• Which of this host of riders will join Froome on the podium? (Getty Images)Source: Getty Images
With just a minute and eight seconds separating the second and sixth riders on the general classification with two mountain stages remaining, it will be a very tough fight to see who will get to flank the seemingly inevitable winner, Chris Froome (Team Sky), on the podium in Paris.
By
Cycling Central

22 Jul 2016 - 8:54 AM  UPDATED 22 Jul 2016 - 9:07 AM

Froome smashes time trial for stage win and even bigger lead
Chris Froome (Team Sky) won the 17km time trial from Sallanches to Megeve smashing the best time of Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) by 21 seconds. With just two official stages remaining, the Brit enjoys a seemingly unbeatable three minute and 52 second overall lead to 2nd place Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo).

Bauke Mollema (Trek-Segafredo) 2nd overall - 3 minutes 52 seconds behind

A very strong second week in the Tour propelled Mollema to a very handy position on the overall and the Dutchman looked to be on career-best form. Since the second rest day Mollema hasn't been quite as strong, but he is still clinging to his podium place and will be very hard to dislodge.

His team isn't the strongest on the climbs, so he may find himself having to take up the chasing himself if any dangerous moves go, which will leave him vulnerable for further attacks. Then again, he may just be happy to hitch a ride on the Sky train, which hasn't hurt him so far this Tour. 

Something you might not know about Mollema, he was the ambassador in the Netherlands for the 'week of the sports book' and is a voracious reader, typically working his way through four books per Tour de France. 

Adam Yates (Orica-BikeExchange) 3rd overall - 4 minutes and 16 seconds behind

The British youngster has impressed at every hurdle so far this Tour and despite downplaying his chances early finds himself on the virtual podium right at the pointy end of the Tour de France. Perhaps the most notable aspect of Yates's performance has been his balanced demeanour throughout the race, little has seemed to faze him so far. 

He will need to call on all of that poise as the attacks flow thick and fast in these final two stages, as far more experienced and credentialed riders are eyeing up the podium spot he currently occupies.

Again his team is far from the strongest in the climbs and Yates isn't often in the best position to react to attacks, as he prefers to lurk at the tail of the main group of favourites then riding his own pace when the group splinters, rather than trying to go with every surge.

If there's one memory that will last beyond the here and now though it will be the sublimely ridiculous moment on Stage 7 when Yates was 'attacked' by a rapidly deflating banner. 

Nairo Quintana (Movistar) 4th overall - 4 minutes and 37 seconds behind

What would be considered a fantastic Tour de France for most has seen those at Movistar, including Quintana, searching for reasons for his relatively poor form. The latest floated theory has been that some un-diagnosed allergy is holding the Colombian back, as Quintana himself said to Cyclingnews the end of the mountain time trial.

“It’s not fatigue that I’m feeling but still, the body isn’t responding. It could be some sort of allergy I’ve got at the moment because my legs aren’t getting enough oxygen. It could be some sort of allergen in the area that’s been affecting me these last few days. I hope with the rain that's coming in these next days I can keep it at bay."

Whatever the cause, Quintana hasn't been at his best but still remains within 19 seconds of a podium finish. Any improvement back towards something resembling his best should see him take enough time to stand next to Froome on the Champs Elysees, but there has been a lot of waiting for Quintana in this Tour already.

Romain Bardet (AG2R-La Mondiale) 5th overall - 4 minutes 57 seconds behind

Bardet's normal attacking instincts have been reined back in so far this Tour de France, but he still chanced the occasional foray off the front only to be brought back by the Sky train. He might have a bit more freedom to try moves now and he will have to try something to make up the 41 seconds to Yates to sneak onto the podium.

The 25 year-old Frenchman doesn't mind a long-range move, and can be aggressive on the downhill as well as anyone, so there will be ample opportunity for Bardet to go on the attack. 

Richie Porte (BMC Racing) 6th overall - 5 minutes behind

It has been a long road back from the puncture on Stage 2 for Porte, but he seems to be clawing his way back in contention for a podium place. He has arguably been the best climber in the race and the only stages he has lost significant time on have been the time trials. 

Back into the mountains for the next two stages, it's not just going to be a matter of going to the finish and hoping that others will crack, Porte will have to attack and force his rivals into difficulty if he wants to jump over the four guys ahead of him in the battle for the podium. 

You can’t get stuck on ‘if only'
In the last few days of the Tour, Richie Porte (BMC) is riding his way up the leaderboard like someone clearly deserving of a podium finish in Paris, writes Kath Bicknell.
Attack for Australia, Richie
It's time for Richie Porte to throw caution to the wind and go on the offensive - even if it costs him a podium spot, argues Kevin Eddy.

Any improvement from here will only add to the Tasmanian's best result on the general classification in a grand tour, with his previous best of seventh at his first attempt at the Giro d'Italia back in 2010. What has been gratifying to see is that Porte has been the best climber at the race, or at least equal to Froome over three weeks of competition, silencing a lot of critics who questioned whether he would be able to handle the pressure of competing for yellow.