Tejay van Garderen can win Tour de France, says Ed Chamberlin
Ed Chamberlin explains why Tejay van Garderen is capable of plucking the Tour de France's Yellow Jersey.
Last Updated: 26/06/13 3:31pm
The sport has lurched from scandal to scandal, with the biggest of them all, the Lance Armstrong affair, rocking cycling to its core.
Seven-time winner Armstrong has been exposed, while previous winners like Bjarne Riis, Marco Pantani, Jan Ullrich and Floyd Landis have also been disgraced, yet the fascination with the Tour de France continues.
Cycling seems to have got its house in order and in the new drug-free era it's a totally different style of race. Gone are the days of cyclists dancing up climbs and it's now a war of attrition which requires unimaginable levels of strength, toughness and suffering.
The 100th edition of the great race should be a classic as the organisers have chosen a route to show off their country to the max and take in some of the Tour's iconic landmarks.
Saint Malo, Mont Ventoux and Mont-Saint-Michel will all be special, with Stage 18's two ascents of Alpe d'Huez's 21 hairpin bends providing the race's iconic image on July 18, while organisers will want the vicious climb up Mont Semnoz on the penultimate day to decide the race.
Three weeks of spectacular sights and intense racing gets under way in Corsica on Saturday, it remains one of my favourite sporting events and an excellent betting medium.
Team Sky dominated the race last year and are well fancied to do so again this; Sir Bradley Wiggins may be absent but Chris Froome is a worthy deputy and has shortened in the betting all year and is now Sky Bet's 4/6 favourite to win the race.
His preparation has been a virtual mirror image to Wiggins last year and he has progressed serenely to the Tour. I felt he was almost too good in the Critérium du Dauphiné as that was only a prep race, yet Froome looked majestic throughout. Can he remain at that peak?
He has the best team and the best form but now has to prove he can win over three weeks in a Grand Tour. He's got an outstanding chance but I couldn't back Froome at 4/6.
He readily dismissed Alberto Contador in the Dauphiné but I don't read too much in to that as Contador (5/2 with Sky Bet) was clearly using the race to fine tune for France. He remains the master Grand Tour rider in the field.
Contador missed last year's Tour owing to a back-dated ban for the banned substance clenbuterol. That sanction overturned his victories in the 2010 Tour and 2011 Giro but even with two years' worth of his results scrapped, Contador's record in Grand Tours remains far superior to any other rider in the peloton.
He is unbeaten since 2007 having won two Tours, two Giros and one Vuelta in the process. That Vuelta in September was won despite Contador being miles off his best - he was under-raced and under-cooked. I'm convinced we are going to see a very different Contador in France.
Since his ban he's lost none of his tactical brilliance or acceleration on steep ascents. What's been missing is the strength to continue those attacks and ride away from the field and to match Froome in time trials.
If he gets that strength back, which I think he can for the one event of the year that really matters to him, then Contador is in business.
Sky are without doubt the best team but Bjarne Riis has built a strong unit to support his main man. Michael Rogers, Roman Kreuziger and Nicolas Roche are fine GC riders in their own right and all will be dedicated to serve Contador in the mountains.
Joaquim Rodriguez (18/1) is being well touted and is undoubtedly the most explosive climber in the field. He looks sure to win a stage or two but the 65km of time-trialling will be his undoing for the General Classification in a race that's likely to be decided by fine margins.
With no Wiggins to rival Chris Froome, the race's politics will revolve around the battle to be BMC Racing's team leader. 2011 winner Cadel Evans seems to be their number one but I would be amazed if Tejay van Garderen doesn't rapidly assume that mantle.
Evans is not the force of old and I think it's impossible these days to peak for the Giro d'Italia, where he rode well, and Tour de France. I put a line straight through any rider's chances in the Tour who featured prominently at the Giro.
Wouldn't it be ironic if, after all the Lance Armstrong and Tyler Hamilton dramas, an American won the 2013 Tour de France. It's not impossible, as I think America has a new star in 24-year-old Van Garderen.
He showed massive promise in the race last year despite spending the first part of the Tour playing second fiddle to Evans, finishing fifth overall and winning the white jersey for best young rider.
His build-up to the Tour has gone smoothly winning his first big stage race at the Tour of California, and getting a major monkey off his back. He won with a commanding performance that saw him easily control the mountain stages and dominate the individual time trial.
He also showed decent form when fine tuning at the Tour de Suisse, taking major pulls on the front of the peloton for team-mate Mathias Frank.
Van Garderen is now an established stage racer; he can climb with the mountain goats and time trial with the best engines.
He also has the arrogance and attitude required to win a Tour de France as we saw with his frustration at having to wait for Evans in the Alps last year. I see van Garderen as a major player for the podium at least and a decent value each-way bet at 25/1.
Mark Cavendish should win a few stages over the three weeks and has been backed at odds against to win the Green Jersey. However, he's up against a freak in Peter Sagan, who can win on all kinds of terrain.
Sagan looks an absolute certainty to finish in the Green at 5/6, while Van Garderen is a great bet to finish in the White Jersey. For the Yellow Jersey my heart says Froome, my head says Contador and my wallet says van Garderen at 25/1.