Giro d’Italia: Five Key Takeaways From the Third Week

Featured image courtesy of Stuart Franklin/Getty Images

Few could possibly have predicted the outcome of the 103rd Giro before the third week; let’s examine the events that led to the Ineos Grenadiers winning their 11th Grand Tour since their inception as Team Sky in 2010.

Tao Geoghegen Hart Wins First Grand Tour

Embed from Getty Images

When Geraint Thomas abandoned the Giro after only stage three, it looked like the Ineos Grenadiers were in for a torrid Giro. Little did they know that Geoghegen Hart would be on the top step of the podium in Milan.

For the first time in Grand Tour history, the top two riders on the General Classification were tied on time going into the final stage, with Australian Jai Hindley (Sunweb) just ahead by a mere few hundredths of a second.

Geoghegan Hart was able to capitalise on his superior time trialling ability on the flat 15.7km course, topping Hindley by 39 seconds.

Geoghegan Hart set the foundations for victory on stage 15 to Piancavallo, taking the victory and catapulting him from 11th to fourth overall. He followed this through on the Passo di Stelvio on stage 18, where only Hindley and teammate Rohan Dennis could match his strength.

His second stage win to Sestriere on Saturday was enough to put him level on time with Hindley, the Australian failing to drop him after several successive attacks.

Geoghegan Hart becomes the fifth Briton to win a Grand Tour, after Bradley Wiggins, Chris Froome, Geraint Thomas, and Simon Yates.

Ineos Grenadiers’ Best-Ever Grand Tour

Embed from Getty Images

With seven stage wins, the overall victory, the Best Young Rider victory, and taking the Team Classification, this is the most successful Grand Tour for the British outfit since their inception in 2010.

Filippo Ganna dominated all three time trials, as well as taking a medium-mountain stage win, in what has been a breakthrough year on the road for the Italian.

Geoghegan Hart himself took two stage wins to only further legitimise his overall victory and cement his status as the strongest rider in the race.

Jhonatan Narvaez took a breakaway victory on stage 12, highlighting the Ineos Grenadiers’ ability to animate the race at every juncture.

Rohan Dennis single-handedly changed the nature of the race in the final week, spending a ludicrous amount of time pacing Geoghegan Hart up the Stelvio and Sestriere, taking the Cima Coppi prize in the process.

Jonathan Castroviejo and Salvatore Puccio took a second place each, whilst Ben Swift managed to achieve 18th on GC, displaying some of the strongest climbing of his career.

We’re used to seeing Ineos ride as a train on the front all day, so the fact they took so many stage wins and the overall whilst riding in a far more animated style, displays their versatility and strength in depth.

So Close for Sunweb

Coming into the third week, Sunweb seemed poised to take their first Grand Tour victory since the 2017 Giro, courtesy of Wilco Kelderman.

Embed from Getty Images

With a buffer of nearly three minutes over teammate Hindley and Geoghegan Hart, Kelderman was expected to stay in touch in the mountains and then use his time trialling prowess to seal victory.

This changed on stage 18 however, as Kelderman was unable to match the pace of Dennis, Geoghegan Hart and Hindley on the Stelvio.

An inability to don a jacket on the freezing descent only slowed Kelderman down further, and despite managing to limit his losses, he finished over two minutes behind Hindley, who took the stage.

Carrying a slender 12 second lead into stage 20, Kelderman ultimately lost pink after being dropped on the second of three ascents of the Sestriere.

This left Hindley in pink, however he was never going to have a chance of defending it in a time trial against Geoghegan Hart.

Nonetheless, two podium positions and a career-best third place for Kelderman still makes this a successful Giro for Sunweb.

It has been a breakthrough performance from Hindley, who looks set to become Australia’s next Grand Tour contender.

Stage 18 Finally Animates the GC Battle

If you missed the entire first two weeks of the Giro, there’s not a lot you would have missed in terms of GC excitement, with most of the top-ten still fairly close on time.

It was a huge relief that stage 18 went ahead as planned, after fears of snow in the preceding weeks cast doubt over the inclusion of the Stelvio, the highest ascent and most difficult climb in the race.

It did not disappoint, and it indeed proved to be the definitive climb in the GC battle, ending several riders’ bids for victory.

Embed from Getty Images

The rider of the day was Rohan Dennis, who set a ferocious pace to distance Geoghegan Hart’s rivals and cement their defeat. He continued on the descent to set up a two-way battle between Hindley and Geoghegan Hart on the final climb of Torri di Fraele.

Vinceno Nibali (Trek-Segafredo) and Joao Almeida (Deceuninck Quick Step) were the biggest losers on the day, with the latter finally relinquishing his lead that he had held since stage three.

