The Riders To Watch at the Tour de France

A crib sheet for watching the world’s most exciting bike race
Wiki Commons/Zehnfinger

With no clear favorite, this could be the most surprising Tour de France in history. If you’re new to following the race, you might suspect that’s a line thrown out every year just to drum up web traffic. But it’s not a ploy—this is just a really exciting year at ye olde Tour.

For one thing, two of the usual suspects are out of the race. After testing positive for banned substances back in 2010, two-time Tour de France winner Alberto Contador remains on doping suspension though August. Andy Schleck, last year’s runner-up and the official winner of the 2010 race (since Contador was stripped of his drug-tarnished title), will also sit out this year’s Tour after sustaining an injury at the Critérium du Dauphiné last month.

Australian Cadel Evans returns this year to defend his title, but he’s by no means a shoe-in. That means this year’s Tour de France could have more plot twists and unexpected character development than an over-scripted “reality” show. Check out this slideshow for a look at who might get a chance to try on a colored jersey—four race favorites, and four more worth keeping an eye on.

Is this all Greek to you? Don't miss our primer on How to watch and understand the world's best bike race.