The 2015 Tour de France is scheduled to get under way on Saturday 4th July and it is set to be one of the most intriguing editions of the race in its entire history.
It will be the 102nd Tour de France and will begin with the first stage starting in the Netherlands with an individual time trial set over 9 miles across Utrecht before the cyclists will then race a further 20 stages covering 2,087 miles before finishing with the final stage in Paris on Sunday 26th July.
There are four contenders for the yellow jersey being tipped by the bookmakers. Team Sky’s Chris Froome will be hoping to put the misery of last year’s event behind him to win a second tour in three years. Froome crashed out on stage five of last year’s tour to end his dreams of winning back-to-back titles after his 2013 success. He is currently ranked as the 15/8 favourite with bookmakers.
The closest rival to Froome in the eyes of the bookmakers is Colombian cyclist Nairo Quintana who is being offered at odds of 5/2 to win his maiden tour. He decided against entering the 2014 Tour de France after winning the 2014 Giro d’Italia but will be fully intent on trying to win the tour this year at just 25 years of age. He will be riding for the Movistar Team.
Alberto Contador also suffered an early retirement from last year’s race at the 10th stage. The Spaniard is racing for Tinkoff- Saxo and has previously won the race twice previously in 2007 and 2009. He is deemed to be the 4/1 third favourite with bookmakers.
Defending champion Vincenzo Nibali, riding for Astana Pro Team, will be looking to be the first cyclist to win back-to-back tours since the legendary Miguel Indurain won his fifth consecutive title back in 1995. Nibali is considered to be the dark horse this year at odds of 5/1.
Other outsiders being tipped to have an impact on the race this year include Thibaut Pinot at 25/1, Joaquim Rodriguez at 25/1, Tejay Van Garderen at 33/1, Romain Bardet at 33/1, and Alejandro Valverde at 50/1.
However, the Tour de France is not just about the yellow jersey classification. A lot of attention will be focused on the King of the Mountains, Points, and Young Rider classifications over the course of the 21 stages.
Previous winners of the King of the Mountains classification have included cyclists such as Richard Virenque, Michael Rasmussen, and Laurent Jalabert. Quintana won the classification back in 2013 when he last rode in the tour and he is listed as the 4/1 favourite to win it again this year. His closest rivals for the spotted jersey include Pierre Rolland at 8/1, Contador and Froome at 10/1, and Julian Arredondo at 14/1.
The firm favourite for the Points classification is Slovakian cyclist Peter Sagan at 4/5. He is hoping to follow in the footsteps of iconic sprint names such as Erik Zabel and Sean Kelly by winning the green jersey for a fourth time. Despite being expected to finish at the top of the Points classification, bookmakers are anticipating him to be challenged by Alexander Kristoff and Mark Cavendish who are both on offer at 4/1.
The Young Rider classification might be behind the three other classifications in terms of importance but it has historically been an accurate predictor for future Tour de France winners and contenders. Previous winners include Greg LeMond, Marco Pantani, Jan Ullrich, Contador, and Andy Schleck. This year’s category includes Quintana as the clear 8/15 favourite. He has competition from rivals such as Pinot at 5/1, Bardet at 8/1, Wilco Kelderman at 18/1, and Warren Barguil at 18/1.
A Team classification market is also being offered by some bookmakers. Astana Pro Team are the 21/10 favourites to lead the way with AG2R La Mondiale priced at 11/5 as the second favourites. Other teams such as Movistar Team, Team Sky, and Tinkoff-Saxo are available at odds of 14/5.
The 2015 Tour de France is certain to provide some of the most riveting races in the history of the event with the yellow jersey enjoying its closest ever competition plus intense rivalries in the other classifications. One way or another history will be made and fans are eagerly waiting with baited breath for the most exciting and gruelling cycle race in the world to begin this weekend. It really is too close to call.