The pre-Tour questionnaire
by Richard Moore, Lionel Birnie and Daniel Friebe in Leeds
With the Grand Départ almost upon us, our podcasters Richard Moore, Lionel Birnie and Daniel Friebe dust off the crystal ball to predict how the Tour de France will turn out in this quickfire questionnaire.
The Tour de France preview episode of The Telegraph Cycling Podcast, supported by Jaguar will be online on Thursday evening. Subscribe on iTunes to make sure you never miss an episode.
Who will finish on the final podium?
Richard: 1 Alberto Contador, 2 Chris Froome, 3 Vincenzo Nibali
Lionel: 1 Chris Froome, 2 Alberto Contador 3 Vincenzo Nibali
Daniel: 1 Alberto Contador, 2 Chris Froome, 3 Alejandro Valverde
Who will win the green jersey?
Richard: Peter Sagan
Lionel: Peter Sagan
Daniel: Sagan. Peter, not Juraj
What about the king of the mountains?
Richard: Pierre Rolland
Lionel: Joaquim Rodríguez. An educated guess based on the fact the Spaniard had a very unfortunate Giro and hadn’t originally planned to ride the Tour but will now start the race looking to salvage his season. He won’t be good enough to contend for overall victory but a stage win and the polka-dot jersey would be a fine consolation.
Daniel: Alessandro De Marchi. A complete shot in the dark, based on the premise that the KOM winner often rides for a team with no discernible objectives on general classification, which certainly applies to Cannondale. De Marchi is aggressive, a decent climber and has recent form: he was KOM at the Dauphiné, and I’m hoping that’s whetted his appetite.
Who will win the white jersey as best young rider?
Richard: Romain Bardet
Lionel: Michał Kwiatkowski (just to break up the other two and their infatuation with ‘Brigitte’ Bardet).
Daniel: Romain Bardet
Who will be the revelation of the race?
Richard: Simon Yates
Lionel: Leopold König of NetApp-Endura. I know he was ninth in the Vuelta a España last year and 11th in the Critérium du Dauphiné last month so he won’t be a surprise name to the committed fans. I don’t necessarily think he can’t make the top ten overall but he will be aggressive and keen to justify his team’s wild card selection. I expect him to be very lively in the Vosges, getting in breaks.
Daniel: Bardet was really the revelation of last year, but I’ll assume he slipped under some radars. He’s looked fresher and better than France’s other enfant prodige, Thibaut Pinot, almost throughout this season. Pinot has immense class, but Bardet has appeared the more robust and versatile athlete over the last few months. If I’m allowed a second name, I’ll take Arnaud Démare (another young Frenchman, quelle surprise). He has so much class and such a rich repertoire that you can imagine him eventually leaving bunch sprinting to the Cavendishes and Kittels. But then I see him in the last 200 metres of the French Nationals on Sunday, the power that he has at age 22, and it’s like watching a young Cipollini or Petacchi.
Kittel or Cavendish: who comes out on top and why?
Richard: Cavendish. He’s not coming to this Tour having ridden a brutal Giro; his team should be better this year, and so should Cavendish.
Lionel: Cavendish but he won’t have it all his own way. In terms of stage wins it may be a draw but I have a feeling Cavendish will win the opening stage and pull on the yellow jersey for the first time.
Daniel: It’s hard to know before we get there (without spending hours on Google Earth), but the first few flat finishes look to be wide, straight and straightforward in the last kilometre. In a drag-race on that kind of boulevard finale, I expect Kittel to have the slight edge, particularly when he’s fresh in the first week. Later in the race, when endurance comes into play, I think we’ll see Cavendish redress the balance. A lot will depend on the lead-outs, of course, and how quickly Omega Pharma-Quickstep find their groove. I predict that it’ll end in a score draw on the Champs.
Where is the hidden hazard, a stage or place that will catch people by surprise?
Richard: Not a hidden hazard as such but stage 10, to La Planche des Belles Filles, is a brute. Seven classified climbs and it’s short – ideal for early attacks and aggressive racing. If one team wants to wage guerrilla warfare, à la Garmin-Sharp last year, this could be a good day to do it. And there’s a rest day the next day.
Lionel: The hidden danger lurks the day before that, on stage nine from Gérardmer to Mulhouse. It’s less immediately eye-catching than the days either side of it. It’s up and down all day making it very hard to control. This is the perfect stage for one of the outsiders to get in a break and gain time that puts him in the eventual top ten overall.
Daniel: The two penultimate climbs in the big stages in the Vosges – the extremely steep Col de Grosse-Pierre on stage eight to Gérardmer, and the incredibly narrow, gnarly Col des Chevrères two days later. Thibaut Pinot, who lives in the region, can’t believe the Tour de France is going over the latter, which he says is ‘basically a goat track’. I’d also pick out the descent off the Col de Val Louron on stage 17 – very fast and ripe for disaster.
What’s the place you’re most looking forward to visiting?
Richard: You always look forward to the second rest day, but to have it in beautiful Carcassonne is an extra treat. For the racing, I’m looking forward to stage five, over the cobbles.
Lionel: How do I narrow it down? The start in Ypres and the tribute to the victims of World War One will be moving, the cobbles will be dramatic, Reims has a very impressive cathedral, Épernay for the Champagne. And I agree with Richard about the second rest day. I already know where the laundrette is in Carcassonne and two nights in the capital of cassoulet makes it our own gastronomic Critérium International.
Daniel: Bergerac on the penultimate day. I lived there for six months when I was 18, so it’s purely for personal, nostalgic reasons.
Sum up the experience of covering the Tour and what it means to you in one sentence
Richard: An exhilarating and exhausting exercise in sleep-deprivation and disorientation and I wouldn’t miss it for the world.
Lionel: The best and worst three weeks of my working year.
Daniel: An invariably engrossing and memorable adventure and an immense privilege, that I try hard every year not to take for granted.
What are you not looking forward to?
Richard: Such is the buzz in Yorkshire that stage three, from Cambridge to London, could feel a bit ‘after the lord mayor’s show.’ I hope I’m wrong.
Lionel: The inevitable four-hour traffic jam in the mountains leading to a missed dinner.
Daniel: Uninformed debate about power outputs and doping. I stress ‘uninformed’, because a lot of the analysts – amateur and professional – publishing their calculations and interpretations are both highly intelligent and responsible. Unfortunately the same can’t always be said about small sections of their audience, who too often jump to hasty, hysterical conclusions.