Tour De France 2012: 10 Potential Mountain Stage Winners

Joe Tansey@JTansey90Featured ColumnistJuly 11, 2012

Tour De France 2012: 10 Potential Mountain Stage Winners

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    After a week on the flat roads of France and Belgium, the 2012 Tour de France is going upward into the mountains.

    Starting with Tuesday's Stage 10, six of the next eight stages will be contested in the mountains.

    We all know about the race for the yellow jersey between Cadel Evans and Bradley Wiggins, but those two will not be contesting each other for the stage win each day.

    As always, the mountain stages are very unpredictable and there are days where some riders have enough in their legs to pull off a performance for the ages.

    Here are 10 riders that could take home a stage win in the next week at the Tour de France,

Chris Froome

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    Chris Froome has proven that he is not only Bradley Wiggins' No. 2 on Team Sky, but he also is a great climber himself.

    Froome won Stage 7 of this year's race on the top of La Planche des Belles Filles and has the potential to win more stages this year.

    The only problem with Froome is that he is the top domestique for Wiggins, and if the current yellow jersey holder has a bad day in the mountains, Froome will be sent after his team leader to help him finish the stage.

Thomas Voeckler

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    Thomas Voeckler always likes to show up for at least one stage in every Tour de France and make a name for himself.

    Last year, the Frenchman held the yellow jersey for 10 days and only gave it up on the last stage in the Alps.

    Voeckler finished fourth in last year's race and although he will not replicate that result this year, he could very well give France something to cheer about with a stage win.

Juan Jose Cobo

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    Juan Jose Cobo is no stranger to big stage races but the winner of the 2011 Vuelta a Espana is mostly unknown to fans of the Tour de France.

    Cobo is not going to be a contender for the yellow jersey or even the top 10 this year as he sits close to 30 minutes behind Wiggins in 60th place overall.

    However, that is the perfect situation for Cobo if he gets in a breakaway or makes an attack on a climb, because he will not be that important to chase down according to top riders in the overall classification.

Tony Gallopin

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    Tony Gallopin is a part of the new generation of French cyclists.

    At age 24, Gallopin is third in the young rider classification and should battle Tejay van Garderen and Rein Taarame for the title.

    Gallopin has been overshadowed, and deservedly so, by his Team Radioshack-Nissan-Trek teammates and could pop up out of nowhere to win a stage.

    With his team having no true leader, Radioshack-Nissan-Trek will most likely ride for whomever has the best legs on the day, and that plays to Gallopin's advantage.

Robert Gesink

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    Robert Gesink has proven himself at the grand tours in the past and could propel himself to a stage victory in the Pyrenees or Alps.

    The Dutchman has some credentials behind him as well with three top-10 finishes in grand tours and a victory in the 2012 Tour of California.

    The leader of Team Rabobank is far behind Wiggins, 28 minutes and 27 seconds to be exact, and a stage win be a small consolation to a disappointing tour for the 26-year-old.

Frank Schleck

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    2012 has been a disappointing year for the whole Schleck family.

    After finishing in the top three with his brother Andy last year, Frank has lost eight minutes already and is without his partner in crime, who has a broken bone in his pelvis that forced him out of this year's race.

    Schleck will be looking to come out of the tour with something to be proud of, and a stage win, along with a top-10 finish, would do a lot for his pride.

Denis Menchov

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    They call him the silent assassin for a reason.

    Denis Menchov is quietly sitting in fifth place overall and is one of the few riders with a chance to finish on the podium in Paris.

    Menchov is no stranger to the podium; he has been there twice, and although the yellow jersey is out of sights, his battle with Froome and Vincenzo Nibali should be an intriguing one.

    The Russian showed in Stage 7 he could hang with the top contenders of the race and the only reason he is three minutes behind the leaders is because of the time trial.

Vincenzo Nibali

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    Vincenzo Nibali declared at the beginning of the race that he did not fear Wiggins and he respected Evans.

    Well, now is the time for Nibali to back up his talk with a good performance in the mountains.

    Nibali is fully capable of winning a mountain stage, and the 2010 Vuelta a Espana winner will look to make his name known along the roads of France in only his third Tour de France.

Cadel Evans

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    Cadel Evans has to win a stage or two in the mountains to repeat as Tour de France champion.

    Evans lost time in Monday's Stage 9 time trial and is now one minute and 53 seconds behind Wiggins.

    The defending champion may also have to do this all on his own, as his team is not as strong as Team Sky and the only teammate Evans can trust is Tejay van Garderen—and even that is a stretch right now.

    If he is to regain time on Wiggins before Paris, Evans will have to top the mountains in the Tour de France.

Bradley Wiggins

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    Bradley Wiggins is right where he wants to be at the 2012 Tour de France—in the yellow jersey.

    Wiggins leads Evans by one minute and 53 seconds and will look to extend that gap with the help of Chris Froome in the mountains.

    The British Team Sky rider does not have to be the aggressor in this situation; he just has to sit back and respond to attacks by Evans.

    When he is attacked, Wiggins will look to capture the riders ahead of him on the road and could easily pass them on the way to a stage win.