Ryder Hesjedal, Team Garmin-Sharp
After his breakthrough win at the Giro d’Italia in 2012, the Canadian looked ascendant as a grand tour candidate. But he’s struggled with crashes and health issues ever since. He started his Giro defense solidly but was forced out prematurely with a chest infection, and then returned to racing at the Tour de Suisse looking surprisingly strong before crashing out again. If it weren’t for the scattershot run-up, Hesjedal would have to be considered a top contender. But he enters the race with lots of question marks.
Richie Porte, Team Sky Pro Cycling
The only stage race rider who has been more impressive than Porte this season is the Tasmanian’s teammate and good friend Chris Froome. Porte won Paris-Nice, finished second at Critérium International and the Dauphiné behind Froome, placed second at Tour of the Basque Country, and rode to 8th at Romandie while helping Froome to the win. Should sickness or a crash fell Froome, Sky would have no problem rallying around Porte and Porte would have no problem assuming leadership.
Tejay van Garderen, BMC Racing Team
Having finished fifth overall and best young rider at last year’s Tour, van Garderen made good on his promise as America’s next grand tour contender. He won his first stage race this year at the Tour of California, further cementing his credibility, and though he enters this Tour in the service of Evans, if his leader should falter the 24-year-old could well prove the dark horse.
Andy Schleck, Radioshack-Leopard
The likeable Luxembourger crashed out of the 2012 Dauphiné with a devastating sacrum fracture, and he has yet to regain his momentum. The troubles on his RadioShack team last year, with director sportif Johann Bruyneel embroiled in the Lance Armstrong doping scandal and Schleck’s older brother Frank banned for doping, didn’t help. But the team is under new management, and Andy has shown a bit of his past panache at this spring’s Tour of California and Tour de Suisse. It’s unlikely he’ll race back to his previous glory this Tour, but you never know.
Jurgen van den Broeck, Lotto-Belisol
Though he’s rarely mentioned as an outright favorite, this underrated Belgian has some consistent grand tour results to his name, including fourth overall at the 2010 and 2012 Tour de France and eighth at the 2011 Vuelta. He looked lean and on form at the Tour de Romandie in late April, and his anonymity amongst the favorites might provide him the perfect opportunity to sneak onto the podium.
Andrew Talansky, Team Garmin-Sharp
Like Tejay van Garderen, Talansky is another up-and-coming American who is largely considered too young to really contend but has the potential to surprise. He finished an impressive second overall (behind Richie Porte) at the prestigious Paris-Nice, which presaged good things to come, but then faltered at Romandie, which he entered with high expectations. He’ll be racing for Hesjedal and experience, but keep an eye on him if he happens to sneak into a break on a mountain stage.