Domeninco Pozzovivo (NTT) lost eight minutes, cementing a miserable Giro for the Italians in which they failed to finish in the top-five overall for the first time in Giro history.

Better performers were Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-McLaren) and Jakob Fuglsang (Astana). Bilbao finished third and helped achieve a career-best fifth-place overall. Fuglsang finished fourth on the stage, sending him from 12th to sixth overall, although nearly four minutes down on Bilbao.

Démare and Guerreiro take Points and Mountains Classifications

Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) and Ruben Guerreiro (EF Pro Cycling) wrapped up the other two major classifications in the Giro, with the former taking the Points Classification and the latter the Mountains.

Embed from Getty Images

Démare was in a class of his own in the sprints, comfortably taking the four stages that ended in bunch finishes to win the purple jersey by 49 points from Peter Sagan (Bora Hansgrohe).

Stage 19 was expected to finish in another sprint, however a rider protest saw the stage shortened to ‘just’ 124km. An unmotivated peloton let the breakaway go and thus Démare effectively sealed victory in the Points Classification.

No one came close to Guerreiro in challenging for the blue KOM jersey, which he took by 77 points over second-placed Geoghegan Hart. He was able to enter various breakaways to take KOM points, and was also aided by his victory on stage nine’s summit finish to Roccarosso.

As mentioned, the Ineos Grenadiers rightfully won the Teams Classification by 20 minutes over Deceuninck Quick Step.

As for the minor classifications, Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec took their only prizes of the Giro home courtesy of Simon Pellaud in the Intermediate Sprint Classification, and Mattia Bais with the Fuga prize (most kilometres spent in a breakaway).

Thomas de Gendt (Lotto Soudal) unsurprisingly took the Combativity Award, and Groupama-FDJ won the Fair Play Award, having not accrued a single point for ‘bad behaviour’ (such as fines or a positive doping test).

Giro d’Italia: Five Key Takeaways From the Second Week

Featured image courtesy of Tim De Waele/Getty Images

The second week of the 103rd Giro d’Italia proved to be somewhat of a slow-burner, however the third weekend of the race failed to disappointment. What are the main stories heading into a difficult final week?

Time Trial Sees First Sifting of the Main Contenders

The first half of the Giro has not been a particularly exciting one in terms of the GC battle. The time gaps were small and current leader Joao Almeida (Deceuninck QuickStep) was rarely threatened. Tough stages on paper, notably stage 12, did not result in any major moves from the GC favourites.

Embed from Getty Images

Stage 14’s 34km time trial saw several riders lose substantial amounts of time. Time trial World Champion Filippo Ganna (Ineos Grenadiers) once again demolished the opposition, finishing 26 seconds ahead of teammate Rohan Dennis, and 1:06 ahead of third-placed Brandon McNulty (UAE Team Emirates).

Almeida extended his lead in the GC to 56 seconds. Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb) was the best of the rest, remaining in 2nd place.

Pello Bilbao (Bahrain-McLaren) also held third overall, although that became a deficit of 2:11 as opposed to just 49 seconds previously.

After poor time trials from Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo) and Domenico Pozzovivo (NTT), the Italian pairing would have been hoping to take time back on their rivals on stage 15’s summit finish to Piancavallo…

Stage 15 Ignites GC Fight in the Mountains

Embed from Getty Images

After stage three’s and nine’s summit finishes failed to create any meaningful time gaps, stage 15 finally provided a long-awaited mountain showdown.

Nibali and Pozzovivo failed to overturn their fortunes from stage 14; both lost nearly two minutes to stage winner Tao Geoghegan Hart (Ineos Grenadiers), Kelderman, and his teammate Jai Hindly, who put in one of the rides of his career to take third on the stage and on GC.

Almeida now has a very slim 15 second lead over Kelderman; despite limiting his losses well, his days in pink are numbered.

Rafal Majka (Bora-Hansgrohe) was the best of the rest, lying sixth overall, just behind Bilbao who will hope to better his sixth place overall in 2018.

The biggest loser this weekend was Jakob Fuglsang (Astana). After finishing three minutes down on stage 14, and then 1:36 down on stage 15, he is now over five minutes behind Almeida.

There were mixed fortunes for McNulty. Despite one of the rides of his career on stage 14, ending up in fourth place overall, he then plummeted to 11th on stage fifteen after finishing 2:43 behind the stage winner. Still, at 22 years old, could McNulty be a new Grand Tour hopeful for the United States?

A ferociously difficult third week is still to come, and given how the likes of Nibali in 2016 and Chris Froome in 2018 have overturned large time deficits to win the race, nothing can be ruled out.

Covid Testing Claims More Victims

The threat of Coronavirus continued to loom in the second week, after pre-race favourite Simon Yates (Mitchelton-Scott) was forced to abandon on stage eight.

