Though he’s frequently been mentioned as a contender in the past, this Spanish climber more often than not puts in far too erratic of performances to really contest for the wins. However, he seemed to find some consistency at the 2012 Vuelta, where he finished ahead of Rodriguez and Froome and second only to Contador, and he has staked his season on a podium finish at this year’s Tour. Riding in his service is one of the strongest teams in the race, including the two climbing phénoms Rui Costa and Nairo Quintana, who could make it difficult on the other teams by getting up the road and potentially even challenging for the overall themselves.
Like Rodriguez, Valverde has a fast finish and could pick up valuable seconds with late-stage sprints in the hills, though the Tour’s lack of time bonuses works against him. He, too, has historically struggled in time trials, though his fourth place in the ITT at last year’s Vuelta show that he’s been working on it, and Movistar’s second place in the Giro d’Italia’s team time trial should add confidence. On paper, he has a top three finish in him, but the question will be whether or not he will wilt under the pressure of expectations as he has in the past.