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Executive Sports Co on the Tour de France: five key questions
The big one. The Kenya-born Briton has bragging rights as defending champion and dominated last year; the Spaniard has more Grand Tour wins to his name but looked below par in 2013. This season, Contador rode strongly in the early season, Froome looked better in early summer.
MARCEL KITTEL OR MARK CAVENDISH?
German Kittel dominated the Tour sprints in 2013, with four stages, and continued this year, with a double in the Giro; Cavendish’s best result is a stage in the Tour of Switzerland. As the younger man, Kittel should kick on from 2013 but Cavendish is determined to regain the lost ground.
WHAT WILL THE VIBES BE AROUND TEAM SKY?
The British squad spent much of last year’s Tour with their ranks closed as a variety of media and fans speculated about their ethics – unfortunate but inevitable given Froome’s domination. This year, the decision to race Froome at the Tour of Romandie while treating a chest infection with a corticosteroid under prescription could mean more brickbats heading Skywards.
CAN THE FRENCH PERFORM?
It’s 29 years since the last French win in the Tour; last year the great hope Thibaut Pinot flopped after riding well in 2012. He’s back this July and the home nation also has world-class sprinter Arnaud Démare. But the best prospect, Warren Barguil, remains chez lui, as he’s too young, and Démare’s selection has kept out the super-fast Nacer Bouhanni. Dommage.
WILL THE SUN SHINE ON YORKSHIRE?
Out on the wiley, windy moors Wuthering Heights way it’s lovely when it’s fine, but July can so easily turn into March. The locals are ready, the roads have been redone, and the final touch is sunshine to match 2007 when London’s Grand Départ coincided with the only decent weekend of the entire summer.