The Tour is well-known for its colourful history and tales of heroism. Consider, for example, Eugène Christophe, who in 1913 was unlucky enough to be dismounted by a race car whilst fighting for the race lead up the Col de Tourmalet. Banned from requesting assistance, he took his snapped bicycle to a forge and fashioned a new front fork, only to be penalised for receiving help from the garçon operating the bellows.
Nor are cycling mavericks consigned to the past. Recently retired 17-time Tour veteran, Jens Voigt, notoriously ate a bee that landed on his lip during a time trial at the Tour of California. The maverick attitude – the guts to attempt the impossible – is also strong in current Etixx-Quickstep rider, Tony Martin. Martin made a ludicrous 175km solo breakaway in the 2013 Vuelta a Espana, only to be caught in the dying metres. You will be pleased to know that he attempted a similar feat in last year’s Tour de France and, this time, took the stage victory.
The grimacing Frenchman is a volatile crowd-favourite, especially after his stint in yellow during the 2011 Tour de France. Taking the maillot jaune after stage 9, he retained the lead until stage 19, regularly pitting himself against the race favourites over mountainous terrain.
The veteran Europcar rider is loved by fans and hated by cyclists for his attacking style. He doesn’t stop off the bike either, decleating to remonstrate with spectators in this year’s Giro d’Italia. His cavalier attitude is perhaps best demonstrated in his race against a horse. He lost. Expect to see him in a breakaway again this time around.
Another breakaway expert is bearded Italian, Luca Paolini. With no strong GC contender, the Katusha rider’s main team duties will involve leading out star sprinter, Kristoff. He got a puncture doing the same thing in this year’s Giro d’Italia, choosing to let out his frustration by using an unconventional braking method at 60kph. However, if Paolini is let off the leash, the strong-man will look to take advantage of a hilly stage and repeat his classics victory at Gent-Wevelgem earlier this year.
Chavanel is loved for his unrelentingly aggressive style; indeed one peloton rider recently commented that “when Chavanel’s in the break, you know you’re in for a hard day”. Master of the solo victory, the six-time national time trial champion has won the jersey for the most combative rider twice, in the 2008 and 2010 editions of the Tour.
The 35-year-old has had the weight of French cycling expectation on his shoulders for a long time, taking GC victories in various minor stage races but never quite matching it in the Grand Tours. Despite being the current leader of IAM Cycling, a breakaway victory is more likely.
Now with the rise of Roman Bardet and Thibaut Pinot, perhaps the pressure will be lifted and he can aspire to a repeat of his last Tour stage victory in 2010.