The 100th editition of the race starts tomorrow with the team presentation and the racing begins this weekend in Corsica. Teams and riders are starting to arrive with boatloads of bikes arriving on the overnight ferries. The neverending doping stories diminish the allure a bit, but the real beauty of the race is in the wide range of stories and scenes set to unfold.
The GC race will pit last year's runner up Froome, against former winner Alberto Contador, back after a doping suspension from what he claimed was beef tainted with clenbeuterol. Last year's winner, Bradley Wiggins, has been hampered by injuries and illness and won't be competing. Froome is supported by Richie Porte, who could make his own bid for the podium if Froome falters. Also contending is Radio Shack's Andy Schleck, who was declared a winner after Contador was stripped of one of his titles. Schleck seems large off form this year, perhaps due to the loss of older brother Frank who is sitting out this year due to a doping suspension.
Outside contenders like Pierre Rollands who has twice finished in the top 10, and American Tejay Van Garderen who won the white jersey last year will be looking to improve on their finishes. Canada's Ryder Hesjedahl - winner of the Giro d'Italia last year - will lead Garmin, but his attempt to repeat at the Giro this year was hampered by illness and it's not clear he's in peak form.
But the sprinters are sure to provide some excitement. Cavendish has been the top sprinter for some time, but expect some challenges this year from Peter Sagan who is especially strong with an uphill finish before the sprint. Greipel will also be looking to start the race strong and Cav sometimes is a slow starter for the Tour. The race starts with a sprint this year, so the first sprinter to make a statement should also get the first yellow jersey.
Stage info and map
Infographic on the 21 stages
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