A Look at Best Climbers in the Tour de France
Alberto Contador is widely acknowledged to be the best climber in the professional peloton, and Andy Schleck, who finished 2nd overall in the 2011 Tour de France, is considered a strong runner-up. But neither Contador nor Schleck are competing in the 2012 Tour de France. Contador is serving a yearlong suspension for a Clenbuterol doping positive in the 2010 Tour de France, while Schleck fractured his pelvis in a crash during the Criterium du Dauphine time trial.
Creating a list of top climbers in the 2012 Tour de France begins with an evaluation of the mountainous stage races leading up to the Tour, such as the Tour de Suisse, the Criterium du Dauphine and even the Tour of California. Most of the best climbers also come from the ranks of the Tour de France contenders.
• Rui Alberto Faria Da Costa (Por) from Movistar Team won Stage 1 of the Tour de Suisse on the climb to Verbier and laid the foundations for his overall win of the Swiss race.
• Frank Schleck (Lux) of RadioShack-Nissan showed that he was on form at the Tour de Suisse with his commanding performances in the mountains on his bid for a second overall.
• Levi Leipheimer (USA) of Omega Pharma - QuickStep showed that he was coming back on form with his 3rd place finish at the Tour de Suisse. He's light and powerful, and can do very well in the steeper climbs.
• Robert Gesink (Ned) Rabobank Cycling Team first showed his climbing prowess in his dominant performance in the last stage of the Tour de California, which he won overall. He went on to climb well at the Tour de Suisse where he finished 4th overall.
• Alejandro Valverde Belmonte (Spa) of Movistar Team worked for teammate Rui Costa at the Tour de Suisse and still managed to come in 7th overall. He has a history of strong climbing abilities, though that record is somewhat suspect due to his role in Operacion Puerto.
• Bradley Wiggins (GBr) of Sky Procycling won the Criterium du Dauphine 2012 with commanding time trial performances and by climbing with the best in the mountains. As such, he needs to be considered among the top climbers in the 2012 Tour de France.
• Cadel Evans (Aus) of BMC Racing Team won the 2011 edition of the Tour de France by climbing well, time trialing well and riding smart throughout the 3-week race. He consistently climbs with the best, and he showed that by placing 3rd overall at the Criterium du Dauphine 2012.
• Jurgen Van Den Broeck (Bel) of Lotto Belisol Team finished 4th at the Dauphine, and he has showed tremendous form in the mountains at both the 2010 and 2011 editions of the Tour.
• Janez Brajkovic (Slo) of Astana Pro Team first showed his climbing prowess at the 2010 edition of the Criterium du Dauphine where he beat Alberto Contador, the best climber in the world. Brajkovic finished 7th overall at the 2012 edition of the Dauphine.
• Vincenzo Nibali (Ita) of Liquigas-Cannondale has not shown much form in the run up to the Tour de France, but the winner of the 201o Vuelta and 2nd place finisher at the 2011 Giro is among the best climbers at this year's Tour.
• Denis Menchov (Rus) of Katusha Team is a two-time winner of the Vuelta and a winner of the Giro. You cannot win a Grand Tour without being a top climber. Menchov has been below the radar this year and did not compete in either the Tour de Suisse of the Criterium du Dauphine.
• Samuel Sanchez Gonzalez (Spa) Euskaltel - Euskadi, the reigning Olympic Road Race Champion, climbs consisently well at the Tour de France - well enough to win the King of the Mountains Jersey in the 2011 Tour. With two podium finishes at the Vuelta, Sanchez ranks among the top climbers.
Other Notable Climbers:
Ivan Basso (Ita) Liquigas-Cannondale (past winner of the Giro)
Andreas Klöden (Ger) RadioShack-Nissan (podium finished at the Tour, consistent climber)
Pierre Rolland (Fra) Team Europcar (winner of the mountaintop finish at Alpe D'Huez at the 2011 Tour de France)
Christopher Horner (USA) RadioShack-Nissan (solid climber but old at 40)
Ryder Hesjedal (CAN) Garmin - Sharp (winner of the 2012 Giro but crashed hard on Stage 6)
Thomas Danielson (USA) Garmin - Sharp (crashed out of the 2012 Tour de France in Stage 6)