The 2016 Tour de France gets under way on July 2, with British rider Chris Froome chasing a historic third title.
Team Sky’s star won the race last year, beating Movistar Team riders Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde into second and third, with the trio again expected to be among the leading contenders for the yellow jersey.
Froome, who won the mountains classification in the 2015 Tour, became the first British rider to win the event twice and he will be confident of making it three titles in just four years.
But the 31-year-old – who starts as favourite at 6/5 – will face a lot of strong competition. Let’s take a look at some of the leading contenders for the 2016 Tour de France.
Kenya-born Froome is understandably the favourite, with only a crash in the 2014 Tour preventing him from having three straight wins in the event.
But Team Sky do not seem as strong as usual in 2016 and the 31-year-old, despite his vast experience, could be vulnerable to being caught by younger pretenders to the throne.
Froome will look to dominate the two time trial stages of the 2016 Tour de France, with the 37km route on stage 13 and the 17km trek on stage 18 suiting his strengths.
Quintana is particularly strong when climbing, so nine stages in the mountains will suit the Movistar man, who is priced up at 6/4 to win his first Tour de France.
Champion of the Giro d’Italia in 2014, Quintana is having an excellent year, having already won the Tour of Romandie in May and the Volta a Catalunya in March.
Froome’s typical dominance in the time trials is lessened this year by the fact those stages are not flat, which again suits the skills of coming man Quintana.
Controversial Contador is a rider of vast pedigree, having won all three Grand Tours of road cycling, although his successes have been tainted by doping offences.
Priced at 5/1 with ComeOn!, the Tinkoff star has called the 2016 TdF route “beautiful, attractive” and at the age of 33 this might well be his last chance to claim another major title.
Contador was recently second to Quintana at the Volta a Catalunya, proving he remains one of the riders to beat.
Riding in his first Tour de France, experience is one of the few black marks against Aru (18/1), who is with the excellent Astana team.
After placing second in the Giro D’Italia, Aru won the Vuelta a España and he could be a dark horse, although there are question marks about his temperament in such a gruelling race.
Aru will lead the Astana team, but having won the Giro d’Italia back in May, Nibali must be considered among the riders with a chance of victory too.
Available at odds of 30/1, Nibali is expected to use the Tour as a chance to hone his fitness levels for the Rio Olympic Games road race on August 6. Nibali and Aru famously do not get on well at all, with their rivalry worth keeping an eye on.
Tejay van Garderen
Those seeking an outside bet for the 2016 Tour de France could do a lot worse than Tejay van Garderen, with the BMC rider boosted by the signing of former Team Sky man Richie Porte.
Cadel Evans’ victory in 2011 looked set to spark an era of dominance for BMC, but it has not proven to be the case. American rider van Garderen – at odds of 40/1 – could turn around their poor recent in recent years, with 7/1 on a top-three finish a very big price indeed.
The 27-year-old abandoned the 2015 Tour de France due to illness, placed third at the time.