(Reuters) – It will take a big personality to shake things up on the Tour de France on Sunday and Spaniard Alberto Contador, rather than Colombian Nairo Quintana, is more likely to be that man, according to three-time champion Greg LeMond.
The ninth stage is a punishing 181.5-km trek through the Jura mountains, with the steepest gradients of recent Tour history, and Britain’s overall leader Chris Froome believes the general classification could be “blown to pieces”.
“It is the day we will see where Contador and Quintana (who lost time in the first summit finish) are,” LeMond, on the Tour as an analyst for Eurosport, said in a daily chat with Reuters.
“My feeling is that Quintana has got a little bit intimidated and he will race very conservatively.”
American LeMond, who won the Tour in 1986, ’89 and ’90, believes the stage will be lit up by Froome, Australian Richie Porte, Italian Fabio Aru, France’s Romain Bardet, and daredevil Contador.
“It will take a big personality to shake Sky and Contador could be that guy,” he said.
Contador has not won the Tour since 2009, but the flamboyant Spaniard is the kind of rider ready to take chances.
“Maybe Astana could try something with (Dane Jakob) Fuglsang and Aru,” said LeMond, who warned that the stage scenario could be disappointing.
“It could be anti-climactic,” he said. “There is some 30km of flat between the Col du Grand Colombier and the (last climb to) Mont du Chat,” said LeMond.
“The riders could be tempted to leave it to the last climb. (Porte’s) BMC and Sky will try to control the race.”
Froome leads team mate Geraint Thomas by 12 seconds and Aru by 14, with the rest of the overall favorites within a minute of the yellow jersey.
“They will be ready for the big battle,” said LeMond.
“Porte will try something in the last climb.”
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Ken Ferris)