The 12th stage of the Tour de France is officially behind us, as Marcel Kittel held off Mark Cavendish in an awe-inspiring finish.
The question is, which cyclists have the best chance of catching Christopher Froome?
Froome has been dominant thus far, owning a lead of more than three seconds over the next in line. During the 12th stage, Froome paced himself to a 14th-placed finish and thus remained close enough to the pack to pace himself to retaining his lead.
As has been the case throughout this event.
With that being said, there are multiple riders who could rise up and surprise Froome. After watching Kittel come out of nowhere to take the lead from Cavendish near the finish line at stage 12, we certainly are prepared for anything.
So who might shock the world and steal the lead?
Overall Standings (via LeTour.fr)
|1.||FROOME Christopher||SKY PROCYCLING||47h 19' 13''|
|2.||VALVERDE Alejandro||MOVISTAR TEAM||47h 22' 38''||+ 03' 25''|
|3.||MOLLEMA Bauke||BELKIN PRO CYCLING||47h 22' 50''||+ 03' 37''|
|4.||CONTADOR Alberto||TEAM SAXO-TINKOFF||47h 23' 07''||+ 03' 54''|
|5.||KREUZIGER Roman||TEAM SAXO-TINKOFF||47h 23' 10''||+ 03' 57''|
|6.||TEN DAM Laurens||BELKIN PRO CYCLING||47h 23' 23''||+ 04' 10''|
|7.||KWIATKOWSKI Michal||OMEGA PHARMA-QUICK STEP||47h 23' 57''||+ 04' 44''|
|8.||QUINTANA ROJAS NairoAlexander||MOVISTAR TEAM||47h 24' 31''||+ 05' 18''|
|9.||COSTA Rui Alberto||MOVISTAR TEAM||47h 24' 50''||+ 05' 37''|
|10.||PÉRAUD Jean-Christophe||AG2R LA MONDIALE||47h 24' 52''||+ 05' 39''|
Alberto Contador is currently No. 4 overall, posting a time of 47 hours, 23 minutes and seven seconds. That has him three minutes and 54 seconds behind Froome for the lead, thus keeping him within arm's reach.
Did we mention that Contador is a two-time Tour de France winner?
If anyone has what it takes to close the gap and catch Froome, it would be a participant that has won the event. With Contador far from out of this contest, trailing by a reasonable amount, there is reason to believe that he can move up the ladder and take control.
It certainly doesn't hurt that he has a teammate in the top five.
Roman Kreuziger and Contador both race for Team Saxo-Tinkoff, which means they'll be working together. While there will come a point in which one will pursue the title with no regard for the other—it's a competition, folks—they're the only two in the top five with a teammate that high.
All signs point towards Contador being in the Tour de France until the bitter end.
In 2011, Cadel Evans became the first Australian to ever win the Tour de France. In 2012, Evans cracked the top 10 of general classification with a seventh-placed finish.
Currently at No. 14, who's to say Evans can't work his magic once again?
Evans certainly has a steep hill to climb, as he's six minutes and 54 seconds behind the first-placed Froome. With that being said, the Australian champion has faced adversity in the past, overcoming it and thus winning this very event
When he won in 2011, Evans grabbed the yellow jersey on the 19th stage—anything is possible.
A near seven-minute deficit is going to be difficult to overcome, but if anyone can make a comeback, it would be Evans. He has the championship pedigree and, when it comes to closing out events, few are better than he.
It may take a few more stages to get the job done, but Evans is a rider to watch.
If we're going to side with a cyclist that hasn't yet won the Tour de France, it'd be wise to go with the rider in second place. In this instance, it's Alejandro Valverde, who has overcome a turbulent ride and past suspensions to reach his current status.
How rewarding would it be to see Valverde to complete his comeback in style?
Valverde is currently three minutes and 25 seconds behind Froome for first overall, which is far from unmanageable. Owning two top 10 finishes at this event, it's certainly plausible to believe that Valverde can at least maintain his current rank.
If he does, why write him off as a contender?
At the end of the day, Froome is in full control and finished second during the 2012 Tour de France. With this in mind, only a legendary effort will be enough to create a comeback for the ages.
The question is, can Valverde display the same heart of champions past? If so, he's a prime contender to win big.