Its effects proved far worse this week, with the entire Mitchelton and Jumbo-Visma squads abandoning the race after positive tests were returned.

Embed from Getty Images

Four of Mitchelton’s staff were infected, as was Jumbo’s Steven Kruijswijk, another favourite to take the pink jersey.

Australian Michael Matthews (Sunweb) was also forced to leave following a positive test, and has since tested negative twice, which will undoubtedly be frustrating if the first was a false positive.

All riders and staff tested were either asymptomatic or had only mild symptoms.

The continuation of the race remains under threat; many will fear more positive tests over the second rest day which could end the Giro prematurely.

Should this occur, it will forever be questioned as to whether the ‘winner’ of a truncated Grand Tour can really be considered a GT winner at all.

Ineos Grenadiers Back at the Top

Embed from Getty Images

Despite not being considered as a pre-race favourite, Tao Geoghegan Hart proved to be by far the strongest climber on stage 15.

He took his maiden Grand Tour stage win, and his first win since April 2019 at the Tour of the Alps. This was enough to catapult him from 11th to fourth place, behind leader Almeida, Kelderman, and Jai Hindley (Sunweb).

It proved to be a miraculous turn of fortune for Ineos; despite Geraint Thomas abandoning after stage three they have claimed five stage wins, courtesy of Filippo Ganna, Jhonatan Narvaez, and Geoghegan-Hart.

Ganna took stage 14’s time trial, in yet another display of dominance where no other rider came remotely close to challenging him.

Ecuadorian Narvaez took stage 12 with a solo victory, having dropped breakaway companion Mark Padun (Bahrain-McLaren) after an unfortunate mechanical problem. It will be a bittersweet Giro for Narvaez; he was forced to abandon after a crash on stage 15.

Their impressive tally of stage wins highlights the strength in depth of the team; they are more than capable of animating races, despite their controlled, regulated approaches to the General Classification (GC) in the past.

Démare Unstoppable

Arnaud Démare (Groupama-FDJ) took his fourth stage win of this year’s Giro, on the 11th stage to Rimini.

Embed from Getty Images

Once again, he won in dominant fashion, and none of his rivals could come close to him. The likes of Fernando Gaviria (UAE Team Emirates) and Elia Viviani (Cofidis) have had torrid seasons that have continued into the Giro, and will be becoming evermore desperate for an elusive stage victory.

Stage 19 is the only sprint stage remaining, and the result will surely depend on how the sprinters have recovered after the tough mountain stages preceding it.

Démare continues to lead the Points Classification with 221 points over Peter Sagan’s 184.

Sagan himself finally took his first Giro stage win, and first win of any kind since the 2019 Tour de France. He now holds the prestigious title of having won a stage of each Grand Tour.

In a rare solo victory from the Slovakian, Sagan managed to drop his final breakaway companion Ben Swift (Ineos-Grenadiers), on the final climb into Tortoreto, winning by 19 seconds from second-placed Brandon McNulty.

Giro d’Italia: Five Key Takeaways From the First Week

Featured image courtesy of Tim de Waele/Getty Images

In an eventful first week laden with crashes, Covid and bad weather, let’s examine the main events that defined the start of the 103rd Giro d’Italia.

A Wide-Open General Classification Battle

Embed from Getty Images

With the two pre-race favourites out in Geraint Thomas (Ineos Grenadiers) and Simon Yates (Mitchelton Scott), this Giro is playing out to be one of the most unpredictable Grand Tours in recent memory.

None of the remaining contenders have yet struck any decisive blows in the mountains, with the top-15 separated by only 2:33.

The best-placed rider is still Joao Alemeida (Deceuninck QuickStep), who carries a 30 second lead over Wilco Kelderman (Sunweb).

Almeida is young and lacking in Grand Tour experience, and is thus not expected to win the race. Kelderman is looking particularly strong; his time trial on stage one and climbing ability put him in great position heading into the tougher mountain stages. He can count on a strong Sunweb team (who did much of the work on stage nine’s final climb) for support.

Domenico Pozzovivo (NTT) and Vicenzo Nibali (Trek) are Italy’s best-placed riders, at fourth and fifth respectively.

Jakob Fuglsang is sixth, and would be more confident of improving his position were it not for the abandonment of two key mountain domestiques in Miguel Angel Lopez and Alexsandr Vlasov, on stages one and two respectively.

With two time trials still to come and the time gaps still small, the likes of Pozzovivo and Nibali will need to gain time in the mountains if they are to overcome Kelderman and 11th-place Steven Kruijswijk (Jumbo-Visma).

Geraint Thomas Abandons After Freak Accident

Embed from Getty Images

Geraint Thomas earned the title of pre-race favourite thanks to his second place at Tirreno-Adriatico and his time-trialling ability.

