Every National Rust sporting review inevitably begins with a call from John Pargiter for betting advice. The big four – Alberto Contador, Chris Froome , Vincenzo Nibali and Nairo Quintana – have dominated cycling to such an extent that one of them has won every major event save one since 2013. So it’s hard to look beyond them for a winner. My view is that with the Tour this year geared to the mountains the best climber Quintana will take the yellow jersey but there are caveats to the Columbian “grimpeur” (climber). He is the weakest of the quartet in the time trial and, having elected to train in his native Columbia, has not entered the one day classics nor the Giro, so there is no reliable guide to form.
My concern about “crash” Froome is whether he will survive the cobbles – last year he crashed out on them. As for Contador, will the Giro triumph take too much out of him? Nibali is a great all-round rider and of course last year’s winner, but can he beat all three? He offers best value so I advised John to back him each way and Quintana to win. Froome and Nibali are long odds for the polka dot ‘king of the mountains’ jersey and merit an each-way tickle.
My first awareness of the Tour came in the sixties in a family holiday at Villefranche near Nice. By the port men drinking pastis in cafes listened intently to commentary of the tour on transistors. Fast forward to uno where a close pal of mine was an aficionado of cyclling and kindled interest in me. Fast forward again to my pal and another and myself at Alpe d’Huez in 2001 to see Lance Armstrong skin Jan Ullrich in the ascent .
The sport and tour has been corrupted by doping. So much so that it is said the team with the best system for masking agents to eradicate traces of substances will win. I disagree. I actually think that Lance Armstrong was a great rider – his prep was immaculate but he left nothing to chance because the ethos was that everyone was at it so if he excluded doping he would lose. This was emphasised in a recent interview David Miller gave on talksport when he said doping was not just endemic, not just expected by the team and assisted by the team doctor, but the very fabric of the sport. Indeed I wonder how anyone can complete such an arduous course without some pharmaceutical assistance.
As cycling writer I defend the sport I cover from the other cynical boys and girls on the Rust who give me a hard time. Yet I’m sure I won’t be alone in being glued to the telly over the next few weeks, especially in the key mountain stages. I also anticipate a ‘thank you’ text in precisely three weeks time when Quintana mounts the podium as winner in his yellow jersey.