Tour de France GC quandary

 

Quintana ready for rain?

Quintana ready for rain?

In most cases, the Tour de France is a two-horse race — Lemond vs. Hinault and Armstrong vs. Ullrich variety.

On occasion, such as last year, it’s a three horse race — Froome vs Contador and Nibali.

However, the 2015 Tour de France is a rare four horse extravaganza with Nairo Quintana thrown in the mix to create the Fab Four. Quintana of course playing the role of Ringo Starr.

Read the top cycling journalists and prognosticators and the final call on a winner is … uh, well, no freakin’ idea.

We see thee deciding factors deciding this race. The first is the obvious, first week crash fest that is almost sure to take out one of the four and possibly injure a second  contender.

ASO boss Christian Prudehomme has taken a page from old Giro Boss Angelo Zomegnan who always insisted on a spectacle no matter how many riders he had to put in danger.

The first week of Le Grand Shindig is loaded with hard stages — a one-day-Classic every day for a week solid. Given the narrow roads, probable crosswinds, possibly inclement weather and that one stage over the cobblestones,  a less skilled bike handler like Chris Froome is in a real danger zone.

While Nairo Quintana tested himself on the stones, the little Colombian climber is in for a killer first week before he can start terrifying people in the Alps and Pyrenees.

The first week advantage goes to Vincenzo Nibali and Alberto Contador. Meanwhile Teak Sky’s Director of Good Fortune is busy doing everything he can to get Froome through the first week. Which essentially involves a tremendous amount of praying.

The second factor is bad weather. Should the Tour experience a lot of rainy, cool, wet days then once again Froome is in trouble. He’s not a skilled descender and the well-drilled Sky machine seems to have trouble when the sun isn’t out.

On the other hand, Nibali — and perhaps Quintana — and hoping to get some miserable weather. Both have won the Giro d’Italia is awful and dangerous conditions.

Contador is a champion who can handle any conditions and race well. His issue bring us to the third determining factor in sizing up the Fab Four podium scenarios.

While Nibali, Froome and Quintana arrive at the Tour in generally fresh condition, recovery is the big question for Contador. He was forced to go deeper than he wanted in the final week of the Giro after the US Postal-inspired Astana train nearly broke him down.

While the Spaniard came back and won the Route du Sud, everyone will wonders how much gas is in the tank. He will either cement his reputation and pull off an astounding Giro-Tour double or fade in week three and content himself with having won the first grand tour of the season.

Scenario A: All four survive the first week on equal terms

1 Froome 2 Quintana 3 Nibali

Scenario B: A bad weather Tour, Contador recovered

1 Quintana 2 Nibali 3 Contador

Scenario C: A bad weather Tour, Contador fried from Giro

1 Quintana 2 Nibali 3 Tejay van Garderen

Scenario 4 Fab Four all crash out

1 Tejay van Garderen 2 Romain Bardet 3 Some off the radar darkhorse

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