He cemented this status on stage one, taking fourth place just 23 seconds behind teammate and stage-winner Filippo Ganna.

On just stage three however, his race ended prematurely, as viewers witnessed the Briton off the back of the peloton well before the final climb to Etna began.

It later emerged that Thomas had fallen in the neutralized zone before the start proper, the culprit being a stray bidon ejected from another rider’s cage on a bumpy section of road.

A broken pelvis forced Thomas out of the race before the start of stage four, in another incident that brought rider safety into question, following high profile incidents with Fabio Jakobsen at the Tour of Poland and Remco Evenepoel at Il Lombardia.

The Ineos Grenadiers will now focus on stage wins, and will be happy with the two victories accrued this week courtesy of Ganna on stages one and five.

Threat of Covid Looms

In another big blow for British fans, Simon Yates was forced to abandon the Giro having tested positive for Covid-19 prior to stage eight.

Embed from Getty Images

It proved a harsh reminder of the fragile nature of racing post-lockdown, when much of Europe is facing a significant rise in cases.

Race Director Mauro Vegni remains hopeful, declaring that the race will go ahead unless a government order prevents it from doing so.

Riders will be tested during the rest day, and organisers and riders will be hopeful that no positive tests are returned, just as they weren’t at the Tour de France (barring a small handful of team staff).

As for Yates, he will have to wait another year for a third chance at trying to win the maglia rosa. However, the fact he lost over three minutes to his main GC rivals on stage three raised serious doubts as to his form in the first place.

Démare Dominates the Sprints

The Giro’s sprint field will be wondering how on Earth it can overcome Arnaud Démare after he stormed to three stage victories already.

In what makes Groupama-FDJ’s non-selection of him at the Tour even more puzzling, the French national champion is simply a cut above his rivals this year. Only during a photo-finish on stage four did anyone look capable of challenging him.

Embed from Getty Images

For the likes of Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) and Elia Viviani (Cofidis), both winless in 2020, the first week will have been a frustrating one.

Démare also leads the Points Classification by 57 points from Sagan. He narrowly finished second in the competition last year, so will be pleased with his lead thus far.

Stages 11 and 13 look to be likely sprint stages in the second week.

Young Riders Impress

Embed from Getty Images

Whilst the first week saw impressive stage victories from the likes of veterans Diego Ulissi (UAE Team Emirates) and Alex Dowsett (Israel Start-Up Nation), it is the younger riders that have really stepped up.

Joao Almedia, 22, is riding his first Grand Tour and will never have predicted he would be in pink after stage nine, courtesy of an excellent ride on stage one’s time trial.

Having finished third at this year’s Vuelta a Burgos, and seventh at the Tour de l’Ain, Almeida will be one to watch to see if he can uphold his form for three weeks.

24 year-old Filippo Ganna is undoubtedly the time-triallist to beat this year. Having won the World Championships, he crushed the opposition on stage one, beating his closest rival (Almeida) by 22 seconds on a short, 15 kilometre course. He then displayed his all-around ability on the hilly stage five into Camigliatello Silano, outclimbing his breakaway companions to claim a solo victory.

Harm Vanhoucke (Lotto-Soudal) lies in seventh place, courtesy of finishing third on Mount Etna. The Belgian youngster can count on Brit Matthew Holmes, and Norwegian Carl Frederick Hagen for support, in a team not typically noted for its GC performances.

Giro d’Italia: a Guide to the Teams

Featured image courtesy of Luk Benies/Getty Images

With the start list for the 103rd Giro now confirmed, let’s look at the teams and riders to watch, from GC contenders to sprinters, breakaway specialists to time trialists.

AG2R La Mondiale

Embed from Getty Images

François Bidard (Fra), Geoffrey Bouchard (Fra), Tony Gallopin (Fra), Ben Gastauer (Lux), Jaakko Hanninen (Fin), Aurélien Paret-Peintre (Fra), Andrea Vendrame (Ita), Larry Warbasse (US).

A stage-win focused squad, the long-standing French outfit bring a mix of newcomers and veterans, with Jaakko Hänninen and Aurélien Paret-Peintre making their Grand Tour debuts. Former USA national champion Larry Warbasse and Ben Gastauer bring experience, whilst Geoffrey Bouchard will target the Mountains Classification, which he won at last year’s Vuelta a Espana. Andrea Vendrame rode well at the Tour de Wallonie and Milan-Sanremo. He’s probably their best shot at a stage win.

Prediction: a breakaway stage win seems possible.

Androni Giocattoli-Sidermec

Embed from Getty Images

Mattia Bais (Ita), Alessandro Bisolti (Ita), Jefferson Cepeda (Ecu), Luca Chirico (Ita), Simon Pellaud (Swi), Simone Ravanelli (Ita), Jhonatan Restrepo (Col), Josip Rumac (Cro).

