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by Shane Stokes
July 3, 2015
Photography by Shane Stokes
UTRECHT, The Netherlands (CT) – With thunderstorms looking like a distinct possibility in the days ahead, Sean Kelly has said that some of the key race favourites will likely be unsettled by the prospect of slippery, tricky conditions and the realisation that this could greatly threaten their Tour chances.
“If we get good weather, little wind, dry conditions, it will make it much more safer. But if we get wet weather conditions…I am sure the riders will have been looking at the forecast over the last two, three weeks.
“Depending on what that is, there are riders like Chris Froome, Quintana, who could have been a lot of sleepless nights waking up in a big sweat, thinking about the showery, windy conditions. Because that is going to be very difficult for those riders.”
Kelly’s point is underlined by the fact that Froome crashed out in wet conditions last year and is generally perceived as having less bike handling skills than a rider such as 2014 champion Vincenzo Nibali. Contador, too, is seen as skilled in slippery conditions and on descents, although he too crashed out of last year’s race when he hit a pothole while travelling downhill at speed.
“Froome, Quintana, would be the ones for the general classification who would have a lot of difficulty if we get unfavourable weather conditions,” Kelly continued. “Contador can defend quite well, he is good at positioning, and Nibali…we have seen last year that he is probably praying for the foul conditions.”
Asked to nominate a big favourite, Kelly said that the Grand Depart in the Netherlands made it difficult to call due to the possible bad weather and also the effects that the predicted high winds could have.
If the race breaks up in to echelons, it’s possible that one or more of the big names will find themselves a minute or more back before the mountains ever loom up on the horizon.
“There are a number of them [contenders] in there,” said Kelly. “You have Froome, Contador, Quintana, Nibali, and then there are a number of other ones like Tejay van Garderen, Valverde maybe. There are a number there.”
A big question for many is if Contador can recover in time from the Giro d’Italia in order to be a contender throughout the Tour. While he showed good form recently in winning the Route du Sud, the last time a rider did the Giro/Tour double was back in 1998. The statistic shows how difficult it is to achieve the feat and leads some to wonder if the Spaniard might tire as the Tour rolls on.
Kelly said that Contador’s weakening towards the end of the Giro will be worrying in this regard, but that it was impossible to tell at this point if he will fade as July progresses.
“Nobody knows, really. Contador himself is probably asking himself the question if he will pay in the final week of the Tour.
“But I don’t think that is going to be the concern for Contador or the other big favourites [right now]. First of all, they want to get over the first five days of this Tour because of the terrain. We also have the cobbles on day five, which last day was mayhem.
“I think when they get to the end of day five, if they haven’t lost time to the other big favourites, they will say ‘thank God, I am in a position now to go for a challenge for the Tour de France.’”
Nibali finished third on the pavé stage of last year’s race, gaining time over all of the other contenders. He’ll hope to do so again but, if not, Kelly believes that he may end up losing ground to the others in the high mountains.
“I think if we come out of day five after the cobbled day and they are all very close together, I would reckon it would be Froome, Contador, Quintana,” he said. “The battle for the top places would be between those three guys.”