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Switch it up a gear for TDF 2016
July brings with it all sorts of sporting events. This year we have the EURO 2016 hosted in France at the start of the month, the annual tennis tournamant at Wimbledon and Formula 1 action at Silverstone, Budapest and Hockenheim.
We've not even touched on the boxing, golf and athletics that fill the sporting calendar. But here in Dordogne, we've only got one thing on our minds...and that's the Tour de France 2016. This epic cycling race takes place each year in July and covers the roads, cobbles and mountains of France.
Cyclings elite will be in full attendance as they battle it out to win the prestigious yellow jersey and take home the title of winner of the Tour de France, the world's hardest road race. Not only that but there will battles for the sprinters green jersey, the king of the mountains polkadot jersey, the white jersey of the best young rider as well as team titles to be taken. Some fo the fiercest battles will be fought over the Cols of Alps as the GC riders (general classification) try to take time out of each other on the big climbs and sweeping descents. The sprinters too will have their day as they use their lead out riders to give them a head start in the sprint for the finishing line and the stage victory.
So who's who in the 2016 Tour de France and who do we expect to be taking away the colourful jerseys that make the TDF the most exciting cycling race in the world?
GC Contenders - the yellow jersey, le mailloit jaune
Team Sky's Chris Froome is by the far the favourite to take home the title for an amazing third time. Winner of the Tour de France in 2013 and last year in 2015, we are expecting big things from Froome and his Sky teammates who will be there to support him every step of the way. Challenging him for the top spot will be recent Giro d'Italia winner from Astana Pro Team, Vincenzo Nibali. After finishing second in the 2012 TDF and first in 2014 with the largest winning margin in 17 years, this man is a definite contender. The Colombian climber, Niaro Quintana is another threat to yellow. He has been second twice in the TDF, in 2013 and again last year in 2015. Qunitana is known for his ability to launch sustained and repeated attacks on ascents of steep gradient, as well as being a good time trialist. There will be more team leaders pitting themselves against these top riders but to round off the GC contenders we have to mention Alberto Contador. A two-time winner of the TDF, back in 2007 and 2009, he then finished fourth in 2013 and 5th in 2015. In reality he also won the 2010 TDF and finished fifth in 2011, but was stripped of these titles after he was found guilty of accidental ingestion of the prohibited substance Clenbuterol.
King of the mountains - the polkadot jersey, le maillot à pois
Well, last years polkadot jersey was claimed by the overall winner of the race, Chris Froome. Albeit as a byproduct of working hard towards the overall win, it shows that this man is in it for the long haul and able to climb as quick and as well as many in the race. Other contenders include Rafal Majka who took the jersey in 2014 and won a mountain stage of the TDF in 2015. Spain's Joaquim Rodriguez took the stage victory the day after Polish rider Majka, in another mountain top finish. Proving his all-round ability Rodriguez had already taken the win in the third stage from Antwerp to Huy, a medium-mountain stage. French hopes will rest on the shoulders of Pierre Rolland who generally finishes high in the GC and is known for his ability to climb and keep the pace high.
Sprinters - the green jersey, le maillot vert
These men are the superstars of the Tour de France; flamboyant characters, coming in all shapes and sizes with hot heads and legs of steel. Dominating this part of the sport is the charismatic Czech Peter Sagan. Successful not only as a road racer but also as a mountain biker, this likeable rider has won the green jersey in the last four editions of the TDF. He is the undoubted favourite to take the jersey again in 2016. As always the man nipping at his heels is British rider Mark Cavendish. Known for his arrogance, there is no denying his abilities in the sprint and he is sure to be chasing Sagan all the way to the line for the stage wins and also the overall sprinters title. Throw Andre Greipel into the mix and the battle has well and truly commenced. A frequent stage winner the German took a monumental four stages of the race in 2015 and only just lost his green jersey to Sagan in the end.
Having looked at the route and stages of the 2016 TDF it seems that the battle for the top positions will continue all the way to the end. The last few days of racing in the Haute Savoie region include a mountain top finish, a mountain time trial and a rather long and gruelling mountainous stage to round it off the day before Paris. There will no doubt be jerseys won and lost on all of these stages. This may not be an ideal ending for the sprinters, but they will have their day in Paris as they sprint to the finish line on the Champs Elysees to take the grand prize of winning the iconic final stage of the Tour de France 2016.
To find out more about the Tour de France and the history of the event, read our guide here.