Another stage-hunting team, the Italian Pro-Continental outfit will no doubt be active in each day’s breakaway. Their two stand out riders are Jhonatan Restrepo and Josip Rumac. The former took four stages at the Tour de Rwanda, and two at the Vuelta al Tachira. The latter won both the time trial and road race at the Croatian national championships. Replicating such victories at a Grand Tour in this company will be tough however.

Prediction: expect them to animate breakaways, but a victory will be a huge ask.

Astana

Embed from Getty Images

Manuele Boaro (Ita), Rodrigo Contreras (Col), Fabio Felline (Ita), Jakob Fuglsang (Den), Jonas Gregaard (Den), Miguel Ángel López (Col), Óscar Rodríguez (Spa), Aleksandr Vlasov (Rus).

Astana bring a very strong team to support Dane Jakob Fuglsang’s bid for the General Classification (GC). He’s had a good year, winning the Vuelta a Andalucia and Il Lombardia, finishing second at the Tour of Poland, and fifth at the World Championship road race. He has never looked capable of winning a Grand Tour however, performing best in week-long stage races. Elsewhere, Aleksandr Vlasov is a very promising young talent having finished fifth at Tirenno, and third at Il Lombardia. This is his first Grand Tour, and he seems capable of a top-ten. Miguel Angel Lopez returns fresh from finishing sixth in the Tour de France; he’ll provide support in the mountains.

Prediction: multiple stage wins and a top-ten for Vlasov.

Bahrain-McLaren

Embed from Getty Images

Yukiya Arashiro (Jpn), Enrico Battaglin (Ita), Pello Bilbao (Spa), Eros Capecchi (Ita), Domen Novak (Slo), Mark Padun (Ukr), Hermann Pernsteiner (Aut), Jan Tratnik (Slo).

Bahrain bring a squad including three former Giro stage winners, in Enrico Battaglin, Pello Bilbao (pictured), and Eros Capecchi. Harmann Pernsteiner and Mark Padun are Giro debutants. Pernsteiner will be aiming for a decent GC position, having finished 15th at the Vuelta in 2019, whilst Bilbao will hope to repeat his success from last year when he won two stages. Jan Tratnik will be targeting the three time trials.

Prediction: Bilbao provides several options for a stage win or two.

Bardiani-CSF-Faizane

Embed from Getty Images

Giovanni Carboni (Ita), Luca Covili (Ita), Filippo Fiorelli (Ita), Giovanni Lonardi (Ita), Fabio Mazzucco (Ita), Francesco Romano (Ita), Alessandro Tonelli (Ita), Filippo Zana (Ita).

A popular Italian Pro-Continental team, Bardiani return with a young team to animate breakaways and seek an elusive stage win. They’ve had success in the past, winning multiple stages between 2012 and 2016. This year, they bring Giovanni Carboni (pictured), who led the Young Rider Classification for a time last year and recorded two top-fives in stages. Giovanni Lonardi recorded the team’s only victory so far this year at the Tour of Antalya, and recorded two top-tens in the sprints last year.

Prediction: They’ll no doubt always be prominent in breakaways, but they’ll have to be very lucky to win.

Bora Hansgrohe

Embed from Getty Images

Cesare Benedetti (Ita), Maciej Bodnar (Pol), Matteo Fabbro (Ita), Patrick Gamper (Aut), Patrick Konrad (Aut), Rafal Majka (Pol), Pawel Poljanski (Pol), Peter Sagan (Svk).

Peter Sagan (pictured) finally makes his Giro debut, after a disappointing Tour de France that saw him unable to take the green jersey for the first time (barring 2017). With a mountainous parcours, and a comparatively weaker sprint field than at the Tour, he is in a good place to notch up a stage victory or two, as well as the Points Classification. That is, if he can rediscover top form. He is without a win since the 2019 Tour. Elsewhere, Rafal Majka is always there or thereabouts, but has always struggled to achieve much better than a top-ten in a Grand Tour. Maciej Bodnar should do well in the time trials.

Prediction: The Points Classification and a stage for Sagan.

CCC Team (Pol)

Embed from Getty Images

Josef Cerny (Cze), Víctor de la Parte (Spa), Kamil Gradek (Pol), Pavel Kochetkov (Rus), Kamil Malecki (Pol), Joey Rosskopf (US), Attila Valter (Hun), Ilnur Zakarin (Rus).

CCC desperately need something to cheer about this year, after a torrid season where their only real success has been in the Tour de Hongrie. The winner of which (Attila Valter) will make his Grand Tour debut here. Ilnur Zakarin (pictured) was their best hopes of a stage win at the Tour, but his poor descending skills let him down. He won’t have good memories of the Giro either; crashing out horrifically on stage 19 in 2016. He did take a stage win in both 2015 and 2019 however. He’ll hope to repeat this feat this year.

