Tour de France 2017 - July 1st to July 23rd
This year's edition has fewer kilometers of TT compared to last years, coming in at 36km. This will emphasize TTing a little less than last year, which isn't quite as good for contender's like Chris Froome that are notably good at the race against the clock. The other major change to this year's tour is the additional of more "punchy" stages that have a number of short climbs throughout the stage, often ending on a short, punchy climb as well. It will be interesting to see how this effects the GC, and the aggressiveness of the racing.
Additionally, in the same vein of aggressiveness there are several shorter than normal mountain stages that the organizers have implemented in order to tempt more aggressive racing and less "ride tempo up hills until the final climb". This has worked pretty well in past editions of the Vuelta and Giro, seeing some excellent stages.
What you need to know
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- The Yellow Jersey : Worn by the current leader of the race, represents general time classification
- The Green Jersey : Worn by the leader of the General points classification. A sprinters ranking.
- The Polka-Dot Jersey : The jersey affiliated with the Best Climber Classification. More commonly known as "The King of The Mountains." It is very rare though that the best climber actually wins this classification though.
- The White Jersey : For the Best Young Rider of the race. Basically the yellow jersey for 25 y.o. and younger. It is possible to win both the Yellow and White Jersey.
- This Tour de France is the 104th edition, it is 3540km long with 21 stages, and two rest days
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General Info for new followers:
GC stands for general classification and refers to riders who are competing to win the overall tour. Generally too be a good GC rider one must be a respectable individual time trialist (a solo ride against the clock), as well as someone with very good power to weight ratio, as that determines how fast one climbs. Almost every bike tour features many summit finishes, meaning that the last climb of a summit finish is a very important opportunity to gain time on rivals.
For those unfamiliar, in a time trial, which tends to be one flatter routes, bigger guys that put out more raw power (watts) are generally favored over lighter riders that might have better power/weight (w/kg) ratio. The reason for is that weight is a small penalty on flat ground, with the big player being air resistance. At typical time trial speeds, well over 90% of your power is spent overcoming air resistance. With good position on the bike, a riders drag coefficient does not become significantly larger even if the rider is a little bigger...which means that with similar amounts of drag the rider putting out more raw power will go faster.
For this edition of the tour there are three major contenders for the overall win: Chris Froome (Sky), Richie Porte (BMC), Nairo Quintana (Movistar), and potentially Jakob Fugelsang (Astana). Other names that could threaten, but would be a surprise to see on the top step of the podium include: Alberto Contadar, Romain Bardet, Thibaut Pinot, Fabio Aru, Esteban Chaves, Rafal Majka, and Rigoberto Uran.
Chris Froome - 2013/2015/2016 TdF champion. The strongest of all the GC riders at time trialing in large part because he is a "bigger" guy at 67kg. Based on resume and past results Froome would the overwhelming favorite. He has been close to unstoppable over the past 4 or 5 years, and is the best time trialist of any GC contender. Probably the best climber too once you get past Nairo Quintana. In recent years he's shown a flair and willingness to try gambles in order to gain extra time on rivals, and it's worked out well.
The downside here is that Froome has not looked impressive at all. He usually turns up at the Dauphine before the Tour looking to be in reasonable form and test himself. It didn't go so well this year, he was beaten in the time trial by Richie Porte, and generally struggled on the hills. I'd say Froome is still the favorite, but time will tell if this was the year father time began to win the battle, or just an early season where things didn't click.
Richie Porte - If we were going by 2017 form only, Richie Porte would be an overwhelming favorite for this year. He's been dominant in the mountains and been a multi time winner already. Smoked Froome and everyone else at the Dauphine time trial, and looked good until the last day when he made some poor decisions and ended up having to chase hard. Rumor has it he is lighter than he has ever been at 58kg.
There is a perception about Porte as not being a man for 3 week grand tours, but it's unfounded. Physically he is fine. He's just been one of the most unlucky riders over the past few years in the big ones. Nearly every grand tour he has had some misfortune that cause him to lose major time, many of which were in no way his fault; like getting tangled up with the camera motorcycle on Ventoux last year. Porte is damn near co-favorite with Froome; and if Froome really isn't on the same level of prior years, Porte is the definite favorite.
