Froome sets his eyes on glory

Froome sets his eyes on glory

Contador's return could trigger a classic duel in 100th edition of race

Froome sets his eyes on glory

Chris Froome is overwhelming favourite for the Tour de France but the return of former winner Alberto Contador after a one-year hiatus could trigger a classic duel to mark the 100th edition of the great cycling race. 

It will also be the first Tour since American Lance Armstrong was stripped of his seven titles after admitting he cheated his way to glory from 1999-2005, leaving a huge gap in the event’s records. 

It is a period Briton Froome will be happy to put in the past for good. 

“The fact that I’m able to finish at the front in the mountains and in the general classification means that the sport has changed since 10 years ago,” said Froome, who was promoted to Team Sky leader before team mate and defending champion Bradley Wiggins withdrew from the race for health reasons. “You learn from the past. The sport is going in the right direction and my results are proof of that.” 

Froome is expected to have the upper hand in the individual time trials and will rely on a super strong Team Sky with a stunning capacity to set a high tempo in the mountains to prevent attacks -- a tactic Wiggins heavily relied on in 2012. Contador’s presence, after missing last year’s Tour because of a doping suspension, will definitely be felt even if the Spaniard has made little impression so far this season. 

Contador, who won the Tour in 2007 and 2009, goes into the race with only one low-key victory under his belt -- a stage of the Tour de San Luis in January. 

Since then, the 30-year-old has been comprehensively beaten by Froome and others, despite repeated attacks in the uphill stages of the Tour of Oman or the Criterium du Dauphine. 

Froome is likely to gain time in the two individual and one team time trial of this year's race, which starts on June 29, so Contador will have to make up for it in the mountains, where his rival also shines. 

The race should not be decided before the last week with the 14th stage finishing up the Mont Ventoux and the 18th sending the peloton twice round the 21 hair-pins of L'Alpe d'Huez. 

However, Contador is one of only five men with titles in all three grand Tours (Spain, Italy, France) while Froome has only two podium finishes - seconds in the Vuelta in 2011 and the Tour in 2012.