Who to watch for the Tour de France

fi’zi:k’s range of saddles and shoes will dominate the world’s greatest sporting event, the Tour de France, which begins in Mont St Michel on 2 July. Here’s a breakdown of the teams and riders to watch, in order of their 2016 UCI rankings…

2 MOVISTAR For many, 26-year-old Colombian Nairo Quintana (fi’zi:k Antares 00) is the favorite to claim le maillot jaune. Quintana’s twice finished second to Chris Froome – in 2013 and 2015 – but came close to beating the Brit last year, halving Froome’s lead with devastating attacks on stages 19 and 20. If the Tour had featured 22 stages and one more mountainous day, many suspect Quintana would enter this year’s race as defending champion. Quintana comes into the 2016 race in stellar form, recently winning Route du Sud. He’s also triumphed at the Volta a Catalunya. Though Movistar are yet to confirm their Tour team, it’s certain that Quintana will be ably supported by Alejandro Valverde (fi’zi:k Antares 00), who recently finished third at the Giro d’Italia.

3 BMC RACING Heading BMC Racing’s Tour team are two of the finest GC riders around – Richie Porte and Tejay van Garderen (fi’zi:k Aliante VSX) – but who will become their main GC rider will unfold over the three weeks. Porte played a pivotal role in Team Sky’s three Tour de France victories but how will he adapt to playing centre stage? His showing at the recent Critérium du Dauphiné suggests well, the 31-year-old Australian finishing fourth in a strong field. American van Garderen has been there or thereabouts in a number of stage races this season, his most recent result sixth at the Tour de Suisse. Also look out for Greg Van Avermaet (fi’zi:k Antares 00) and Rohan Dennis (fi’zi:k R3B Uomo shoes) who’ll both be seeking stage victories.

4 TEAM SKY Up until the Critérium du Dauphiné, Chris Froome (fi’zi:k Antares R1) had ‘enjoyed’ an uncharacteristically inconsistent season, finishing down the field at the Volta a Catalunya and Tour de Romandie. Was Froome’s crown slipping? Clearly not, if his efforts in France earlier this month are anything to go by, the 31-year-old Brit winning the Dauphiné for the third time in the last four years. Ominously for the opposition, his previous Dauphiné victories have then seen him go onto win the Tour. Froome’s chief lieutenant will be Wales’ Geraint Thomas (fi’zi:k R1B Uomo shoes), who rode so magnificently at the 2015 Tour where he placed fourth until stage 19’s debilitating climb up La Toussuire, losing 22 minutes to stage winner Vincenzo Nibali. However, this season has seen Thomas focus on stage races rather than classic challenges so he should prove an even stronger support rider than normal.

6 ORICA GREENEDGE The Australian team will be hunting for stage victories in the shape of uber-sprinter Michael Matthews (fi’zi:k Antares 00) and the experienced Simon Gerrans (fi’zi:k Antares 00). Twenty-five-year-old Matthews has seven individual and team time-trial Grand Tour stage wins to his name but none at the Tour de France. But with the sprinter’s jersey at the 2016 Paris-Nice, that duck could well be broken at this year’s Tour. Gerrans shook off an injury-riddled 2015 to win this year’s Tour Down Under, grabbing two individual stage wins in the process. It showed there’s still life in the 36-year-old’s legs, and he’ll be looking to add to his two individual Tour stage victories in 2008 and 2013.

8 FDJ The French FDJ team have built their Tour line-up around the overall ambitions of Thibaut Pinot (fi’zi:k Arione), who finished third in 2014. So far in 2016, it’s been a mixed bag for Pinot. He showed he’s significantly improved his TT performance, winning the Tour de Romandie time-trial en route to second overall. But then he finished down in 16th at the recent Critérium du Dauphiné. Still, Pinot thrives on the big occasion and could well end France’s 31-year Tour barren spell. He’ll certainly have the team to shield him including Sebastien Reichenbach and Jeremy Roy (both use fi’zi:k shoes).

14 CANNONDALE PRO CYCLING Pierre Rolland (fi’zi:k saddles) will lead the American Cannondale team in France. The 29-year-old Frenchman moved from Europcar at the end of 2015, with eighth in 2012 his best Tour result to date. But his standout moment from the world’s greatest race was in 2011 when Rolland won a memorable 19th stage atop Alpe d’Huez.

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AG2R LA MONDIALE Romain Bardet (fi’zi:k saddles) heads up the French team, and comes into the race off the back of a superb second at the Critérium du Dauphiné. The 25-year-old is one of France’s brightest prospects and will be looking to build on his sixth place in 2014. He’s certainly shown he has the taste for victory, winning stage 18 of the 2015 Tour after a superb solo breakaway. Bardet is joined at AG2R by countryman Alexis Gougeard (23), who’ll be making his Tour debut. Gougeard announced he’s a major talent by winning a stage of the 2015 Vuelta.

18 TEAM DIMENSION DATA The African team go into their second Tour with a number of world-class riders who could very well dominate the headlines. Possibly the greatest sprinter of all time, Mark Cavendish (fi’zi:k Arione), will be looking to add to his 26 Tour stage victories. Cav will be the man for the flats. When the terrain rises, the spotlight will shine on Eritrean Daniel Teklehaimanot (fi’zi:k R1B Uomo shoes), who made history in 2015 in becoming the first African rider to wear the King of the Mountains polka-dot jersey.