Prediction: a stage win for Zakarin is doable, but they’ll need to race aggressively.

Cofidis Solutions Crédits

Embed from Getty Images

Simone Consonni (Ita), Nicolas Edet (Fra), Nathan Haas (Aus), Jesper Hansen (Den), Mathias Le Turnier (Fra), Stéphane Rossetto (Fra), Kenneth Vanbilsen (Bel), Elia Viviani (Ita).

The Tour de France stalwarts finally return to the Giro after a ten year absence. They’ll be hoping to feature in the sprint stages; Elia Viviani (pictured) will want to redeem himself after an anonymous Tour and a 2020 season without a single victory. He has a great chance to take what would be a sixth Giro stage victory here, and will be motivated to perform on home soil. Otherwise, Nicolas Edet will be active in mountain breakaways, but he’s had a very slow return to form since racing has resumed.

Prediction: Viviani is in a good place to rescue a torrid season.

Deceuninck-Quick Step

Embed from Getty Images

Joao Almeida (Por), Davide Ballerini (Ita), Alvaro Hodeg (Col), Mikkel Frolich Honoré (Den), Iljo Keisse (Bel), James Knox (GB), Fausto Masnada (Ita), Pieter Serry (Bel).

Stage wins are the goal for the ever-successful Belgian squad, although they do possess two top-ten contenders overall in James Knox and Fausto Masnada, the latter making a mid-season transfer from CCC. He recently finished sixth at Tirenno Adriatico, and won stage six of the Giro last year. Davide Ballerini provides an option for the sprints, winning the final stage of the Tour of Poland. Their strongest fast man however is Alvaro Hodeg; he won seven races last year, although is without a victory this year.

Prediction: they lack the strength seen in most of their other Grand Tour squads, but Hodeg should be capable of a stage win.

EF Pro Cycling

Embed from Getty Images

Sean Bennett (US), Jonathan Caicedo (Ecu), Simon Clarke (Aus), Lawson Craddock (US), Ruben Guerreiro (Por), Tanel Kangert (Est), Lachlan Morton (Aus), James Whelan (Aus).

Having sent their main GC riders to the Tour, EF bring a young team of opportunists to seek out stage wins. Simon Clarke (pictured) has seen success here before; holding the pink jersey for a day in 2015 having won the team time trial. The Australian hasn’t raced too much this year, but won the Royal Bernard Drome Classic in March. Tanel Kangert is a solid climber on his day, as is Ecuadorian champion Jonathan Caicedo, who was third at Tour Columbia 2.1 in February.

Prediction: I can’t see the EF riders being able to challenge for a stage victory; most of their riders will ride to gain experience.

Groupama-FDJ

Embed from Getty Images

Arnaud Démare (Fra), Kilian Frankiny (Swi), Jacopo Guarnieri (Ita), Simon Guglielmi (Fra), Ignatas Konovalovas (Ltu), Miles Scotson (Aus), Ramon Sinkeldam (Hol), Benjamin Thomas (Fra).

The French squad will be hoping for better fortune in Italy than their homeland, where once again Pinot cracked at the Tour. Thankfully for them, they bring sprinter Arnaud Démare (pictured), who has been on fire since racing restarted. He’s notched up ten wins already, including the French national championships and Milano-Torino. Benjamin Thomas will be hoping to feature against the clock.

Prediction: On paper, Démare is the strongest sprinter on the start list. Anything less than at least one stage win will be a disappointment.

Ineos Grenadiers

Embed from Getty Images

Jonathan Castroviejo (Spa), Rohan Dennis (Aus), Filippo Ganna (Ita), Tao Geoghegan Hart (GB), Jhonatan Narváez (Col), Salvatore Puccio (Ita), Ben Swift (Team Sky), Geraint Thomas (GB).

Ineos bring a genuine contender for the pink jersey in Geraint Thomas (pictured), who is back with a vengeance having missed out on riding the Tour. His form has improved drastically since, finishing a close second to compatriot Simon Yates at Tirreno. He can count on his excellent time trialling ability to put time into the pure climbers. Although not as strong as the Tour squad, Ineos bring strong mountain support in Jonathan Castroviejo and Tao Geoghegan Hart. With newly-crowned time trial World Champion Filippo Ganna, as well as 2018 and 2019 champion Rohan Dennis on the team, they are also well-placed to win all three time trial stages.

Prediction: Thomas has a real chance of winning the race; all he needs to do is mark Yates in the mountains and then put substantial time into him in the time trials.

Israel Start-up Nation

Embed from Getty Images

Rudy Barbier (Fra), Matthias Brändle (Aut), Alexander Cataford (Can), Davide Cimolai (Ita), Alex Dowsett (GB), Daniel Navarro (Spa), Guy Sagiv (Isr), Rick Zabel (Ger).

