Tour de France: Primoz Roglic, Tiesj Benoot and other lesser-known riders to watch
Primož Roglič is a former ski jumper turned cyclist (PGS/Tim De Waele/Corbis via Getty Images)

All attention at the Tour de France will be on the yellow jersey contenders and sprinters, but a clutch of lesser-known riders have the potential to make a name for themselves over the next three weeks.

Here, we pick out 10 to keep an eye on.

Primoz Roglic (Team LottoNL-Jumbo)

Roglič started out in sport as a ski jumper and was crowned junior world champion in 2007, but he switched to cycling in 2013 and the decision has so far been an overwhelming success. The 27-year-old Slovenian announced himself as a world-class time-triallist by winning on a 40.5km course at last year’s Giro d’Italia, but this year he has proven himself to be a exceptional climber as well by winning the hilly Volta ao Algarve and finishing fourth at Tirreno-Adriatico, fifth at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco and third at the Tour de Romandie. On current form, a top 10 at the Tour is not out of the question for this frighteningly talented sportsman.

Tiesj Benoot produced a fine climbing display at the Critérium du Dauphiné (Tim de Waele/Corbis via Getty Images)

Tiesj Benoot (Lotto Soudal)

Benoot is a 23-year-old Belgian who burst on to the scene in 2015 by finishing a stunning fifth at the Tour of Flanders while still a student. Almost as impressive was his display at the Critérium du Dauphiné this June, when he unexpectedly found himself climbing with the likes of Chris Froome (Team Sky) and Alberto Contador (Trek-Segafredo) on the key mountain stages and eventually finished 12th. This will be his debut Grand Tour and it will be interesting to see what more surprises he can spring.

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George Bennett (Team LottoNL-Jumbo)

Roglic is not the only general classification card LottoNL-Jumbo have to play at the Tour, because Bennett also looks poised for a strong result. The 27-year-old Kiwi proved he can hold form over three weeks by finishing 10th at last year’s Vuelta a España and has carried on his good form into 2017, finishing ninth at the Volta a Catalunya, 11th at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco and winning the Amgen Tour of California in May, which was the first victory of his career. This will be his second appearance at the Tour, but expect a significant improvement on his 53rd place last year.

Stefan Küng is in good time-trialling form (Tim De Waele/Corbis via Getty Images)

Stefan Küng (BMC Racing)

Küng is evolving into one of the best time-triallist in the world and could challenge for victory in both of the Tour’s 14km and 23km time trials. Küng proved his excellent form by finishing second to team-mate Rohan Dennis (who won’t be at the Tour) in the Tour de Suisse’s two time trials in June and then winning the Swiss national time trial title.

Jon Izaguirre (Bahrain-Merida)

Izaguirre has spent most of his career working as a domestique for the likes of Nairo Quintana and Alejandro Valverde at Movistar Team, but a transfer for Bahrain-Merida over the winter has provided him with the opportunity to lead a team at a Grand Tour for the first time. The 28-year-old Spaniard is a strong time-triallist and climber, and also proved he is a lightning-fast downhill as well by plummeting down a wet descent into Morzine to win Stage 20 of last year’s Tour. This year he finished seventh at Paris-Nice, third at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, fifth at the Tour de Romandie and sixth at the Tour de Suisse, so a top 10 at the top is not beyond him.

Jon Izaguirre will lead Bahrain-Merida at the Tour (Tim De Waele/Corbis via Getty Images)

Louis Meintjes (UAE Team Emirates)

Meintjes is a 25-year-old South African climber who has become a regular presence in the elite lead group on mountain-top finishes in the past couple of years. Having finished 10th at the 2015 Vuelta a España and an excellent eighth at last year’s Tour, the 2017 edition offers a chance to improve further still and break into the top five. He is unlikely to challenge for the win, but a sixth-place finish at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco earlier this year and an eighth at the Dauphiné in June suggested he could give the race favourites a headache.

Jarlinson Pantano (Trek-Segafredo)

The 28-year-old Colombian won a stage of last year’s Tour while riding for IAM Cycling and returns  this year as a support rider for Contador at Trek-Segafredo. His primary role will be to offer help on the climbs, but given that the course is packed with descents towards the end of stages and that Pantano is a demon going downhill, he will be a key ally to Contador on both sides of mountains. Should Contador’s challenge falter, Pantano might be freed to pursue stage wins out of breakaways, so however the race pans out, it should be a busy three weeks for him.

Jarlinson Pantano is an all-round talent (Tim De Waele/Corbis via Getty Images)

Carlos Betancur (Movistar Team)

Betancur is one of the most talented yet mercurial riders in the professional peloton. There are days when he runs rampant in the mountains, but others when he is simply not with it. However, he has been picked for the Tour by Movistar on the back of a strong couple of months of form and a particularly brilliant performance in the Hammer Climb at Hammer Sportzone Limburg in early June. If he can repeat those sorts of displays at the Tour, he could be a key asset to team leader Quintana.

Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-hansgrohe)

The 24-year-old German is an up-and-coming climber who is enjoying the best season of his career so far. Having finished an impressive 20th at last year’s Tour, he has continued his development in 2017 by finishing 13th at the Vuelta al Pais Vasco, seventh at the Tour of the Alps, 10th at the Tour de Romandie and a stand-out seventh at the Dauphiné, where he also won the best young rider classification. A top 10 at the Tour is not out of the question.

Emanuel Buchmann performed superbly at the Dauphiné (Tim de Waele/Corbis via Getty Images)

Lilian Calmejane (Direct Energie)

The 24-year-old Frenchman is in only his second year as a professional but already has a Grand Tour stage win to his name thanks to an impressive and unlikely triumph on Stage 4’s summit finish at the 2016 Vuelta a España in which he defeated more established names such as Pierre Rolland (Cannondale-Drapac), Darwin Atapuma (then BMC Racing) and Andrey Zeits (Astana). This will be Calmejane’s debut Tour and he is likely to be in plenty of breakaway’s on mountain stages. Don’t be surprised if he is vying for victories once again.

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