Featured image courtesy of Alex Broadway/ASO
Better late than never is the perfect description for the 107th Tour de France, a Tour that won’t be what we’re usually accustomed to and different for a whole myriad of reasons.
Hosting a Grand Tour during Covid-19 presents all sorts of challenges and we’ll be seeing new protocols in place. The Tour is always the race that gives cycling the greatest amount of prestige hence the need to put on the race for the sake of the sport. The first Grand Tour instead of the second, we’ll be seeing controls on spectators, no podium presentations and if any team shows symptoms of Covid-19 they’ll be withdrawn from the race.
We sincerely hope the Tour makes it all the way to Paris. Three weeks of racing, 21 stages and a Tour that could prove to be the most unpredictable yet!
So, who will win the famous maillot jaune and secure the first Grand Tour of the revised World Tour season?
Egan Bernal – Ineos Grenadiers
The defending champion and a rider who gets a free hit with Team Ineos, turned Ineos Grenadiers for this Tour de France. With Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas not included in the team, Egan Bernal is out and out leader of the team, wears number one and undoubtedly will be expected to perform and win back-to-back Tour titles.
Preparation for the Tour has been mixed for the young Colombian. The Route d’Occitanie was a dominant display but at the Tour de l’Ain he looked off the pace and the Dauphiné, Bernal abandoned with a re-emerging back injury.
Team leadership is a given and this year’s route is perfect for Egan Bernal to excel. He’s joined by the current holder of the Giro d’Italia Richard Carapaz, a surprise inclusion to the team plus Russia Pavel Sivakov who looked the best shaped rider at the Dauphiné for the team.
Can Bernal indeed Team Ineos do it all again? There won’t be a British winner for the British team for the second successive year if Egan Bernal succeeds. The big question is how will Ineos approach this Tour. We know that their big rivals are Jumbo-Visma and we know that last year, Dave Brailsford’s team did not dominate the race. Julian Alaphilippe surprised us all, Jumbo-Visma took the race head on with Steven Kruijswijk and before Thibaut Pinot abandoned, Groupama-FDJ looked strong.
Will Bernal and Ineos get their own way? It’s going to be hard, but absolutely Egan Bernal is the man to watch, not just as defending champion but as the rider who could stamp his authority on the team for future Tour editions to come.
They’ll know that others are on course to take their crown. For Egan Bernal, Dave Brailsford and the team as a whole this will be their biggest Tour de France challenge to date.
Primož Roglič – Team Jumbo-Visma
For Team Ineos, the Dutch squad Jumbo-Visma will be their fiercest rivals and could ride this year’s race as the strongest team. At the head will be Primož Roglič, last year’s winner of the Vuelta and someone who cycling fans keep reminding themselves as a former ski jumper not so long back. Roglič has looked dominant in every race he’s ridden this season. The Tour de l’Ain was masterwork in the mountains, as Jumbo-Visma imposed themselves and quite frankly made Egan Bernal and Ineos look average.
Stage 2 of the Dauphiné was a majestic win for Primož Roglič as he won atop the Col de Porte, a day where Ineos crumbled and Jumbo-Visma took a psychological win. Everything was going so well until Stage 4, when he himself crashed and his teammate Steven Kruijswijk also suffered, last year’s third place rider on GC unfortunately not starting this year’s Tour.
One stage to go, Roglič decided to abandon with an overall Dauphiné victory just eluding him. Can the Dutch team beat the field and win the Tour? It’s possible but the talking point is whether he has recovered from his crash to perform at this Tour? If you remember the 2014 Tour when Chris Froome crashed and suffered at the Dauphiné, he went on to crash and abandon the Tour after Stage 5. Not saying that the same will happen to Primož Roglič but you just never know what could happen.
Jumbo-Visma are the in-form team and they have arguably the strongest team on paper. Tom Dumoulin isn’t quite ready to win Grand Tours again just yet so he’ll act as super domestique as will Sepp Kuss and with road captain Tony Martin in your team that’s a win win.
Last year we saw how the Slovenian had good form going into the Giro before he fell away in week three. It’s Ineos versus Jumbo-Visma at this year’s Tour de France no doubt about it but who will come out on top?
Thibaut Pinot – Groupama-FDJ
1985. The last time a Frenchman won the Tour. In Thibaut Pinot, a man who keeps a wide variety of animals on his farm, you could ask for a better man who deserves to win the Tour de France at some point in his career. The hope of a nation rests on Pinot’s shoulders and we sincerely hope that he rides well after a heart-breaking abandon on Stage 19 last year.
