• Geraint Thomas leads Chris Froome, and Tejay van Garderen o the 2015 Tour de France (AAP)Source: AAP
The number of contenders to be the next Tour de France winner is expanding at an amazing rate, making it difficult for candidates on the periphery to break through for a victory.
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Cycling Central
28 Oct 2015 - 3:10 PM 

It’s that time of year for the professional peloton when the fatigue in the legs of the season past begins to reside after a period of rest and fresh hope has replaced the tiredness. 

Some riders already have their season mapped out with their roles known well in advance after establishing careers as domestiques, classics specialists or Grand Tour contenders.

Chris Froome (Sky) already knows what he’s going to be doing in July of 2016 as does a rider like Australia’s Adam Hansen (Lotto-Soudal) and Paris-Roubaix winner John Degenkolb (Giant-Alpecin).

But there are some are riders who are betwixt and between. Incredibly talented and seemingly able to be whatever they would like to be but never fully defining their positions in the sport.

This season revealed Tom Dumoulin (Giant-Alpecin) as a rider ready to redefine who he is after several days in the Vuelta a Espana overall lead and a final 6th place on the general classification.

Rafal Majka (Tinkoff) is another joining Dumoulin as a rider to watch after his final podium place at the Vuelta.

Thomas has eyes on a future Tour de France title
Lifted by his performance at the 2015 Tour de France Team Sky's Geraint Thomas has put his hand up as a future winner of the French race.

Now we hear Geraint Thomas (Sky) is also throwing his hat into the ring after a gritty ride at the 2015 Tour de France saw him eventually finish in 15th place.

“Yeah. I certainly think it’s a lot more achievable than I did three months ago. If I keep on improving, commit to it totally, have a team around me, a podium is certainly realistic," Thomas told The Guardian.

But can a rider like Thomas make that jump to serious Grand Tour contender? In the interview he pointed to former team-mate Bradley Wiggins as an inspiration, and on that score he’d be right.

The 2012 Tour champion is the kind of rider who comes along once in a generation. Can Thomas be that guy again? For that matter, can Dumoulin or Majka?

All three can see the biggest prize in cycling dangling tantalisingly close in front of them, but can they cut through the noise created by more naturally gifted Grand Tour riders like Nairo Quintana (Movistar), Fabio Aru (Astana) and Mikel Landa (Sky) to win a race like the Tour de France?

What remains to be seen from riders like Dumoulin, Thomas and Majka is if their performances were outliers or a pointer to something more.

In addition to Froome (30), Quintana (25), Aru (25), Landa (25), there are others like Vincenzo Nibali (30), Rigoberto Uran (28), Romain Bardet (24), Esteban Chaves (25) and Thibaut Pinot (25) to contend with. And not forgetting Tejay van Garderen (27) and Australia’s great hope Richie Porte (30).

It’s now getting crowded at the top of every Grand Tour general classification, and while the potential to make the top-ten remains, a podium place may be further out of reach for some riders attempting to make the transition to a genuine contender for the top step in Paris.