PARIS (AP) Some riders to watch at the Tour de France, which starts on Saturday in Duesseldorf, Germany:
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The defending champion in France, Froome is looking for a fourth overall victory and to become the first man since Miguel Indurain to win at least three straight titles.
The Team Sky leader had a very light racing schedule this year and has yet to claim his first win this season.
Froome was not in top form at the Criterium du Dauphine, the traditional warm-up race before the Tour, but that might just be a sign he will peak during the Tour.
Main assets: Experience, his super-strong team that includes Sergio Henao, Vasil Kiryienka, Christian Knees, Michal Kwiatkowski, Mikel Landa, Mikel Nieve, Luke Rowe and Geraint Thomas.
Question marks: How big a challenge will the route pose to Froome? Will he cope with the small amount of time trialing? Also, there are only two mountain-top finishes, the kind of battleground where Froome normally takes time from his rivals.
Quintana has enjoyed a successful season so far, with victories at Tirreno-Adriatico and the Tour of Valencia.
After a runner-up finish at the Giro this Spring, the Colombian rider from Movistar Team has taken some time off to recover.
In his previous three Tours, Quintana has achieved three podium finishes. With only 36.5 kilometers of time trialing – the lowest in the race history – this year’s race route suits him well. The 2014 Giro and 2016 Vuelta winner aims to join the elite company of six riders so far with a career Triple Crown.
Main assets: Climbing abilities, lack of time trialing this year.
Question marks: How big a toll will competing at the Giro take on him?
Bardet finished runner-up to Froome last year and French hopes of producing a first home Tour winner in 32 years will once again be weighing on his shoulders.
Bardet, who rides for AG2R, struggled during the Dauphine time trial but finished the race in sixth place after a strong showing in the mountain stages.
Bardet has become a fan favorite after he launched a decisive attack during last year’s penultimate Alpine stage in dreadful weather conditions.
Main assets: Attack-minded, excellent climbing qualities, natural instinct for racing.
Question marks: How will he cope with big expectations?
In his first attempt at the Tour de France as a leader, Froome’s former top lieutenant ended fifth last year.
The Australian will be the sole leader at BMC in July, with his eyes on the top prize. Porte has won the Tour Down Under and the Tour de Romandie this season. He was runner-up at the Criterium du Dauphine behind surprise winner Jakob Fuglsang.
Main assets: Time trial, climbing.
Question marks: Does Porte have the mental toughness to become a Tour winner?
It might well be Contador’s final appearance at the Tour de France. Despite his aging legs, the ”Pistolero” still looks capable of winning cycling’s biggest race.
A two-time winner in France, Contador has built his season around the Tour, where he will lead the Trek-Segafredo outfit.
Still winless this year, Contador has only one goal in 2017: adding another yellow jersey to his collection.
He trained at altitude for three weeks in May and will be backed by a solid team including Dutchman Bauke Mollema and Colombia’s Jarlinson Pantano, who are expected to provide strong support in the mountains.
Main assets: Climbing abilities, experience,
Question marks: His current form is hard to predict.