The 2013 Tour de France is officially in the books, as Christopher Froome gave Great Britain its second consecutive victory. While the time for celebration may be upon us, there's one thing that the cycling world will be wondering in the near future.
Who will contend for the 2014 title?
Certain riders may have started in a less than ideal manner, but they finished strong and thus built their confidence. Others maintained a steady pace throughout, falling short of victory, but competing at a level that offered reason for encouragement.
One rider even walked away victorious.
Regardless of how they did it, each cyclist involved in the 2013 Tour de France developed a better understanding for how to pace themselves and thus emerge as champion in 2014. The question is, which of those riders have the most legitimate chance?
Let's find out.
Alberto Contador, Spain
Alberto Contador won both the 2007 and 2009 Tour de France races. Since then, however, Contador has dealt with suspensions, appeals and mountains of controversy that have kept him out of the storied event.
Finishing in fourth place during the 2013 Tour de France is a great way to turn things around.
Contador has the pedigree and finished with a high ranking in the general classifications during the 2013 event. With that combination, it's fair to assume that the 30-year-old still has enough left in the tank to compete for the foreseeable future.
That includes 2014.
Contador is known for being aggressive, which has played into his favor in the past. As it presently stands, he's the only rider who has won more than one Tour de France title since Lance Armstrong retired in 2005.
As long as he can handle the closing stages and slightly improve his pace, there's reason to believe Contador will be contending for the yellow jersey in 2014.
Christopher Froome, Great Britain
Froome burst onto the scene in 2012, making a run at the title and eventually finishing second to teammate Bradley Wiggins. One year later, the 28-year-old didn't allow that runner-up position to bring him down.
Instead, Froome used a painfully close finish as motivation to break through and win the 2013 Tour de France.
Not only will Froome be in contention to win the 2014 Tour de France, but there is every reason to believe in his ability to win it all. He's in the prime of his career, has finished second or better in each of the past two races and has displayed no signs of slowing down.
Plain and simple, Froome could be the next dominant force in cycling.
We haven't seen anyone win consecutive Tour de France titles since Armstrong, but that doesn't render the feat impossible. As a rider who seems to have figured out the Tour de France, making a third consecutive strong appearance is hardly out of the question.
As the master of pace at the 2013 event, expect Froome to be right back in the title conversation in 2014.
Roman Kreuziger, Czech Republic
Roman Kreuziger isn't the most recognizable name in cycling, but he is a star within the sport. More importantly, he's fresh off a fifth-place finish at the Tour de France and a member of the most dominant team in cycling.
Team Saxo-Tinkoff won the team classification for the 2013 Tour de France by eight minutes and 28 seconds.
Riding with Contador on his side, Kreuziger has an elite partner to work with as he grinds through the more difficult stages of the grueling event. In turn, he will be able to maintain a steady pace and confer with another on when to make aggressive moves.
Seeing as Contador has two Tour de France titles, there couldn't be a better person for Krueziger to team with.
It remains to be seen whether or not Krueziger can build upon this success, but he does have three top-10 finishes at the Tour de France. Perhaps more significantly, he's become one of the most successful riders in the world.
If anyone can be a first-time Tour de France winner in 2014, it's Kreuziger.