Quartet target greatness, Wiggins his tour de force

Mon Jan 19, 2015 6:05am EST
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By Julien Pretot

PARIS (Reuters) - A mouth-watering four-way tussle for the Tour de France title and Bradley Wiggins's challenges on the Paris-Roubaix and the hour record promise to make 2015 a vintage year for cycling.

Defending champion Vincenzo Nibali, 2013 winner Chris Froome, double champion Alberto Contador and the indefatigable Nairo Quintana are expected to fight it out for the yellow jersey on a Tour tailor-made for pure climbers.

Spaniard Contador is planning to take the toughest road to Paris as he will also compete in the Giro d'Italia, looking to become the first rider since the late Marco Pantani in 1998 to achieve that particular double.

"He knows how to get ready for them and if anyone can back up the Giro/Tour then I would say he's the guy to do it," Briton Froome told Cycling Weekly.

"It's not only difficult, it's risky," Contador, one of only six men with wins in all three grands tours, said.

Like Froome, Nibali will avoid a heavy race schedule ahead of the Tour in order to stay as fresh as possible.

The Italian, who was dominant on all terrains in last year's race, will face increased scrutiny as his Astana team are on the radar of the International Cycling Union (UCI) following a string of doping cases last season.

Having abandoned hope of securing a second Tour title after his 2012 triumph, Wiggins, who reverts to track cycling midway through the season with an eye on the 2016 Olympics, is taking aim at the Paris-Roubaix in April -- tackling the cobblestones prior to the wooden boards of the velodrome.   Continued...