Chris Froome, Nairo Quintana, Fabio Aru and Alberto Contador will likely go head-to-head at the Tour de France, but does the route suit any of them?

Chris Froome has been installed by the bookmakers as the early favourite to win the 2016 Tour de France after a route favourable to his skill set was announced in Paris on Tuesday.

Froome, already a two-time champion, will be licking his lips at the prospect of a 37km time trial through the Ardeche region, with his performances against the clock a key feature of his 2013 win.

But the parcours of that time trial are also favourable to a number of his rivals – the hilly nature of the route to La Caverne du Pont-d’Arc means that poorer time trialists among the general classification contenders will likely not lose as much time as if it were flat.

Nairo Quintana, who pushed Froome to the wire in 2015, has already spoken of his delight that the time trials are not completely flat, giving him a better chance of keeping Froome at bay.

Here we take a look at some of the main contenders and see how the 2016 Tour de France route suits them.

Chris Froome

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Chris Froome at the 2015 Tour de France (Sunada)

People who said Froome only won the 2013 Tour because of his time trial ability were somewhat silenced when the Brit took the yellow jersey with a solid display in the mountains in 2015.

The return of some major time trials in the 2016 edition will definitely play into Froome’s hands, although the Team Sky man only partook in three individual time trials in 2015 – the longest of which was 17km.

With the Olympic Games time trial on his radar, Froome will no doubt look to up his game in time for August, meaning he will look to lay down a marker on his rivals on stage 13’s 37km effort.

Stage 18’s uphill time trial between Sallanches and Megève does not so much favour Froome, in the fact that his rivals will likely be equally strong. The gradients on show – over 11 per cent at points – will probably remove any doubt of whether to use a road bike or time trial bike, thus the playing field will be more even.

If 2015 is anything to go by, Froome will look to take the yellow jersey at the earliest possible opportunity and defend it until Paris. This opportunity comes earlier than normal, with some pretty major climbs coming up on stage five, which will throw the GC open.

Knowing Froome, he’ll be relishing a return to Andorra, where he broke his foot and abandoned the Vuelta a España in September. Stages eight and nine will be more opportunities for attacks to be made, although with so much racing still left to do it wouldn’t be surprising to see the breakaway reach the end on both days as the main contenders mark each other on the many climbs.

Other than the time trials, Froome’s destiny may be sealed again on Mont Ventoux on stage 12. His climb up the bald mountain in 2013 pretty much won him the Tour, and even though that performance was used against him in the 2015 Tour, Froome will want to prove his dominance there again.

Nairo Quintana

Nairo Quintana on stage twenty of the 2015 Tour de France

Nairo Quintana on stage twenty of the 2015 Tour de France (Watson)

After two second-place finishes in his two Tour appearances, Quintana may think that this is his best chance to win the Grand Boucle to date.

His 2015 race was made harder by losing important time to Froome on the windy stage two – a time difference that ultimately proved decisive. With fewer obstacles in the first week, the Colombian will likely be more confident of staying toe-to-toe with his rivals until the mountains.

We’ve all seen how strong Quintana can be in the high mountains, especially the steep ones, and with plenty of jaw-dropping gradients on offer in all three weeks, he will have a number of opportunities to leave Froome et al behind.

He’ll probably have the support of Alejandro Valverde once more, but Quintana said that now the Spaniard has the podium finish he so desired, the pressure will lift on the whole team.


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