Nairo Quintana - The small Columbian, around 55kg, is the best climber in the field by a significant margin. At his best nobody can hang with him in the mountains. Unfortunately, at 55kg, Quintana doesn't have much absolute power to work with and consequently is not very good against the clock. He will lose time here to key rivals. This means that he has to take it back in the climbs, he needs to be going spectacularly to do so. Quintana of 14'/15' would be incredibly dangerous. However, last year, and at this years Giro Quintana has not really looked like the climber he has shown us before. Allegedly he has dealt with illness in several of his key races; but we haven't seen Quintana handling the field uphill like we did a few years ago, and in the Giro there were times were even Dumoulin was able to put him under pressure. Not good.
That said, if it really was illness both times there is a good chance we see vintage Quintana here.
The big thing going against him is that he is coming off the Giro. Quintana and Movistar seem to think Quintana can be at his best here, in the second grand tour of the season. It's bold, but I really think it's a stretch. It's worked horrible for other riders who have tried it (Contador last year) and just doesn't seem to allow enough time. You need a minimum 1-2 weeks to recovery, which leaves only 3 weeks or so to try and get in any quality training.
I'm really interested to see how he goes, but right now I can't see him as nearly as dangerous of a challenger as Porte/Froome. If he looks great on the first major climb though...watch it. Nobody in the field can touch this guy uphill when he's on.
Rafal Majka - In my opinion the next biggest threat. Majka lacks in TT though which hurts, but on his day he is one of the best climbers in the peleton. Twice a two time stage winner at the Tour and also a mountains jersey winner. Not quite sure he can climb with the best day in, day out; but this is his first real shot at being the leader for a grand tour.
Alberto Contador - The Spaniard is a two time TdF champion and 7 time grand tour winner. An excellent, explosive climber and a fairly good time trialist his palmares and experience are unmatched. That said, he is getting older and doesn't have the same form as he used to. He races aggressively and is always fun to watch, but he just doesn't have the w/kg to keep up day in and day out in the mountains. A podium would be an excellent result for Contador.
Contador's form coming in should be good. He had a stellar prologue ITT at the Criterium du Dauphine, and overall looked to be in good form there.
Esteban Chaves - Another emerging GT contender. Has looked good in the past, especially last years Giro, but has struggled in his build up. I think he is another rider that would do well to finish on the podium.
Fabio Aru - Another outside shot. Aru has been gradually emerging as an overall Grand Tour contender over the past few years. Unfortunatly he missed a ton of time in his build up and doesn't look like his form will be exceptional coming in.
Thibaut Pinot - In the past Pinot has been a good climber with a pretty weak TT. He was been working very hard on that the past few years, and has done quite well in TTs this year, although it let him down at the Giro where both his TT's were mediocre.
He's a really interesting rider to watch. He used to be a steady, diesel climber; but not he is one of the better sprinters out of the GC bunch, and has developed some punch to his riding. The downside is that like Quintana he is coming off the Giro and won't have great form. I'm not sure he will go for the GC overall, perhaps opting to hunt stages instead, but if he does then a podium here would be excellent.
Rigoberto Uran - Has won before at the Giro, but his TT isn't that great. He is good on his day, but hasn't done anything to suggest to me he is a strong contender over the length of the entire race.
Romain Bardet - Another great french climber with superlative descending skills. He almost always finds a way to win a stage or two. Not sure if he has the TT firepower and long term consistency yet to factor for the overall.
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Peter Sagan - Don't think I need to say anything else. Sagan doesn't crash, and no else is going to get the jersey from him. Honestly, there are a realistic 11-12 stages in which Sagan *could* win. 7 are likely to be bunch sprints, which usually Sagan just lacks the top speed to beat the absolute fast men of the Tour, but there are more question marks surrounding those guys than usual. The other stages are all punchy stages which Sagan is normally a threat on. That said, he'll have some seriously stuff competition in both Philip Gilbert and Greg van Avermaet, who has been on the form of his life thus far.
For this new to the Tour, the green jersey is basically the "sprinters" point competition. Only a handful of guys can actually win overall, but there are other different styles of riding and most of these riders target wins on individual days (stages). The sprinters jersey awards points for high stage finishes, and at some intermediate points in stages. Sagan is basically unbeatable here because he is a top 10 sprinter outright on a flat stage, but can get over some serious hills (but not long alpine climbs) that the other sprinters have no chance on. So Sagan does okay on flat sprint stages, and then mops up crazy points along all the other hilly or medium mountain type days.
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Feel free to tell me to add or change something in the OP.