This should be Nairo Quintana’s break out year and it’s just the 23-year-old’s second grand tour – and his first Tour de France. His solid climbing and improved time-trial performances are winning him plaudits. Nairo has spent time back home training in Colombia over past month, and with an overall win in the Tour of the Basque Country this year, showcased his talents. In 2012, he had announced himself in cycling with an impressive Critérium du Dauphiné stage win and an overall victory at Murcia. This year, he has kicked on, finishing fourth in Volta a Catalunya and the Basque win. He has not raced since April so watch out for him coming good in the final week. A lot will also depend on how much he is expected to do for team-mate Alejandro Valverde, but with Movistar always chasing the team title, he is likely to have a free role. He also will be competing in the young riders table so he is someone to watch for in that.
The 26-year-old Irishman has had a huge season and comes in as the focus of a strong Garmin Sharp squad. Team management this year have been fully behind Daniel Martin and that showed as Martin won Liege Bastogne Liege, beating the talented Joaquim Rodriguez. Add to that a superb breakaway win in stage four which helped him take the overall Volta a Catalunya title in his adopted home. Garmin have named a really strong squad to give them multiple angles and take the pressure off the Irish man’s shoulders. His build-up went well and he finished eighth overall in the Tour de Suisse. He will be keen to record his first top-10 finish in a grand tour, something his cousin Nicolas Roche has managed.
Thibaut Pinot is seen as the big hope for French cycling success, with the nation hoping he might be the rider to break their long spell without a Tour de France winner. He is a confident climber, shown in his stage win in last year’s tour. He has a solid time trial that he has improved on over the past year. Just 23, Pinot hit the big-time with a stage win in the tour that he was not supposed to ride. Called in at the last minute, he sealed a top-10 finish. Now with an extra year of experience in cycling, he could be ready to improve on a fantastic 2012 tour. He was a solid fourth in the recent Tour De Suisse and an eighth in Catalunya earlier in the year. His season has been focused on this and the word is positive from his camp. He will rival Quintana closely in the young riders table.
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BIOGRAPHY: Ethan Hazard
BIOGRAPHY: Daniel Sturridge