The 2012 Tour de France is shaping up to be one of the most competitive in recent memory, as there are 22 riders within 25 seconds of the lead heading into the more grueling stages in the middle and later part of the race.
One of the great things about the Tour de France right now is how many riders are in it. We like dominance in sports more than we want to see close competition, yet there is nothing wrong with seeing a dramatic finish to a great race.
Here are the best riders to bet on as the Tour de France enters the fifth stage.
Peter Sagan (15th Place, Won First and Third Stages)
Despite having only run four stages and the prologue, Sagan has been the most dominant rider in two of the five stages. He needs to start getting more consistent from race to race, but as far as top-heavy finishes go, he is the best of the bunch.
Considering that Sagan won a stage on flat surface and a mountain stage, he has all the attributes necessary to make a big run at the top of the standings as the race moves along.
He is lying in the weeds right now, but don't sell Sagan short. He is going to be a fixture in the standings at the end of the race.
Cadel Evans (Seventh Place, Finished Sixth In Stage 3)
Unlike Sagan, Evans has had middling success in the Tour de France up to this point. He is in the top 10, but his best finish was sixth in Stage 3.
That being said, he won the event last year and knows how to make good use of time. Winning races is nice and gets you a lot more notoriety, yet everything in this race is about maintaining stamina to make sure you last all 21 stages (including the prologue).
Evans has not yet hit his peak in this event, so don't be shocked to see him make a long climb as the race moves into the middle stages.
Edvald Boasson Hagen (Fifth Place, Runner-Up In Stage 3)
While Fabian Cancellara is looking like the favorite to win the race right now, Hagen strikes me as the sneaky rider who is going to steal the spotlight from everyone else.
Hagen has the speed to succeed on the flat surfaces, as well as the strength and stamina to make it through the mountains.
As long as Hagen is able to hang around in the top five through the first half of the Tour, he will be able to push Cancellara in the latter stages for the lead.