Tour de France favourites: Form ranking

The Tour de France is now less than three weeks away and after the Criterium du Dauphine, Cyclingnews has updated its form ranking to reflect the racing and results since the end of May.

1. Richie Porte (BMC Racing)

Previous ranking: 1st

Overview: On the eve of the final Dauphine stage Porte looked close to unbeatable. No one had managed to make him break a sweat in the mountains and his buffer over Froome, Fuglsang and the rest of the field was healthy enough to suggest that the Australian would stand atop the final podium. Even his rivals were throwing in the towel.

What transpired on stage 8 turned the race on its head with all three podium spots changing hands and Porte suffering defeat in what was the third closest Dauphine in history. For the second year in a row, Porte would endure a brutal end to his Dauphine dreams.

The truth to this defeat lies somewhere in mist of battle. Porte couldn't chase every attack and in letting Aru and Valverde go he made the right call. Allowing Fuglsang to go was dangerous, but with his team close to regaining control there was no point in panicking. Froome's acceleration atop of the penultimate climb swung the momentum away from Porte but the Australian's final ascent to the line was almost enough to regain the lead. Did everyone race to ensure Porte would lose? Most likely not. This was the final hit-out before the Tour de France, and if Froome, Valverde or Contador had been in yellow, the intent to attack would have still surfaced.

Lowlight: Losing the yellow jersey on the final stage could plant the seed of doubt in his mind. Whether Porte can transition from being the best week-long race specimen on the planet to a Grand Tour winner is the biggest question of the summer.

Next race: Tour de France

2. Chris Froome (Team Sky)

Previous ranking: 5th

Overview: Froome is still the man to beat come to July but the sheen of invincibility wore off a long time ago, and despite flashes of form during the Criterium du Dauphine, his performance raised several concerns for the Sky management to ponder. Froome crumbled in the second half of the time trial, and on two of the three mountain stages he was dropped by Porte. The narrower the margins blur between these two riders, the quicker they grow apart. As for Froome's form, Patrick Fletcher raised the point in the recent Cyclingnews podcast – if Louis Meintjes is riding away from you, then you've got problems.

Highlight: Hung onto Porte's coattails on the Mont du Chat and showed signs that his form is moving in the right direction.

Lowlight: The stage 4 time trial to Bourgion-Jalieu wasn't a complete catastrophe but it was well down on where Froome has been at this point in recent years. He'll head to the Tour without a victory to his name in 2017 – a position few would have expected at the start of the campaign.

Next race: Tour de France

3. Nairo Quintana (Movistar)

Previous ranking: 4th

Overview: Hasn't turned a pedal in anger all month and will continue to be protected in cotton wool by the Movistar hierarchy until he's dispatched to Düsseldorf at the end of June. His reputation ahead of the Tour has probably improved given that neither Porte nor Froome could stamp their complete authority on the Dauphine.

Highlight: Hasn't been asked 'can you drop Tom Dumoulin in the mountains?' for two whole weeks.

Lowlight: He didn't win the Giro.

Next race: Tour de France

4. Alberto Contador (Trek Segafredo)

Previous ranking: 3rd

Overview: The sight of Contador sitting up on climbs and soft-pedalling to the line isn't one we're familiar with. For a rider who so often throws caution to the wind and attacks with breath-taking regularity it doesn't sync with his typical swashbuckling approach. For that reason alone, it's difficult to predict just where Contador's form lies. At the Dauphine he was ordered not to go too far into the red by his coaching team, and his rivals watched with jaws agape as he dossed around at the back and then sat up on climbs. There was the occasional foray but the question now is whether Trek is gently managing a rider in decline or if the Spaniard is building up to something special for July.

Highlight: The individual time trial was impressive and he dropped Froome on Alpe d'Huez.

Lowlight: Dropping out of the top 10 on the final day but if the race is 'just training' then what's the point in finishing 9th?

Next race: Tour de France

5. Dan Martin (Quick-Step Floors)

Previous ranking: 6th

Overview: Another Criterium du Dauphine podium finish for the Irishman, who continues to evolve into a real top-five contender for the Tour de France. What has caught the eye most this season is that Martin's attacks now have more purpose to them – a skill that would have probably saved him a lot of energy in last year's Tour.

Highlight: Moving from eight to third overall on the final Dauphine stage.

Lowlight: A mechanical robbed the Irishman of a very decent performance in the time trial.

