. There’s always a chance the yellow jersey winner also takes the polkadot jersey, and Froome could snag both of them again this year. Nairo Quintana managed to win the polkadot jersey on the final climb in 2013, as well as the white jersey. Nairo didn’t seem as solid in the Giro as we hoped, but could’ve targeted the Tour de France. If so, he’s definitely a guy who can stand on the podium with the red and white jersey on Champs-Elysees. Thibaut Pinot is a very interestig name for the polkadot jersey. He was good at the Giro, but I think FDJ realized they can’t compete with Team Sky, BMC and Movistar at the Tour de France. They confirmed before the season that Pinot’s objective for the Tour was stage wins and the polkadot jersey. That might have changed since December, but if he really goes all in for the jersey, he is the favorite to win it. Fabio Aru is an intriguing rider to look for at this classification, as Jakob Fuglsang most likely gets the captain role for Astana. Aru is too good of a climber to be Fuglsang’s helper, and might target the polkadot jersey. A nice parachute for Astana if the Fuglsang-in-yellow project fails. The same can be said for Movistar’s Alejandro Valverde, but he’ll be more interested in stage wins than a polkadot jersey. Mikel Landa is also a very talented climber, but he won’t get the same role as he did at the Giro d’Italia. It’s all about helping Chris Froome for him. Pierre Rolland is always a name for the mountains classification. That was also the case in Italy in May, but Rolland couldn’t overcome Mikel Landa. The french still hasn’t won the polkadot jersey in Tour de France, and will give it another shot this summer.
Prediction: Thibaut Pinot, FDJ.
Young Rider Classification – White Jersey
Let me just say that the age limit for the young rider classification is ridiculous. 26 years? Come on. Simon Yates is the brother of the 2016 winner, Adam Yates, and is still only 24. Simon isn’t quite as good as his twin brother, but Adam decided to go for the Giro this year. That makes Simon the family hope at this years Tour de France. Louis Meintjes is a bigger favorite in my mind. He was two minutes behind Adam Yates last year, but nobody came close to challenging him for 2nd place. Buchman was third – 42 minutes behind Yates. If Meintjes is in the same shape as in 2016 (and it did look like that at the Dauphine), the South African should win this jersey. Emmanuel Buchman should get closer than 42 minutes this year, though. He actually won the youth category at the Dauphine, 40 seconds ahead of Meintjes. He also finished top 10 GC in Tour de Romandie and Tour of the Alps. Will he be able to follow Meintjes in the Tour de France though? Probably not. Warren Barguil is the french hope in this category, but the 25-year-old just returned from an injury. He wasn’t very impressive in his comeback at the Dauphine, finishing 30th overall. Eduardo Sepulveda has been “promising” long enough. He was disqualified for riding behind a car in 2015, and finished almost 3 hours behind Yates last year. A 16th place at Tour of Norway this year isn’t very impressive either, but maybe he can get a head start on the white jersey in an early break-away.
Prediction: Louis Meinjes, UAE.
The Time Trials
The 2017 Tour de France includes two time trials. Stage 1 kicks it all of with a time trial in Düsseldorf. 14 flat kilometers in the city center. A similar start to the Tour de France, as in 2015. Stage 20 is a ITT in Marseille. It has one short, but steep hill, and the rest of the 22,5 km stage is flat. Rohan Dennis won that opening stage back in 2015. He has done five time trials this year, and won every single one of them. He would’ve been the favorite to win both of these time trials. However, Dennis isn’t in BMC’s plans for this years edition. Don’t ask me why, but as of right now, he’s not in the squad. Primoz Roglic is a younger time trialist with recent success. The Slovenian won the time trial at Tour de Romandie, and the time trial at Vuelta de Pais Vasco. He’s also a rider that can win both short and long time trials, and will aim to win both TT’s. Tony Martin is obviously a guy to look out for. He finished 2nd in the Criterium du Dauphine time trial, but we all know he can win any TT, and both him and Katusha are hungry for that yellow jersey after stage 1. Richie Porte won the TT in Dauphine, and looked really impressive doing it. He will probably have to copy that achievement to win the yellow jersey at the Tour de France, but that’s entirely possible. Chris Froome will definitely try the same, but he finished 37 seconds behind Porte in the Dauphine. Maybe he wasn’t going all-in, but it’s still alarming for the Team Sky captain. Alejandro Valverde gets another mention here, as he did a magnificent time trial in the Dauphine, finishing 3rd. He was only 24 seconds behind Porte, and after three weeks of riding, maybe those seconds have shifted. Geraint Thomas gets a shot at the Tour de France after crashing in the Giro d’Italia. He’s a potential winner of one of the time trials. He smashed the TT in Italy, only beaten by Tom Dumoulin. And that was the stage after his crash. Imagine what he can do at 100%. Jonathan Castroviejo will focus on helping Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde, but he’s also an excellent time trialist.
Prediction, stage 1: Tony Martin, Katusha.
Prediction, stage 20: Primoz Roglic, Lotto-Jumbo.
The most important stages
You could say all 21 stages are important, but there are a few worth highlighting for the general classification.
Stage 9 is the first one. Three (!) HC climbs, and several lower categorized climbs. A total of 7 climbs. The stage will definitely be interesting for the polkadot competition, but could (and should) also give us an early idea of who’s fighting for yellow. Stage 12 is the next one, with a few hard climbs leading into Payragudes. This is where Chris Froome rode into yellow in 2016, and he’ll try to repeat that. Stage 13 has three category 1 climbs, and is only 101 km long. That sounds like attacks to me, but the 25 kilometers from the last climb to the finish line might mean the attack will get caught. Stage 18 is where it all can be decided. A summit finish in week three usually means a lot of time differences. Chris Froome? Nairo Quintana? Richie Porte? It will be an exciting stage. Stage 20 will obviously be important if the time differences are small, but something tells me the last summit on stage 18 will give someone a huge advantage.
And that’s it! Thank you for reading my 2017 Tour de France preview, and good luck with your TdF bets this summer.
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