Tour De France 2012: Vincenzo Nibali and Top Candidates to Win Stage 16

Tim KeeneyContributor IJuly 16, 2012

BESANCON, FRANCE - JULY 09:  Vincenzo Nibali of Italy and Liquigas-Canondale in action during stage nine of the 2012 Tour de France,  a 41.5km individual time trial, from Arc-et-Senans to Besancon on July 9, 2012 in Besancon, France.  (Photo by Bryn Lennon/Getty Images)
Bryn Lennon/Getty Images

Before Wednesday's 16th stage of the Tour De France, the cyclists get one last rest day. It's a good thing, too, because they are going to need it. 

The 197 kilometer climb and fall from Pau to Bagneres-de-Luchon, in a sense, is going to separate the men from the boys. It may not have a classic high-peak finish, but Stage 16 features a slew of Category-1 climbs along with a menacing descent to close things out. 

Only the best riders will be near the front of the pack on Wednesday. 

With that being said, let's take a look at the likely candidates to take home the stage win. 


Vincenzo Nibali, Liquigas-Cannondale

The 27-year-old Italian has yet to win a stage this year, but he trails Bradley Wiggins, the holder of the yellow jacket, by just over two minutes.

The pressure will be on Nibali and his team to really make up some time in what is the second-to-last mountain stage of the Tour.

Nibali has proven to be a rider who can handle all aspects of the race, and that is going to be necessary on Wednesday as he makes some huge climbs before diving back down to the finish line.

Don't be surprised if he's in the final group making a push for the stage victory. 


Cadel Evans, BMC Racing Team

The 2011 Tour De France winner was clearly a favorite coming into this storied race, but he has failed to live up to those expectations as he sits in fourth place.

Nonetheless, Evans, who is just three minutes and change off the lead, has a good team and a good teammate in Tejay Van Garderen to help move him to the front of the pack. 

Evans has never won a mountain stage in his Tour De France career, but he has the climbing skills to stay close and the finishing skills (he has won a flat stage and a time-trial stage in his career) to make up the difference on the final descent. 


Pierre Rolland, Team Europcar

Rolland, the shining star of Team Europcar, is no stranger to winning mountain stages. Last year, he won Stage 19, a 109.5 kilometer climb from Modane to L'Alpe d'Huez, and this year he won Stage 11, the second mountain stage of the race.

Stage 10, the first mountain stage, by the way, was won by Rolland's teammate, Thomas Voeckler. 

The Frenchman is always a threat to win the stages with the biggest climbs, and if he wants to improve on his current spot in ninth place, he'll have to win yet again on Wednesday. 

Don't count him out.