Three-time Tour de France champion Greg LeMond, who won the race in 1986, 1989 and 1990, has told Belgian sports broadcaster Sporza that he thinks Movistar's Alejandro Valverde should win this year's Tour – if rumours of him having lost five kilograms are really true.
Speaking during the Tour's opening stage on Saturday, and when asked who his favourites were for this year's Grande Boucle, LeMond – ever the scientist, and pushing the power-to-weight theory – named the Spanish veteran as the most likely winner, 'mathematically'.
"I keep hearing about how Valverde has lost 5kg, and if he's really lost 5kg and is in the same condition [as in the past], then mathematically he should win the Tour," LeMond said.
"Mathematically, he should win, because 5kg is, say, six minutes [saved] up a climb," he continued. "It's a lot of weight to lose – but you usually pay a debt for that."
LeMond otherwise believed this year's Tour to be "pretty open" in the absence of four-time winner Chris Froome, who crashed while doing a reconnaissance of the Critérium du Dauphiné's time trial stage in June.
"But of course you always have to give credit to Geraint Thomas… They [Team Ineos leaders] don't really race that much, so you never really know where they're at, but I'm certain that he's going to be in very good shape," LeMond said. "But you never know, as there's also [Ineos teammate] Egan Bernal… But he's a young rider.
"You also have Thibaut Pinot, Romain Bardet, Rigoberto Uran, Nairo Quintana. There's only one [individual] time trial this year, so it favours the climbers," he added.
"It'll be an open race. I wouldn't have liked to have raced this Tour when I was racing. I liked time trials. I liked to have 50km time trials – two of those. So this year really favours a climber, rather than an all-rounder," said LeMond.