Expectations are high for many riders at the Tour de France, but not all of them can succeed in meeting them. Here are five who weren't at the top of their game

Vincenzo Nibali

Vincenzo Nibali at the 2015 Tour de France (Sunada)

Vincenzo Nibali at the 2015 Tour de France (Sunada)

Despite being defending champion, the expectations of Nibali before the Tour weren’t overwhelmingly high, with the consensus being that he’d struggle to match the likes of Chris Froome and Nairo Quintana.

It’s easy for some people to say that Nibali won the 2014 Tour de France by default, after Froome and Alberto Contador crashed out, but the Italian was still dominant over the whole three weeks and beat what was in front of him.

The downside to being Tour champion, though, is the dramatic increase in media committments in the offseason meaning Nibali never really had the chance to recover mentally or physically from a demanding season.

He pretty much followed the same buildup to the race as he did in 2014: Dubai, Oman, Paris-Nice, the Ardennes Classics, Romandie and the Dauphiné; hardly setting the world alight in any of them.

But his preparation looked a little short as the race hit the first mountains at the Tour – cracking on the first climb to La Pierre-Saint-Martin and prompting team manager Alexander Vinokourov to strip him of the leadership.

The fact that his general classification hopes were pretty much over seemed to help Nibali settle into some kind of rhythm towards the end of the race, winning up La Toussuire and climbing to fourth overall by the finish in Paris.

He is now likely to ride the Vuelta a España, starting August 22, but how he will have recovered from the mental and physical exertions of the Tour will determine what his objectives are there.

Mark Cavendish

Mark Cavendish (Sunada)

Mark Cavendish (Sunada)

Nobody places higher expectations on Mark Cavendish than Cav himself, who had no doubt targetted more than one stage win over the three weeks.

The parcours wasn’t ideal for a sprinter in the mould of Cavendish, but there were a handful of stages up for grabs for the true fast men – including stage two to Zeeland.

Cavendish copped some flak for his fourth-place finish in that stage – looking as if he sat up before the line – because finishing one place higher would have put teammate Tony Martin in yellow.

A similar thing happened on stage five in Amiens when he was again beaten by Greipel and Sagan but he finally got his win two days later Fougeres.

After that, there wasn’t much in it for the Manxman – tough stages in the Pyrenees, deceptively challenging and hot ‘transition’ stages to the Alps during which he suffered an illness which put him out of contention for the sprint on stage 16.

Then he just had to get through the Alps before trying to win his fifth Champs-Elysees stage, but the trials and tribulations of the previous 20 stages left him trailing in sixth.

Never one to throw in the towel, Cav will undoubtedly be back next year to add to his impressive stage tally, but this year he had to concede that Greipel was the better sprinter.

Thibaut Pinot

Thibaut Pinot (Sunada)

Thibaut Pinot (Sunada)

Like Nibali, Thibaut Pinot was expected to do well based on his podium placing in 2014, but also like Nibali it was thought that finishing in the same position may be out of his reach.

Unfortunately we never really got to see the best of Pinot until the Alps, with the young Frenchman consistently losing a time on the first four stages.

Rolling in 10 minutes down on Froome on the Col du Soudet left Pinot 18:18 back on the leader after ten stages, forcing him and FDJ to readjust their targets.

Instead of trying to match the climbers, Pinot got himself out in a number of breakaways at the end of the second week, finishing second on stage 14 and fourth on the stage to Pra Loup.

Then his crowning moment came on Alpe d’Huez, taking a fine solo win having attacked down the descent of the Glandon and riding alone pretty much all the way up the famous climb.

That result alone salvaged some respectability, but 16th overall on the GC was surely nowhere near where he had hoped to finish.

Alexander Kristoff

Alexander Kristoff (Sunada)

Alexander Kristoff (Sunada)

Katusha’s Kristoff was virtually unstoppable in the first six months of the season, racking up 17 wins by June 19.

Roll on July, though, and the Norwegian was virtually invisible at the Tour. Despite recording four top-five finishes he never looked a threat to win any of the stages, sometimes starting his sprint too early and being overtaken before the line – virtually unheard of in the rest of the season.

Katusha had a very mixed Tour, with Joaquim Rodriguez looking good and then looking slightly less good but winning two stages in the process and Luca Paolini testing positive for cocaine.

Given Kristoff’s dominance all season they would have surely expected more from him than a handful of top-fives and 10th in the green jersey competition.

Michal Kwiatkowski

Michal Kwiatkowski (Sunada)

Michal Kwiatkowski (Sunada)

It’s not entirely certain what Kwiatkowski’s targets were at the Tour, but he didn’t seem to do anything particularly memorable in the rainbow stripes.

Having raced so well at the Ardennes Classics in April it was thought that Kwiatkowski may be one to watch on the stage three finish to the Mur de Huy, but he only managed 49th.

He got in a few breakaways but not one of the many that stuck to the end before calling it a day on stage 17.

Patrick Lefevere revealed that the Pole was angry at not being allowed to race for the GC, despite having finished 11th in 2014, prompting him to decide to leave Etixx-Quick-Step.

Maybe that was a factor in his performances, but the world champion was far from his best at the Tour.

 Watch the best bits of the 2015 Tour de France