Next race: Tour de France

6. Alejandro Valverde (Movistar)

Previous ranking: 2nd

Overview: Having not raced since the Classics it was always going to be difficult to predict Valverde's form but 9th place overall was perhaps a fair reward for a rider who rode with his usual verve and swagger but missed the necessary punch to truly trouble the top spots.

Highlight: A fine individual time trial catapulted Valverde into third place overall.

Lowlight: Valverde demonstrated his intent with several long-range attacks in the mountains and created a key move alongside Fabio Aru on the final stage but the top-level form isn't quite there yet. This was a strong, stable performance but perhaps not the result he would have expected.

Next race: Spanish nationals.

7. Romain Bardet (AG2R La Mondiale)

Previous rank: 7th

Overview: The Dauphiné didn't tell us much we didn't already know about Romain Bardet. He's not a strong time triallist, but he's capable of gaining time back with adventurous gambles in the mountains. The Frenchman's medium-range attack to Alpe d'Huez revived, for the first real time in what had thus far been an underwhelming and frustrating season, memories of his defining day on stage 19 of last year's Tour, and it delighted the French public. Yet the time trial losses – 1:53 to Porte over 23.5km – were very concerning indeed. The discipline had become an increasing focus since the winter, yet it was his second poor showing from two this season. Bardet's performances in the mountains as a whole – he lost a little ground to Porte and Froome on Mont du Chat and then finished sixth on the final day – were solid enough, though, and represented a steadying of the ship after he hit reset on his season in Sierra Nevada in May. But Bardet set the bar high last year with second at the Dauphiné and second at the Tour. He still has work to do, and more than a little expectation on his shoulders.

Highlight: The attack to Alpe d'Huez that saw him jump from ninth to sixth overall.

Lowlight: The time trial losses.

Next race: Tour de France.

8. Fabio Aru (Astana Team)

Previous ranking: 10th

Overview: Having not raced since March few – even the man himself – knew quite where he would find himself at the Dauphine. In the end the Italian came through with flying colours, with a fifth place finish and a rousing performance on the final day that helped propel his teammate to the overall win. Last year's Dauphine saw Aru win a stage but this year's performance was more consistent and therefore bodes well for July.

Highlight: He can't sprint but his ride on the Mont du Chat on stage 6 and his performance on the final day ensured Aru took fifth.

Lowlight: The fitness is there but does Aru have enough miles in the bank to generate a real Tour challenge? That said he's only had around a week's less racing compared to this time last year.

Next race: National championships

9. Louis Meintjes (UAE Emirates)

Previous ranking: 8th

Overview: The 25-year-old South African is coming to the boil at just the right time – and in a contract year, too. The individual time trial on stage 4 was nothing to write home about and remains a weakness but in the mountains Meintjes held his own and deserved his eighth place overall.

Highlight: The final stage - in which he finished third – was his best performance of the season and the first time in 2017 that we've seen him ride at the front in such an aggressive but assured manner. He almost didn't know how to react when he initially dropped Froome but soon settled into his rhythm. He's a real contender for the Tour's white jersey.

Lowlight: The time trial was a reminder of how much work still needs to be done for Meintjes to have realistic hope of making a Grand Tour podium.

Next race: Tour de France

10. Jakob Fuglsang (Astana)

Previous ranking: N/A

Overview: A new addition to the top 10 after Esteban Chaves failed to make an impression in France, Fuglsang's performance at the Dauphine was nothing short of impeccable. Granted, his time trial was solid rather than spectacular, but two stage wins and a seventh on Alpe d'Huez ensured that he won the race rather than Porte lost it. At 32, Fuglsang has forged a reputation as a super mountain domestique who can be relied upon for consistency, and having worked for the Schlecks and Nibali in recent years it looked as though his career would continue in that vein.

However, when Fuglsang burst onto the WorldTour scene in 2009 he was tipped as one of the most exciting young talents in the peloton. He enjoyed two top-three performances in his Vuelta debut and he had the makings of becoming the latest mountain biker to make the crossover to road. After almost 10 years mainly spent riding in the service of others, the Dane has the win his career needed, and probably deserved.

Highlight: Taking the biggest win of his career and heading into July brimming with confidence. Another top 10 at the Tour is well within his grasp and he's proved that he and Aru have the makings of an excellent partnership.

Lowlight: It's hard to pick fault with a rider who has just come away with two stage wins and the biggest victory of his career. 

Next race: Tour de France

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