01 July, 2017
Already, former Sky mainstay Richie Porte has claimed that Froome's team are "probably not as strong" as they were, an opinion backed up by his BMC Racing team-mate and fellow Sky exile, Nicolas Roche, and today by Vincent Lavenu, manager of French hope Romain Bardet's AG2R La Mondiale team.
Mark Cavendish - who has won 30 Tour stages - was the man who took the crown prior to Sagan's ascendance, but the Briton may struggle to find his best form after a recent bout of glandular fever.
"This year at the Tour de France I will live a new experience, because I'll have the freedom of taking my opportunities", said Swift, 29. Three other riders stand out in terms of performances this year in time trials.
Fifth in last year's Tour de France despite crashing early on, Porte has had a spectacularly successful 2017 season, starting with a victory in Australia's biggest home race, the Tour Down Under this January. The list ranks it as the fourth most important stage for GC honours, even if the sparse number of kilometres makes big time gaps between the favourites unlikely. "He wasn't far off in the Dauphine, although Richie was clearly riding better", McEwen, who will head up SBS' coverage of the Tour de France, explains.
"He's the No.1 favourite with the No.1 saddlecloth and defending champ and he's won more Tours than anyone else racing", Porte said.
Of his own chances, he rates them highly having improved both his descending and strategic approach which could be vital in a race short on time-trials and mountain-top finishes, areas where he has shone.More news: Saudi Arabia says no negotiations over Qatar demands
This year, the solution will create and analyse over 3-billion data points during the 21 stages of the Tour, a significant increase from last year's 128-million data points.
"I'm not superstitious enough to have to win the Dauphine to win the Tour", he says. "For sure there's going to be good battles on those stage finishes".
Troy Cooper, chief executive officer of XPO Logistics Europe, said, "The Tour de France is always an exciting challenge for us, and we're proud to serve in this key role as transport and logistics provider. So right now I feel good and ready to race".
He finished second at this year's Giro, citing illness as a factor for his apparent fatigue in some of the mountain stages. "I don't see any reason why that should change".
Promises to be one of the most action-packed parts of the Tour, with a climb to start the day and then three hors-categorie ascents to follow: La Biche, the brutal Grand-Colombier and the Mont du Chat, before a white-knuckle descent into Chambery.