Tour de France 2016: The contenders

Twenty-two teams will be competing in the Tour de France this year. The July 2-24 race has 21 stages covering 3,535km - including two time-trial events (individual) and five mountain stages with four summit finishes.

This year, there are 12 Category 1 climbs, double the number of last year. The race is also 174.7 km longer.

Here are the five most likely winners.

CHRIS FROOME, 31 (BRITAIN)

Team: Sky. Last year: 1st.

As reigning champion and twice winner in three years, the Sky leader will be the man to beat. This Tour may favour climbers but he has proved himself as good as anyone in that domain, and more so than anyone else capable of performing consistently over three weeks.

NAIRO QUINTANA, 26 (COLOMBIA)

Team: Movistar. Last year: 2nd.

Although he was second to Froome in both 2013 and 2015, the time has perhaps come for Quintana to step up. The emphasis on climbing should suit him, as will the concentration of tough mountain stages in the final week. Quintana, who won the 2014 Giro d'Italia, is a notoriously slow starter who comes on strong in the final week of Grand Tours.

ALBERTO CONTADOR, 33 (SPAIN)

Team: Tinkoff-Saxo. Last year: 5th.

A two-time former winner and seven-time Grand Tour champion, Contador has been there and done it before. He's also beaten Froome twice in the Vuelta a Espana so he knows he can not only compete with but also beat the Briton when the gradient cranks up. His form in June's Criterium de Dauphine was not encouraging as he faded to fifth, but this is a man who won Grand Tours in three of the last four years, so he has proved his ability over three weeks numerous times.

THIBAUT PINOT, 26 (FRANCE)

Team: FDJ. Last year: 16th.

He is considered his country's leading hope to end their miserable 31-year yellow jersey drought. Pinot finished third in 2014 and last year won a stage for the first time. He is improving year by year and has shown consistency in the build-up, as he did last year. He was second at the Tour de Romandie, fourth at the Tour of the Basque Country and fifth in Tirreno-Adriatico, but cracked badly in last month's Dauphine.

FABIO ARU, 25 (ITALY)

Team: Astana. Last year: NA.

Aru has proven to be even better than Vincenzo Nibali, matching his compatriot's feat of winning a Grand Tour at just 25. He won the Vuelta a Espana last year and was second to Contador in the Giro d'Italia. The previous year he had top-five finishes in both.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 02, 2016, with the headline 'Tour de France 2016: The contenders'. Print Edition | Subscribe