Defending Tour champion, Chris Froome, recently said this year's race is "building up to be an epic Tour de France battle." And if all contenders can stay on both wheels, remain healthy and steer clear of controversy, Froome's prediction is likely to come true.
The road to Paris is always a difficult one, but this year's route challenges riders like never before. With seven mountain stages, five summit finishes, and a 17 km uphill time trial, this year's contenders will battle for yellow on a steep, inclined plain.
This year's crop of general classification contenders includes two former GC champions, a near-miss champion from last year, and two men riding for the same team.
Chris FroomeTeam Sky 1 of 6
The returning champion, Chris Froome looks to become the first person in 23 years to (legally) claim back-to-back Tours. Whether this route suits Froome or not is moot, as the Englishman has the strongest team in the field backing him up, despite the loss of super-domestique Richie Porte. His true test may come in the Queen's stage, when he'll likely have to hold off numerous attacks to defend his title.
Nairo QuintanaMovistar Team 2 of 6
If there's a rider this year's route suits most, it's Nairo Quintana. The King of the Mountains in 2013, a Giro champion in 2014, and a solid podium finish in last year's Tour has this young Columbian primed for a victory lap in Paris. Quintana will relish the Tour's long, steep climbs and uphill individual time trial. You can't call him a dark horse any longer, as the Movistar rider will see anything less than yellow as a disappointment.
Alberto ContadorTinkoff-Saxo 3 of 6
The winner of last year's Giro d'Italia and a two-time Tour champion, many wonder if Alberto Contador's best days are officially behind him. However, the spry Spaniard wants to quiet any notion that his legs have gone weak. Contador skipped the opportunity to defend his title at this year's Giro and is focused solely on claiming yellow.
Fabio AruAstana 4 of 6
After teammate Vincenzo Nibali's dramatic win at this year's Giro, Fabio Aru was given the keys to lead Team Astana at the Tour de France. The 25-year-old Italian has been a solid rider for years, winning last year's Vuelta a Espana and placing second at the Giro d'Italia. And with Nibali in his corner—and Nairo Quintana now 26 years old—Aru will also be the favorite to claim the white jersey.
Tejay van Garderen/Richie PorteBMC 5 of 6
After BMC nabbed Richie Porte from Team Sky, many wondered if this marked the end of Tejay van Garderen's hopes to one day don yellow. However, despite the team announcing Porte as the road captain, van Garderen's solid showing at the Tour de Suisse has many hopeful that the American can put past Tour de France woes behind him. Either way, don't be surprised to see either rider from this dynamic duo on the podium in Paris.