5 Riders to Watch at the Tour de France

The top podium contenders, plus the must-see sprinting rivalry of 2013
Staff Writer

This year is a milestone year for the Tour de France, which is set to roll out of Corsica this Saturday, June 29. It’s both the 100th edition of the world’s biggest bike race, and the first year since Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven victories from 1999 to 2005 (as a symbolic gesture, no winners were named). As pro cycling tries to rid itself of performance-enhancing drugs, the three-week-long Tour—the biggest, most anticipated race of the year—has a lot to prove to fans.

Of the 198 riders who push off on Saturday, only a few have a shot at making waves or standing atop the final podium in Paris on July 21. Here are five to keep an eye on:

Sky Racing

Chris Froome (Sky)
Gunning for: General Classification (Yellow Jersey)
South African Froome, the favorite going into the race, has 2,161 miles and three weeks to prove what most cycling fans suspect—that his runner-up finish to teammate Bradley Wiggins was more about team politics than cycling talent. Froome is a fantastic all-around rider—a real mountain goat on big climbs and a solid time trialist—backed by a strong team. With four wins in five starts so far this season, he’s primed to wear the maillot jaune.
Follow: @chrisfroome



Alberto Contador (Saxo-Tinkoff)
Gunning for: General Classification (Yellow Jersey)
Former Lance Armstrong teammate Contador was, for a while, the heir apparent following Armstrong’s retirement. He won all three Grand Tours—the Tour de France in 2007 and 2009, the 2008 Giro d’Italia and the 2008 and 2012 Vuelta a España—before a positive drug test at the 2010 Tour de France stopped his career in its tracks. When his drug case was finally ruled on, he was stripped of his 2010 Tour and 2011 Giro titles, and served a suspension that made him miss the 2012 Tour and the London Olympics. He hasn’t managed any wins yet in 2013 (and finished behind Froome in both match-ups), but El Pistolero is still considered Froome’s best competition.
Follow: @albertocontador


Flickr/The Wolf

Cadel Evans (BMC)
Gunning for: General Classification (Yellow Jersey)
Australian Cadel Evans’s 2011 Tour victory was a long time in the making, having finished in the top five three times before (including runner-up in 2007 and 2008). But last year he was was stifled by the dynamic duo of Bradley Wiggins and Froome. Now in his late 30s, many question whether he has another Grand Tour win in him, though his third place finish at this year’s Giro showed he still has fire in his legs. Pay attention, too, to Evans’s young lieutenant, up-and-coming American Tejay van Garderen, who finished ahead of him in Paris last year and is fresh off a big Tour of California win.
Follow: @CadelOfficial



Peter Sagan (Cannondale)
Gunning for:
Points Classification (Green Jersey)
Coming into last year’s Tour (his debut), the young Slovakian road racing champion made a bet with his team manager—a Porsche if he could win two stages and the points classification. In the end, he took three stages, the green jersey and the respect of every other rider in the peloton for his incredible sprinting power, slick maneuvering in traffic and feisty mountain riding. This season he’s showing similar promise, having already won the points classification in two stage races—the Tour de Suisse and Tour of California (his fourth straight time). We’re guessing nobody’s taking a bet against Sagan this year.
Follow: @petosagan


Flickr/David Kusserow

Mark Cavendish (Omega Pharma-Quick Step)
Gunning for:
Points Classification (Green Jersey)
Britain’s Mark Cavendish, aka the ‘Manx Missile,’ was cycling’s undisputed champion sprinter before Sagan came waltzing in and stole his Tour glory last year. Cav still has the golden touch, though, becoming the only cyclist to win the points classification at all three Grand Tours this season when he took five stages at this year’s Giro d’Italia (as well as his 100th pro victory). But he and the rest of his Omega Pharma squad have been frustrated in competition with the more versatile Sagan so far this season, prompting Cav to tell Velonews, “That guy’s pretty unbeatable right now… He’s making us all look like juniors, I think.” He’ll need all of his experience and wile to beat the young Slovak hero.
Follow: @MarkCavendish

New to the Tour? Read our How to Watch the Tour de Fance primer to help wrap your head around it.

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