Tour de France 2017 preview: white jersey contenders

Simon Yates bids to follow brother and deliver second consecutive British youth classification win

Adam Yates became the first British rider to win the Tour de France’s white jersey for best young rider in 2016, and now twin brother Simon will bid to follow suit.

Having switched Simon Yates from the Giro d’Italia to the 2017 Tour de France, Orica-Scott have stated their target is to win the white jersey, but the Bury-born rider will face stiff competition from last year’s runner-up Louis Meintjes (UAE Team Emirates) and Criterium du Dauphine white jersey winner Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-hansgrohe).

Adam Yates topped the youth classification in 2016 – can twin brother Simon follow suit at the 2017 Tour de France? (pic: Sirotti)

Nevertheless, Yates’ sixth place overall at the Vuelta a Espana last year have raised expectations and – after seeing his brother narrowly miss out on the white jersey at the Giro d’Italia – he will hope to double the British tally of youth classification winners.

– Who will win the 2017 Tour de France? –

So could we be celebrating more young British Tour de France success in Paris? With the 2017 Tour de France set to roll out in Dusseldorf on Saturday (July 1), let’s take a closer look at the white jersey contenders.

Simon Yates wears the white jersey at Paris-Nice (pic – ASO)

Simon Yates (Orica-Scott)

While this will be Simon Yates’ third Tour de France appearance, this is the first time the 24-year-old is riding for a GC result.

Replicating his brother’s performances last year – fourth place overall and the white jersey – are a decent target to aim for, and Simon proved what he can do with sixth place overall and a stage win at last year’s Vuelta a Espana.

Simon Yates is racing for GC success at the Tour de France for the first time (pic – ASO)

He has shown good form this year too, with three wins to his name – stages of Paris-Nice and the Tour de Romandie, and the GP Miguel Indurain.

He was off the pace at the Criterium du Dauphine, finishing 13th overall and fourth in the youth classification, but with Johan Esteban Chaves as a foil, and the experience of Roman Kreuziger to back the two young riders up in the mountains, Yates has plenty of chance to prove himself at the Tour.

Age: 24
Tour de France starts: two
Grand Tour highlights: Vuelta a Espana 2016 – sixth overall, stage win
2017 best results: Paris-Nice – stage win, ninth overall; GP Miguel Indurain – winner; Tour de Romandie – stage win, second overall

Louis Meintjes (UAE Team Emirates)

South African star Louis Meintjes pushed Adam Yates all the way in 2016, and will now bid to beat Simon Yates to claim the white jersey for the first time.

The UAE Team Emirates rider is his team’s chief GC rider and, as such, will be hopeful not just of winning the white jersey but of a high overall placing too.

Louis Meintjes was second in the youth classification last time out (pic – Sirotti)

He was tenth at the 2015 Vuelta a Espana and eighth at last year’s Tour to prove his potential, and has shown already he can climb with the bery best.

At the Criterium du Dauphine, his time trial cost him the chance of winning the white jersey but he did recover to finish third on the final day and eighth overall – second behind Emmanuel Buchmann in the youth classification.

As a form finder, despite being without a win this season, it shows Meintjes is on the right track and it’s easy to see why he is many people’s favourite for the maillot blanc.

Age: 25
Tour de France starts: two
Grand Tour highlights: Vuelta a Espana 2015 – tenth overall; Tour de France 2016 – eighth overall
2017 best results: Tour of the Basque Country – sixth overall; Criterium du Dauphine – eighth overall, third on final mountain stage

Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-hansgrohe)

Emanuel Buchmann was third in the youth classification at last year’s Tour de France, but was never really a contender – finishing more than 40 minutes behind Yates and Meintjes.

But a year on, the former German champion – who was second in the nationals this year – arrives at the Tour in good form.

Aged 23 at the time, 21st overall at last year’s Tour is nothing to be sniffed at and his form in the week-long stage races this year show he is well capable of bettering that this time out.

Emanuel Buchmann won the white jersey at the Criterium du Dauphine (pic – Sirotti)

A top-ten finisher at the Tour of the Alps, Tour de Romandie and Criterium du Dauphine before his second place behind team-mate Marcus Burghardt at the German nationals, Buchmann is a very real white jersey contender this time out.

Bora-hansgrohe have many hands to play at the Tour, with Peter Sagan bidding for stage wins and the green jersey and Rafal Majka their main man for the mountains.

But if they back Buchmann, his white jersey at the Dauphine shows what he is capable of.

Age: 24
Tour de France starts: two
Grand Tour highlights: Tour de France 2016 – 21st overall
2017 best results: Tour of the Alps – seventh overall; Tour de Romandie – tenth overall, third on final mountain stage; Criterium du Dauphine – seventh overall, best young rider

Pierre Latour (Ag2r-La Mondiale)

Pierre Latour, a stage winner at last year’s Vuelta a Espana, will start the Tour de France in the skinsuit of French national time trial champion.

And while the 23-year-old Frenchman’s immediate priority will be to support Romain Bardet’s yellow jersey bid, his work for his team leader could also help him to a decent GC placing.

French time trial champion Pierre Latour can pull on the jersey in Dusseldorf, but will be hamstrung by his commitments to Romain Bardet overall (pic – Sirotti)

Latour, who won atop the Alto de Aitana at the Vuelta last year, was best young rider at the Tour de Romandie, and 15th overall at the Criterium du Dauphine to prove his form.

Bardet is priority number one for Ag2r-La Mondiale, and that won’t help Latour’s white jersey credentials, but he should not be discounted.

At the very least, he will be hopeful of pulling the jersey on after the stage one time trial in Dusseldorf.

Age: 23
Tour de France starts: none
Grand Tour highlights: Vuelta a Espana 2016 – stage win
2017 best results: Etoile de Besseges – fourth overall; Classic Sud Ardeche – fifth; Tour du Finistere – third; Tour de Romandie – best young rider; French national time trial champion

Tiesj Benoot (Lotto-Soudal)

Though establishing himself as a future Classics star, Tiesj Benoot will make his Grand Tour debut on the back of a 12th-place finish overall at the Criterium du Dauphine.

That saw him beat Simon Yates, and while a three-week race is a very different kettle of fish – especially for a 23-year-old debutant – it has marked Benoot as an outsider for white jersey.

Tiesj Benoot makes his Grand Tour debut at the 2017 Tour de France (pic – Sirotti)

Lotto-Soudal are hunting stage wins in truth, in the sprints with Andre Greipel and in the mountains with the likes of Thomas de Gendt, Tony Gallopin and Tim Wellens.

But Grand Tour debutant Benoot is likely to have a free hand, and a continuation of the form he showed at the Dauphine could at least put him in the ball park for the white jersey.

More realistically, this year will be about experience, however – he has time on his side if he is to challenge for the maillot blanc in future.

Age: 23
Tour de France starts: none
Grand Tour highlights: N/A
2017 best results: Volta ao Algarve – eighth overall, best young rider; Kuurne-Brussels-Kuurne – fourth; Strade Bianche – eighth; Dwars door Vlaanderen – seventh; De Brabantse Pijl – third; Baloise Belgium Tour – seventh overall; Criterium du Dauphine – 12th overall

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