Tour de France 2016: King of the Mountains contenders

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Tour de France 2016: King of the Mountains contenders – form guide

Who will pull on the polka dot jersey at the 2016 Tour de France?

The polka dot jersey of the King of the Mountains leader at the Tour de France is hotly contested every year, even if predicting the winner can be a tough task.

Chris Froome emerged victorious last year, as his successful charge for the yellow jersey also saw him rack up enough points in the mountain to win the polka dot jersey too – the first rider to do the double for 45 years.

Chris Froome became the first man since Eddy Merckx to win both the yellow jersey and the polka dot jersey in the same Tour in 2015 (pic: Sirotti)

Generally, however, the GC men cancel each other out in the mountains.

In 2014, it was Rafal Majka who emerged victorious – the Pole benefitting from team leader Alberto Contador crashing out of the race as he found himself with the freedom to attack in the mountains.

So who will be pulling on the polka dots in Paris this time out? Obviously the GC men will all be in contention, given their key battles will be held in the mountains, but there are plenty of other riders likely to rack up the mountain points.

We’ve picked out six riders who could do exactly that over the climbs of France, Andorra and Switzerland which are awaiting the Tour de France peloton.

Thomas Voeckler (FRA) – Direct Energie

Crowned King of the Mountains in 2012 – the last Frenchman to win the polka dot jersey – Thomas Voeckler has found success harder to come by since.

Thomas Voeckler has been in resurgent form in 2016 (pic: Sirotti)

But 2016 has been a resurgent year for the 37-year-old veteran, with victories at the Tour La Provence and Tour de Yorkshire proving he can still compete in the smaller stage races.

He won’t be a contender overall at the Tour de France – his prolonged stint in the yellow jersey at the 2011 Tour now well in the past – but his love of the breakaway means we’ll likely see plenty of him.

And if he can get in the right breakaways in the mountains, there’s no reason Voeckler can’t rack up the climbing points and repeat his 2012 triumph.

Daniel Martin (IRL) – Etixx-QuickStep

Birmingham-born Irishman Daniel Martin has enjoyed a steady start to life at Etixx-QuickStep, with third places overall at the Volta a Catalunya and Criterium du Dauphine a reminder of what he can do.

Dan Martin can climb with the best but has never mounted a serious GC charge at the Tour de France (pic: Tim de Waele/EQS)

He has never managed to mount a serious GC charge at the Tour, however, with a seventh place at the 2014 Vuelta a Espana his lone Grand Tour top-ten – though he was third when a crash forced him out of last year’s Vuelta.

There is no doubting Martin’s climbing ability, however – something which has come to the fore again in 2016 with a stage win atop La Molina in Catalunya and a strong showing across the final weekend at the Dauphine.

If a GC charge fails to ignite again at the Tour, there’s no doubting Martin could bid for the polka dot jersey as a consolation.

Joaquim Rodriguez (ESP) – Katusha

A fifth career Grand Tour podium at last year’s Vuelta a Espana was a further reminder of how, despite never winning the Giro d’Italia, Tour de France or Vuelta a Espana, Joaquim Rodriguez has been a serious Grand Tour contender.

Joaquim Rodriguez’s hopes of a Grand Tour win look to be over, but he is still a contender in the mountains (pic: Sirotti)

At 37, Purito’s hopes of a Grand Tour win appear to be gone, but he remains a fiercely good climber on his day – as proved by his two stage wins at last year’s Tour, one on the Mur de Huy and one on the Plateau de Beille.

He picks up plenty of mountains points every year, and wore the polka dot jersey for several stages in 2014, but has never won the maillot a pois at the Tour.

However, if Rodriguez accepts his hopes of a Tour de France win are gone, and instead targets the King of the Mountains, he is more than capable of winning it now.

Serge Pauwels (BEL) – Dimension Data

Dimension Data are looking to make an impact across the board at this year’s Tour and Serge Pauwels is their man for the mountains.

Serge Pauwels will look for opportunities in the mountains (pic: Sirotti)

Team-mate Daniel Teklehaimanot famously pulled on the jersey for a handful of stages last year, becoming the first Eritrean to do so in the process, and won his second Criterium du Dauphine KOM title this year.

But when it comes to competing across the whole Tour, Serge Pauwels looks a much better bet for Dimension Data with the 32-year-old having finished 13th overall at last year’s Tour, making up for a difficult first week by being in the right moves throughout the final fortnight.

Dimension Data aren’t built for supporting a GC charge so the King of the Mountains title looks a much better bet for the Belgian, who is proved he is no stranger to the breakaway.

Pierre Rolland (FRA) – Cannondale

Pierre Rolland finished tenth at last year’s Tour de France, but the 29-year-old has long been replaced as the next big thing in French cycling.

Pierre Rolland could be in the mix when the climbing starts (pic: Sirotti)

A two-time stage winner, collecting a win apiece in both the 2011 and 2012 editions before spending most of the 2013 Tour in the polka dot jersey, only to lose it on the final weekend, Rolland has pedigree when it comes to the Tour however.

Also fourth at the 2014 Giro d’Italia, there is no doubting his ability when the road heads up, but the Frenchman has never turned that it into bigger success.

Should he find himself in at the sharp end again, however, he is perfectly capable of picking up mountain points – he proved as much in 2013.

We’ve all got to hope he gives the polka dot shorts he aired that year a miss, however!

Nicolas Edet (FRA) – Cofidis

Nacer Bouhanni threw Cofidis’ Tour de France preparations into chaos after a hotel altercation left him requiring surgery on his hand – surgery which will keep him out of the race.

Nicolas Edet won the blue polka dot jersey at the 2013 Vuelta a Espana (pic: Sirotti)

It means an unexpected opportunity for former Vuelta a Espana King of the Mountains Nicolas Edet and a total ripping up of the race plans for the French wildcard team.

Edet’s arrival could mean opportunities are explored in the mountains instead, however, with Arnold Jeannesson and Daniel Navarro also in the Cofidis line-up.

Of those three, it is Edet who has experience of winning the King of the Mountains title at a Grand Tour and his penchant for getting in the breakaway could stand him in good stead again this year.

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