Earlier this year, a biologist at the University of Zurich published a study showing a strong correlation between how riders performed in the 2012 Tour de France and how they ranked in an online survey rating their attractiveness. The findings suggest a surprising link between good looks and athletic prowess.
To test that theory, the staff of Outside online held an internal poll ranking 10 of the top riders in this year’s Tour by their looks. After tallying the votes, one thing is clear: Vegas may be betting on Chris Froome, but he won’t be stealing any hearts.
Reason to Watch: The folks here at Outside voted Froome the least attractive man on our top-10 list. Considering he is one of two heavy favorites for the general classification (the other being Contador, our second least-attractive man) lining up at the start Saturday, we’ll likely be eating crow in a few weeks.
In case you’ve missed it, the Kenyan-born British cyclist enters the 2014 Tour as the reigning champ, and comes off recent wins at the Tour of Oman and the Tour de Romandie.
Reason to Watch: Contador is one of five riders to have won all three of road cycling’s Grand Tours (the Tour de France, the Giro d’Italia, and the Vuelta a España). While his Tour de France form has been shaky in recent years, he’s coming off a strong performance at the Critérium du Dauphiné, where he dislodged Chris Froome from the top of the podium, setting up Talansky for his win. If anyone can beat Froome, it will likely be this Spaniard.
Reason to Watch: Costa is a powerful one-week-stage-race talent, but he has yet to bring that prowess to any of the Grand Tours. That might change this year, as he will ride for Lampre as the team’s leader. He’ll line up at the start in great form, having won his third-straight Tour de Suisse last month. Look for a top-10 finish at the Tour from the Portuguese rider.
Reason to Watch: Talansky is one of the most promising stage-racing talents in the U.S. He’s placed second at the 2012 Tour de Romandie, won a stage a Paris-Nice in 2013, and finished tenth in his Tour de France debut last year. Oh yeah, and he beat Froome and Contador last month at the Critérium du Dauphiné, considered the ultimate tune-up race before the Tour. A top-five finish—and maybe even a step on the podium—seems likely for the young American.
Reason to Watch: When all cylinders are firing, Nibali can race with the very best of them—read: Froome and Contador. But the Italian has had a rough season so far, and only managed to snag his first win of the year last weekend at the Italian National Road Championships. But he’s an incredible stage racer, and we bet he’ll be a common sight at the front of the pack.
Reason to Watch: The Spaniard is flying right now, coming of a recent win in Spain’s National Time Trail Championships and a second-place finish in the Route du Sud. A podium finish is a definite possibility.
Team: Trek Factory Racing
Reason to Watch: Cancellara, the King of the Cobbles, is known for his domination of the Spring Classics (he’s won the Tour of Flanders three times) and his time-trial prowess (he’s a four-time world champion). So while this Grand Tour isn’t exactly his specialty, Spartacus definitely has the legs to snag a victory on stage 20—the single time trial of this year’s race.
Tejay Van Garderen
Team: BMC Racing
Reason to Watch: The young American finished fifth in the 2012 Tour. While he fell flat at the 2013 edition of the race, he returns this year with the full support of his BMC Racing squad.
Reason to Watch: Apparently, the Outside team has a thing for sprinters. Like Mark Cavendish, Sagan will be fighting for the sprinter’s green jersey this year. Unlike Cavendish, Sagan is a hell of a climber, which is why he’s worn the maillot vert the last two Tours in a row.
Team: Omega Pharma-Quick Step
Reason to Watch: Cavendish got about twice as many votes in our poll as any other man on this list. And while he won’t win the whole Tour de France, Cav has delivered 25 stage victories (more than any other active rider), and is considered by many to be the fastest man in the peloton.
So maybe the Swiss scientist was right.
But we shouldn’t get ahead of ourselves. While he always delivers dynamic finishes, the sprinter will have to battle Peter Sagan and Marcel Kittel among others if he wants to take home the sprinter’s green jersey this year (a feat he accomplished in 2011).