Stephen Roche, Bjarne Riis, Jom Ochowicz, Dave Brailsford, Giuseppe Martinelli give their opinion

Vincenzo Nibali – or whoever wins the Tour de France next Sunday in Paris – will do so without the two big stars present. Alberto Contador and Chris Froome, each former winners, crashed and abandoned, and changed the face of the race. Despite some critics arguing that it’s a devalued win without them, those on the ground say the yellow jersey in Paris means the same regardless.

1987 winner, Stephen Roche: “Everyone began on the same starting line, but some don’t finish. It’s a result that you remember, not how it came about. Wiggins, for example, won when a lot of guys had pulled out and a perfectly suited course. You can always find a reason, but no one ever gives you the yellow jersey for nothing.”

1996 winner and Tinkoff-Saxo team manager, Bjarne Riis: “You have to beat the guys who are there. It’s not the same without the top guys, but you can’t take away from Nibali’s performance. He’s still going to win it, it’s not his fault the others are not here. You could always argue what would have happened if Alberto or Froome would’ve been there, or many others. They would’ve had an influence on the race if they were here, but they’re not.”

Jim Ochowicz, BMC Racing general manager: “This is the Tour de France, there’s never going to be a winner of this race who hasn’t earned it. There are favourites in all the races we go into, but the depth and the pool of talent goes far beyond one or two people. You are not just handed a Tour win, but it’s something you earn through consistent performance.”

David Brailsford, Team Sky general manager: “A Tour win is a Tour win. People remember who won it, but they don’t remember who wasn’t there. You can only beat the people who are in front of you. And besides, we had all the favourites at the start of the race, it’s not like they weren’t at the start of the race, they just didn’t manage to get to the end of it. That shouldn’t detract at all. The racing, unfortunately, took its toll.”

Twice Tour runner-up, Claudio Chiappucci: “Nibali can’t say that he battled this or that rider, up to this point, he’s been fighting himself. I thought that without the two favourites, the race would be more open and more difficult to control. I don’t remember Tours like this. I didn’t have the luck of Indurain crashing and then abandoning. It didn’t happen. I don’t know why riders are always crashing these days, and breaking their bones when they do so.”

Giuseppe Martinelli, Astana team manager: “A Tour win is too important to consider who was or wasn’t here. You could also say that Nibali lost the Worlds last year due to that crash – the rainbow jersey was also an important jersey to win. No one can put his win in doubt because Contador or Froome weren’t here. If he wins, he will have won against everyone, luck and bad luck both calculated in.”

Vincenzo Nibali (Astana), race leader: “Why would it mean less? I won almost all the races where I stared last year, where Alberto Contador and Chris Froome were also racing. The only one I didn’t race was the Tour. The season went perfectly last year with first in the Giro d’Italia and second in the Vuelta a España, I don’t consider myself a step behind those riders. OK, maybe the others went strongly in the early part of the season, like in the Dauphiné, but they are going slower now.”