With the 99th edition of the Tour de France just a month away, two riders look to be the favourites to take victory in Paris on July 22—Bradley Wiggins and Cadel Evans, the defending champion. If it comes down to these two riders, they could give bicycle racing a brilliant show, one of those Tours that’s fought till the very end and remembered for years to come.
But while Wiggins has had a near-perfect season so far, Evans has struggled, and he has work to do if he wants to defend his yellow jersey.
What makes these two riders intriguing favourites is not so much how they’re different but how they’re similar. Both ride for two of the biggest teams, Wiggins for Sky and Evans for BMC. They’re English-speaking; Wiggins is from England, Evans from Australia. Both are in their 30s—Wiggins is 32 and Evans 35. And both are true all-rounders. In stage races, they normally time trial better than the rest and climb well in the high mountains (with Evans the more proven climber of the two).
Then there’s this year’s Tour de France course. On paper it favours riders with exceptional time-trialing ability, as there are over 100 kilometres of racing against the clock, more than in any recent Tour. While that’s bad news for mountain goats such as Andy Schleck, it bodes well for Wiggins and Evans, who while not pure climbers are among the best in the individual time trial—or as the French call it, the race of truth.
But theirs is not a high-profile showdown—nothing approaching the dramatic Schleck-Contador battles of recent years—or at least it isn’t just yet. Both Wiggins’ and Evans’ personalities are on the quiet side, they’re unassuming, and they’ve had their share of bad luck in their long careers—near misses, heartbreaking second places, infamous mechanicals, race-ending crashes, and broken bGnes.
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