This is the third Giro for the Israeli team, who enjoyed three stages in their native country to start the 2018 edition. Davide Cimolai and Rudy Barbier will hope to challenge in the sprints, Barbier having recorded several top-ten results this year, and two wins in San Juan and Slovakia. Cimolai has always been knocking on the door of a Giro stage win, but hasn’t managed it yet. Time trial specialist Alex Dowsett (pictured) won a stage in 2013, but beating the likes of Ganna and Dennis will be hard.

Prediction: Their riders are more outsiders than solid favourites for stage wins, but don’t write off Dowsett or Cimolai.

Jumbo-Visma

Embed from Getty Images

Koen Bouwman (Hol), Tobias Foss (Nor), Chris Harper (Aus), Steven Kruijswijk (Hol), Tony Martin (Ger), Christoph Pfingsten (Ger), Antwan Tolhoek (Hol), Jos van Emden (Hol).

Steven Kruijswijk (pictured) returns to the Giro for the first time since 2017, and many will remember the 2016 edition when he tragically crashed on stage 19 whilst holding a commanding GC lead, handing it to Vincenzo Nibali. He was meant to ride the Tour before a crash at the Critérium du Dauphiné ruled him out. His form is an unknown, having not raced since then. His only other race was the Tour de l’Ain, where he finished fourth. His team lack the climbing talent of the Tour squad; it’s unlikely we’ll see them patrolling the peloton from the front here.

Prediction: hard to call as Kruijswijk has not raced for six weeks, but if he can rediscover his form that landed him on the podium at the Tour last year, he can hope for similar results here.

Lotto-Soudal

Embed from Getty Images

Sander Armee (Bel), Thomas De Gendt (Bel), Jon Dibben (GB), Carl Fredrik Hagen (Nor), Adam Hansen (Aus), Matthew Holmes (GB), Stefano Oldani (Ita), Harm Vanhoucke (Bel).

Stage wins will once again be the goal for the Belgian team, although don’t discount Norwegian Carl Frederick Hagen for the GC. He took a surprise eight place overall at the Vuelta last year. He hasn’t demonstrated the form necessary to repeat such a feat in 2020 though. Thomas de Gendt (pictured) will hope to make amends from a quiet Tour, where he couldn’t replicate 2019’s stage victory. Keep an eye on Briton Matt Holmes as well; he beat Richie Porte to win the Willunga Hill stage at the Tour Down Under in January.

Prediction; Thomas de Gendt should be able to pick up a stage win, and could challenge for the Mountains Classification. The Giro parcours are suited to his riding style.

Mitchelton-Scott

Embed from Getty Images

Edoardo Affini (Ita), Brent Bookwalter (US), Jack Haig (Aus), Lucas Hamilton (Aus), Michael Hepburn (Aus), Damien Howson (Aus), Cameron Meyer (Aus), Simon Yates (GB).

Briton Simon Yates returns to try and take the pink jersey he was so agonisingly close to winning in 2018, collapsing in spectacular fashion on stage 19. He rode last year’s edition as well, but could only manage eight. Having finished third in Poland and won Tirreno, Yates has had the perfect build-up, and counts on a strong team of climbers including Damien Howson and Jack Haig, the latter finishing tenth at Tirreno. Yates will need his climbing ability from the 2018 edition if he wants to challenge Thomas for the overall victory, as he will undoubtedly lose time in the time trials.

Prediction: It will be a very close battle between Thomas and Yates; I think the time trialling could be Yates’s downfall.

Movistar

Embed from Getty Images

Héctor Carretero (Spa), Dario Cataldo (Spa), Antonio Pedrero (Spa), Einer Rubio (Col), Sergio Samitier (Spa), Eduardo Sepúlveda (Arg), Albert Torres (Spa), Davide Villella (Ita).

Still, Movistar are with just one victory in 2020, and it seems unlikely that they can better that at the Giro. They certainly won’t be challenging for the pink jersey that they won with Richard Carapaz last year, who has since moved to Ineos. With their best riders having ridden the Tour, they’ve been left to pick up the pieces and bring a fairly average team. Dario Cataldo (pictured) is their best shot at a victory; winning stage 15 last year. Héctor Carretero won the Mountains jersey at Tirreno, and will be aiming to repeat that at the Giro.

Prediction: It’s hard to see anyone other than Cataldo challenging for a stage win.

NTT Pro Cycling

Embed from Getty Images

Victor Campenaerts (Bel), Amanuel Gebreigzabhier (Eri), Louis Meintjes (SA), Ben O’Connor (Aus), Domenico Pozzovivo (Ita), Matteo Sobrero (Ita), Dylan Sunderland (Aus), Danilo Wyss (Swi).

