FACTBOX-Cycling-Leading Tour de France contenders


Wed, 29 Jun 02:00:00 2011

Strengths and weaknesses of leading contenders in the Tour de France which starts on Saturday:

ALBERTO CONTADOR (Spain, SaxoBank-Sungard, age 28)

* Tour 2010: 1st

* Best performance: 1st (2007, 09, 10)

* Best other grand tour performance: 1st (Giro 2008, 10, Vuelta 2008)

--- Strengths ---> Arguably the best climber in the world, he is unstoppable in the toughest mountain stages as he showed during the Giro. Contador, who is also a strong time-trialist, has an iron will and an impressive capacity to focus.

--- Weaknesses ---> His doping case still pending, Contador is likely to face some energy-sapping media grilling during three weeks. How the crowd will welcome him is also anyone's guess. There are also questions about whether he will have fully recovered from an exhausting Giro?

ANDY SCHLECK (Luxembourg, Leopard-Trek, 26)

* Tour 2010: 2nd

* Best performance: 2nd (2009, 10)

* Best other grand tour performance: 2nd (Giro 2007)

--- Strengths ---> His climbing abilities are second to none, except Contador. He can rely on the support of his elder brother Frank in the mountains and, in Fabian Cancellara, has a top road captain on the flat stages who could also prove very handy in the team time trial.

--- Weaknesses ---> The time trial. He could lose a lot of time to Contador in the penultimate stage in Grenoble over 42.5 kms.

CADEL EVANS (Australia, BMC Racing, 34)

* Tour 2010: 26th

* Best performance: 2nd (2007, 08)

* Best other grand tour performance: 3rd (Vuelta 2009)

--- Strengths ---> He has a lot of experience and proved last year that he had learnt to be on the attack, being less conservative in the mountain stages.

--- Weaknesses ---> Bad luck is one of them. Broke his elbow in last year's eighth stage as he was wearing the overall leader's yellow jersey. Does not seem to have a very strong team.

BRADLEY WIGGINS (Britain, Team Sky, 31)

* Tour 2010: 24th

* Best performance: 4th (2009)

* Best other grand tour performance: 40th (Giro 2010)

--- Strengths ---> Virtually the best time trialist of the leading contenders, he can gain time on everyone in the final effort against the clock. Has a better grand tour team than last year.

--- Weaknesses ---> He is not built to respond to brutal attacks in the mountains. His final standing will also depend on whether he is able to produce repeated climbing efforts in the mountains during a stage.

FRANK SCHLECK (Luxembourg, Leopard-Trek, 31)

* Tour 2010: DNF

* Best performance: 5th (2008, 09)

* Best other grand tour performance: 5th (Vuelta 2010)

--- Strengths ---> A good climber, who can cause havoc with the help of his younger brother Andy.

--- Weaknesses ---> The time trial. He will ride in support of Andy and will get his own chance if his brother falls out of contention.

SAMUEL SANCHEZ (Spain, Euskaltel-Euskadi, 33)

* Tour 2010: 4th

* Best performance: 4th (2010)

* Best other grand tour performance: 2nd (Vuelta 2009)

--- Strengths ---> A excellent climber who will be able to rely on the full support of the Basque team, especially in the mountains.

--- Weaknesses ---> The time trial, which cost him a place on the podium in Paris last year.

JURGEN VAN DEN BROECK (Belgium, Omega Pharma-Lotto, 28)

* Tour 2010: 5th

* Best performance: 5th (2010)

* Best other grand tour performance: 8th (Giro 2008)

--- Strengths ---> A very good climber, who impressed last year in his Tour de France debut.

--- Weaknesses ---> He will have to share the team's leadership with one-day races specialist Philippe Gilbert who will be on the Tour to snatch a stage win, especially during the first week.

IVAN BASSO (Italy, Liquigas-Cannondale, 33)

* Tour 2010: 32nd

* Best performance: 2nd (2005)

* Best other grand tour performance: 1st (Giro 2006, 10)

--- Strengths ---> The Tour de France is his sole focus of the year as he skipped his beloved Giro in order to be fully fit in July. Still an excellent climber.

--- Weaknesses ---> A training crash last month has hampered his preparations for the Tour. Looked terrible in the first stages of the Criterium du Dauphine, although he was better at the end.

ROBERT GESINK (Netherlands, Rabobank, 25)

* Tour 2010: 6th

* Best performance: 6th (2010)

* Best other grand tour performance: 6th (Vuelta 2009)

--- Strengths ---> A superb climber with a very good team to support him, especially since they signed Spaniard Luis Leon Sanchez who could be helpful in the mountains.

--- Weaknesses ---> Sometimes struggles to produce explosive efforts on the climbs. Time trial is definitely not his cup of tea.

JANEZ BRAJKOVIC (Slovenia, Team Radioshack, 27)

* Tour 2010: 43rd

* Best performance: 43rd (2010)

* Best other grand tour performance: 18th (Giro 2009)

--- Strengths ---> A good climber. Taking over from Lance Armstrong as team leader, he should benefit from the support of seasoned grand tour riders Andreas Kloeden and Levi Leipheimer.

--- Weaknesses ---> In mid-June, was still lacking a few kilos needed in order to cope with the physical demands of a three-week race. Inexperience. Should he falter, Kloeden or Leipheimer could take over as team leader.


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