Tour de France: Looking at the Big Names Absent From This Year's 100th Edition

Thomas CooperFeatured ColumnistJuly 6, 2013

Vincenzo Nibali and Sir Bradley Wiggins were two of the most prominent riders contending for the maillot jaune in the 2012 Tour de France.
Vincenzo Nibali and Sir Bradley Wiggins were two of the most prominent riders contending for the maillot jaune in the 2012 Tour de France.Doug Pensinger/Getty Images

Britain's Chris Froome rode into yellow on Stage 8 of the 2013 Tour de France, blowing away his rivals on the climb up to Ax 3 Domaines. It was a performance that bore remarkable similarities to the stage that also took place on the second Saturday of last year's race.

Stage 7 of the 2012 edition was also the first day to properly test overall contenders in the mountains. Like its 2013 equivalent, Froome burst from the pack to take victory on the summit of another first category climb, Planche des Belles Filles—albeit, less comprehensively than he did this time around.

Team Sky took the race lead, but on that occasion, it was Bradley Wiggins' bony shoulders the maillot jaune would be draped over in acknowledgement of this fact. He would hold on to it all the way to Paris, his success aided by Froome's second-place assistance.

Sky's leadership was expected to change hands between its two leading cyclists, but the process of that transfer proved more complicated than had initially been envisioned.

Although on the verge of it for several months, the multifaceted rivalry between Froome and Wiggins was denied developing another angle this year.

The latter's fitness issues ended his chance of featuring at the Tour, where he would have potentially attempted to repeat as winner, despite not being the de-facto leader.

Wiggins is one of several notable names missing from this year's race. In his case, the absence may turn out to be a permanent one.

"For me it was always about winning the Tour," the 33-year-old told The Guardian's William Fotheringham last month. "I've done that. If I'm honest I don't think I'm prepared to make those sacrifices again that I made last year, with my family and so on. I've achieved what I've achieved. I'm incredibly happy with that."

It would not be the first time in history a sportsperson says something similar, only to backtrack at a later date. But even if Wiggins changes his mind here, you do not doubt his intention when he says, "I've always had other goals and there are other things I'd like to try and do."

Wiggins looks likely to ride the Tour of Poland—which starts in Italy later this month—while he told The Guardian that the Tour of Britain is a priority, too.

Concluding his season, the reigning Olympic champion in the medium will also be attempting to win the World Championships Time Trial for the first time. He finished second to Tony Martin in 2011.

Almost certainly joining Wiggins in Florence this September will be Vincenzo Nibali and Fabian Cancellara.

After winning the Tour of Flanders and Paris-Roubaix in the spring, Cancellara decided to forgo riding both the Giro d'Italia and Tour de France.

The Swiss has become synonymous in the latter for his dominance of the race's prologues and time trials, earning him several days in yellow over the years. Fancying a change, different targets for the second half of the year have been deemed a necessary act in keeping him motivated.

RadioShack-Leopard team manager Luca Guercilena confirmed to Belgium's Het Nieuwsblad newspaper in April, here via, that it was "100 per cent certain that he will ride the Vuelta a Espana to prepare for the Worlds in Florence."

Cancellara has won the Time Trial at the event four times ('06, '07, '09, '10), but he has yet to pull on the prestigious rainbow jersey for winning the road race.

Nibali will be following a similar plan to Cancellara, having taken this year's Tour de France off following his Giro d'Italia victory.

The Astana rider told Gazzetta dello Sport in May, here via VeloNews, that both the Vuelta and World Championships are goals for him.

He is certain to be a favorite for a second success in Spain's Grand Tour. The chance to score a fourth major success for the year in his native Italy (having also won Tirreno-Adriatico and Giro del Trentino) at the Worlds may prove to hold greater appeal.

For some of the other notable names absent from this year's Tour de France, the remainder of the season promises to be similarly intriguing.

Sky's Rigoberto Uran finished second at the Giro. With Wiggins at home and Froome and his lieutenant Richie Porte possibly recovering from his Tour excursions, the Colombian could well be his team's lead man at the Vuelta.

Those less likely to be found leading in the mountains, such as Omega Pharma-Quick Step's Tom Boonen and Garmin-Sharp pair Thor Hushovd and Tyler Farrar, will also have been reassessing their targets (at least internally) in the wake of their being omitted from the Tour.

Of particular curiosity will be the future of Frank Schleck. The Luxembourg rider was, according to an interview he gave to CyclingNews' Daniel Benson, scheduled to return from his one-year doping ban on 14 July.

However, Schleck's RadioShack-Leopard team has ended their relationship with him, despite his contract initially running until 2014. With the team's license being transferred to Trek for next year, there is a lot still to unfold for both parties.