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Bahamontes predicts new face on highest step of 2016 Tour de France podium

Spain's first ever Tour de France winner Federico Martín Bahamontes predicts that "there will be a new face on the top of the podium in Paris this year, and one of the hardest fought races in recent years."

However, Bahamontes warned Cyclingnews that "only a truly chaotic race, with lots of attacking, will make it possible for that new winner to come through."

"If the contenders are too happy to just to ride along watching each other without actually attacking, as they have done in the past too often, it's going to be a real missed opportunity for whoever wants to be the next new winner of the Tour," he said.

As for Alberto Contador and his possibilities of taking a third Tour de France, Bahamontes believes that "very hot weather, if it continues to stay as hot as it has been in the last couple of weeks, will be one of his biggest allies. Contador's always done well in those kinds of conditions."

Bahamontes cited the case of Charly Gaul, the 'Angel of the Mountains' who won the Tour in 1958, "but who couldn't handle the heat. Then when I attacked en route to Aurillac [in the 1959 Tour, which Bahamontes won – ed.] on a really hot day he was in serious trouble. He was riding off the route looking for any house that had a swimming pool so he could jump in it to try and cool down. That day, I burned them all out, all of my rivals.

"I did the same thing when I attacked alone on a stage to Granada in the Vuelta [in 1959, stage four] when it was 40 or 45 degrees celsius and I ate bread soaked in water I'd got off a motorbike driver in the race to keep myself going. And I won."

Although he recently injured one of his feet in a minor car crash, Bahamontes, soon to turn 88 and the third-oldest living Tour de France winner, continues to press on relentlessly with his longstanding role as an amateur race organiser.

Although the Vuelta a Toledo stage race, which he organised for half a century up until 2015 is no more, Bahamontes has changed his mind about possibly retiring and has now begun to run a two-day event, the "50 Aniversario del Trofeo Bahamontes", in early August.

Bahamontes is also mourning the loss of one of his friends and former colleagues, 1966 World Champion Rudi Altig, who died earlier this month, with whom he raced in the Six Days of Madrid. "He was a great rider, one of the best all-rounders there ever was," Bahamontes said.

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Alasdair Fotheringham
Alasdair Fotheringham

Alasdair Fotheringham has been reporting on cycling since 1991. He has covered every Tour de France since 1992 bar one, as well as numerous other bike races of all shapes and sizes, ranging from the Olympic Games in 2008 to the now sadly defunct Subida a Urkiola hill climb in Spain. As well as working for Cyclingnews, he has also written for The IndependentThe GuardianProCycling, The Express and Reuters.