Everything looks in good order ahead of the Tour and in Groupama-FDJ, Thibaut Pinot heads into the Tour with key domestiques Sébastien Reichenbach and David Gaudu. But can the team, indeed Pinot himself take on Ineos and Jumbo-Visma at the same time? Egan Bernal and Primoz Roglic are the two stand out names and at the Dauphiné, Thibaut Pinot was a little fortunate to finish second overall with Bernal and Roglič leaving the race with injuries.
Take a look at the climbs and he finished in decent positions on each stage finish, so there is something to play for at this year’s Tour. The time trial on Stage 20 atop La Planche des Belles Filles is where Pinot might struggle against the likes of Bernal and Roglič but first you’ve got to get there and every stage from Alp to Pyrenees looks tailor made for Pinot to excel.
The one thing Thibaut Pinot needs to avoid this year is getting caught out by windy conditions as he did last year on Stage 10 to Albi. The first stage of week two this year, Stage 10 along the Atlantic coast is one day where every GC rider won’t want to be caught out, especially Pinot. In the mountains he’ll be a force to reckon with and there’s every hope that Thibaut Pinot will break 35-years of hurt for French cycling.
Third overall in 2014, he looks likely to repeat that feat and maybe go one better.
Who else could shine as GC contenders?
There are so many names who will be eyeing up a top ten general classification place or maybe even a chance in reaching the podium in Paris.
Tadej Pogačar makes his Tour de France debut one year after taking three stages and finishing third at the Vuelta. With Primož Roglič a favourite to win yellow and Pogačarmaking huge progress in the World Tour pelotoncould this be a Tour for Slovenia? If he’s capable of taking three stages and making the podium on his Grand Tour debut then goodness knows what the young man could do over three weeks across France!
20-years-of-age, UAE Team Emirates are backing him all the way and in former winner of the Vuelta Fabio Aru, you couldn’t ask for a better domestique. Talent is in abundance but there could be one hindrance – this is the Tour. Could lack of experience be Pogačar’s downfall? Too early to say and perhaps harsh to downplay his chances before the race has begun.
Like Pogačar another Tour de France debutant is Miguel Ángel López. Fifth at the Dauphine, third at the Volta ao Algarve, the Colombian has shown signs that he’s in the zone but without riding clear of other rivals. A debut Tour de France after finishing third at the 2018 Giro and Vuelta – López may not make the podium but a stage win plus a top ten isn’t out the question.
In Nairo Quintana, we have another Colombian who can realistically finish inside the top ten. A new revived man it seems at Arkéa-Samsic, Quintana has won the Tour de la Provence and Tour du Var, was sixth at Paris-Nice with a stage win, third at the Tour de l’Ain, and was sitting seventh at the Dauphiné before abandoning. Another stage win for the third year in a row at the Tour de France looks once again the likely outcome alongside a top ten.
Trek-Segaredo have both Richie Porte and Bauke Mollema at their disposal, the former always having added expectations heaped upon his shoulders. Richie Porte, a world-class climber but never quite the man who’s come close to winning the Tour de France but a podium place shouldn’t be out of the question just yet.
Bauke Mollema has finished inside the top ten three times before and will probably be Porte’s support man rather than team leader. Both riders can reach the top ten, so we’ll wait to see how Trek take on this year’s race with both.
If German rider and last year’s fourth-placed overall at the Tour, Emanuel Buchmann hadn’t of crashed and abandoned at the Dauphiné then you’d imagine he’d be a strong contender to make the podium this year. If the Bora-Hansgrohe man has not recovered for the Tour then replicating fourth place from last year’s race won’t be realistic. A stage win though would be welcome.
One rider which fans will be particularly interested to see as outright leader is Bahrain-McLaren’s Mikel Landa. Third at Ruta del Sol and second at Vuelta a Burgos is perhaps something to note but is the Spaniard a genuine contender to win the Tour overall? He should finish in the top ten but we’d be surprised if he makes the podium.
There are so many names to include as contenders to finish inside the top ten at this year’s Tour de France but who can realistically win the 107th edition?
It is absolutely correct to say that numerous names such as Thibaut Pinot and Tadej Pogačar could possibly make the podium but winning the Tour overall might be a bit of a stretch.
Unless anything remarkable happens such as an abandoning the race then it’s either Team Ineos or Jumbo-Visma’s race to lose. Egan Bernal is the defending champion and Primož Roglič starts as favourite. Two teams battling it out with others who could simply surprise us and take the yellow jersey.
A fascinating Tour de France awaits among unusual circumstances. We’ll never forget this year’s Tour de France taking place in late August, mid-September but one thing’s for sure – we once again have no idea who will win another edition of cycling’s greatest race.