SAN DIEGO, June 30, 2015– One of the world’s greatest athletic competitions, the 102nd Tour de France, adds some new twists and makes the climbers happy with the 2015 edition starting Saturday, July 4.
Continuing its inclusive approach to the race, the tour will begin outside France for the second year in a row and for the sixth time from the Netherlands in Ultrecht. Over the course of 23 days until the finish in Paris on Sunday, July 27, the world’s elite professional bike riders will cover a total distance of 3,366 kilometers, or 2,091 miles, shorter than last year’s Tour but with more climbing miles. It is approximately the distance driving by car from Phoenix, Arizona to Charlotte, North Carolina.
Last year’s winner, Vincenzo Nibali of Italy riding for Team Astana, would love to repeat. But he will face several tough competitors who were knocked out due to injury in 2014 and are back in this year’s tour.
Team Sky’s Chris Froome of Great Britain, the 2013 winner, won the recent Criterium de Dauphine, among the most important tune-up races for the tour. He was performing well in 2014 when he left due to injury. It’s a similar story for two-time winner Alberto Contador of Spain riding for Tinkoff Sazo team, who broke his leg in 2014. He’s since come back to win the Giro d’Italia this year. If he can win, he will be the first Giro/Tour winner since 1998.
The rider many insiders believe has his best chance to win his first Tour de France is 25-year-old Nairo Quintana of Colombia, riding for Movistar. Quintana was second in 2013 and won the 2014 Giro. He is a fierce climber and with more mountain miles and fewer time trial miles this year, the King of the Mountains could prevail in yellow this year. He has been training in altitude at home. If his rivals don’t put time in the bank before getting to the mountains, Quintana could be difficult to catch for anyone except perhaps Contador and Froome.
There are only three Americans riding in the tour this year, the fewest in recent memory. In theory all have a chance of a stage win and a podium finish under the right cirumstances. They are Tejay Van Garderen of Team BMC, who placed second to Froome in the Criterium and won the Tour of California this year; Andrew Talansky of Cannondale-Garmin, the current U.S. time trial champion, who had a rough 2014 Tour, riding despite injuries due to bad crashes until he was forced out; and Tyler Farrar of MTN-Qhubeka.
Looking at the other specialty honors:
Sprinters: Mark Cavendish of Team Etixx-Quickstep has more stage wins than any other active rider with 25. He won four stage of the 2015 Tour of California, and he should add several more en route to the Green Jersey. It will be a touch easier due to the absence of his rival Marcel Kittel of Germany. Kittel was left out of the tour this year by his team Giant-Algecin after a so-so season to date. Fellow German Andre Greipel of Lotto Soudal and Slovak Peter Sagan of Tinkoff Saxo will be the Manx Missile’s top challengers.
King of the Mountains: The fight for the Polka Dot Jersey will be tougher than ever with a schedule loaded with mountain stages, including several in the final days. 2014 King of the Mountains Rafal Majka of Poland took two stages last year for Tinkoff-Saxo and, while his main job is assisting Alberto Contador, he may get the green light to go for the mountain wins to add another prize to the team. Pierre Rolland of Europcar would love keeping the jersey home in France. A name not known by many but likely to gain some attention is Daniel Teklehaimanot of MTN-Qhubeka, the first Eritrean to ride the tour, on the first ever registered team from Africa. He won the mountain jersey at the Criterium and he would love to repeat. Along with Nairo Quintana, Colombian Julian Arredondo of Trek Factory Racing could challenge for the King of the Mountains in his first tour after winning the climbing prize at the Giro.
Best Young Rider: The white jersey goes to the highest placed GC rider under age 26. Like last year, young French riders Romain Bardet of AG2R and Thibaut Pinot of FDJ should battle it out once again. Pinot prevailed in 2014, but Bardet is the leader of his team. Both will love the climber-friendly course this year.
Rouge Lantern: No one comes to the tour a “favorite” for this prize, which goes to the final rider who manages to finish dead last. It is a symbol of perseverance and the sense of accomplishment, which belongs to every rider who manages to finish the grueling three-week-long race. Last year 34 of the 198 riders who started the race did not make it across the finish line.
Gayle Lynn Falkenthal, APR, is president/owner of the Falcon Valley Group in San Diego. She is also a serious boxing fan covering the Sweet Science for Communities. Read Ringside Seat in Communities Digital News. Follow Gayle on Facebook and on Twitter @PRProSanDiego.
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