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Tour de France 2012 Predictions: Breaking Down Top Contenders in Epic Race

'ALCUDIA, SPAIN - JUNE 19:  Team SKY rider Bradley Wiggins of Great Britain trains in the mountains of Mallorca in preparation for the 2012 Tour de France on June 19, 2012 in Alcudia, Spain. Wiggins will start next week's Tour de France as a favourite after numerous stage race victories earlier this season.  (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
Bryn Lennon/Getty Images
Austin GreenCorrespondent IJune 27, 2012

Oil up those chains and strap on your helmets, because the 2012 Tour de France is right around the corner.

The event will kick off with the prologue (individual time trials) on Saturday, June 30, with the first of 20 stages being held on Sunday, July 1. The grueling 2,173-mile race will start in the Belgian city of Liege and end in Paris three weeks later on Sunday, July 22nd.

The following men are the pre-race favorites for the 99th running of the Tour de France.

 

Cadel Evans (Australia, BMC Racing)

PARIS, FRANCE - JULY 24:  Cadel Evans of team BMC celebrates on the podium after winning the 2011 Tour de France after the twenty first and final stage of Le Tour de France 2011, from Creteil to the Champs-Elysees in Paris on July 24, 2011 in Paris, Franc
Michael Steele/Getty Images

There's no better way to start this list than with the defending champion, who won last year's race by surpassing Andy Schleck on the final time trial.

He became one of the five oldest Tour de France winners that year at the age of 34. Now at 35-years-old, Evans will look to become the second oldest winner behind only Firmin Lambot, who won the 1922 Tour at the age of 36.

Evans will have his work cut out for him, as he's struggled in some of the buildup races to the Tour. With his experience and savvy, though, you can never count out the Australian.

 

Bradley Wiggins (Britain, Team Sky)

PUERTO DE ALCUDIA, SPAIN - JUNE 19:  Team SKY rider Bradley Wiggins of Great Britain trains in the mountains of Mallorca in preparation for the 2012 Tour de France on June 19, 2012 in Puerto de Alcudia, Spain.  (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images). Wiggins
Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Wiggins is the most dangerous threat to Evans' bid for consecutive titles.

He finished fourth overall in 2009, and after crashing early in last year's race, the Brit will be highly motivated this year.

Wiggins has been excellent in the Tour tune-ups this season, winning the Paris-Nice in March and the Criterium du Dauphine earlier this month. If he can continue his success on cycling's biggest stage, he will become the first Briton to win the historic race.

 

Denis Menchov (Russia, Katusha)

CHOLET, FRANCE - JULY 08:  Denis Menchov of Russia and team Rabobank in action during the first time trail of the 2008 Tour de France on July 8, 2008 in Cholet, France.  (Photo by Jasper Juinen/Getty Images)
Jasper Juinen/Getty Images

The 34-year-old Menchov is always a contender in long races, as he has won two Vuelta de Espana's (2005, 2007) and one Giro d'Italia (2009). He also finished second overall at the Tour de France in 2010.

Menchov is a versatile cyclist, excelling both in time trials and in climbing stages. If he can receive a boost from his teammates, he will be among the leaders heading into the final days.

In the end, I think Menchov's poor team will cost him. Barring a crash or injury, I'm picking Wiggins to make history with his first Tour de France title.

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