On paper, this is a fairly decent team. But then, NTT’s Grand Tour teams often are; they just struggle to get results. They’re without a GT stage win since the 2018 Vuelta. They have some credible options this year though. Victor Campenaerts (pictured) is always there or thereabouts in the time trials, finishing second at the final Tirreno one, and most recently eighth at the World Championships. Louis Meintjes used to promise a lot in GTs, but hasn’t finished in the top ten in one since the 2017 Tour. Ben O’Connor won a stage of the Etoile de Bessèges in February, and could feature in mountain breakaways.

Prediction: I just can’t see any NTT riders being able to beat other established climbers or breakaway specialists.

Sunweb

Embed from Getty Images

Nico Denz (Ger), Chad Haga (US), Chris Hamilton (Aus), Jai Hindley (Aus), Wilco Kelderman (Hol), Michael Matthews (Aus), Sam Oomen (Hol), Martijn Tusveld (Hol).

After a fantastic Tour, Sunweb will hope to carry their momentum into Italy. In Michael Matthews (pictured) they have a genuine contender for the Points Classification, as well as the tougher sprint stages; he won Bretagne Classic – Ouest-France, and was seventh at the World Championship road race. He will be extra motivated after the disappointment of missing out on selection for the Tour. Wilco Kelderman is a solid time trialist and likes the longer climbs. His consistency could be enough for a top five. Chad Haga will be hoping for good results in the time trials, having won stage 21 against the clock last year.

Prediction: it should be an interesting fight for the purple jersey between Matthews and Sagan; Kelderman can achieve a top-five GC position.

Trek-Segafredo

Embed from Getty Images

Julien Bernard (Fra), Gianluca Brambilla (Ita), Giulio Ciccone (Ita), Nicola Conci (Ita), Jacopo Mosca (Ita), Antonio Nibali (Ita), Vincenzo Nibali (Ita), Pieter Weening (Hol).

This is one of the strongest GT teams that Trek have yet fielded. They’re all in to support a bid for a third Maglia Rosa for Vincenzo Nibali (pictured). He’s been fairly quiet since racing resumed; he was anonymous at Tirenno, but he often has a quiet build up to a Grand Tour. Three time trials will be a concern, but even if his GC bid fails he can always be relied upon to animate the race when we least expect it. The same goes for Guilio Ciccone. He hasn’t raced a stage race this summer, but did take fifth at Il Lombardia. He’ll be hoping to repeat his stage win, and possibly his mountains jersey victory, from last year.

Prediction: Nibali’s GT winning days are gone, but third place seems likely.

UAE Team Emirates

Embed from Getty Images

Mikkel Bjerg (Den), Valerio Conti (Ita), Joe Dombrowski (US), Fernando Gaviria (Col), Brandon McNulty (US), Juan Sebastián Molano (Col), Maximiliano Richeze (Arg), Diego Ulissi (Ita).

They won’t be able to repeat their Tour-winning exploits here, but UAE bring a varied mix of riders capable of winning stages on all terrains. Fernando Gaviria (pictured) will pair up with trusted lead-out man Max Richeze for the sprints; he took a stage last year and recently won the Giro della Toscana, so the form is there. Diego Ulissi always performs well here, having won six stages, whilst Valerio Conti spent six days in pink last year. Young Brandon McNulty will be one to watch as well; he was seventh in Andalucia and fourth overall in San Juan earlier this year.

Prediction: the likes of Gaviria and Ulissi should make this a succsseful, several stage-winning Giro squad.

Vini Zabu-KTM

Embed from Getty Images

Lorenzo Fortunato (Ita), Marco Frapporti (Ita), Lorenzo Rota (Ita), Matteo Spreafico (Ita), Etienne van Empel (Hol), Giovanni Visconti (Ita), Luca Wackermann (Ita), Edoardo Zardini (Ita).

The third and final Pro-Continental team on the start list, Vini Zabu bring a mix of young riders and veterans. Giovanni Visconti (pictured) headlines, although he has shown little in terms of good form this year, barring the odd top-ten. Tour de Limousin winner Luca Wackermann starts, and will hope to feature in the sprints.

Prediction: It will be a struggle for this team to get results; they’ll be active in breakaways but little more.

Tour de France: Rating the Teams

Featured image courtesy of Tim de Waele/Getty Images

Who were the winners, and who flopped, in the 107th Tour de France?

AG2R La Mondiale.

Embed from Getty Images

A dismal General Classification (GC) campaign saw both French favourites Romain Bardet and Pierre Latour abandon, the former in worrying circumstances as it emerged that he had ridden much of stage 13 with a brain haemorrhage. He had been lying in fourth before dropping to eleventh; Bardet had a real chance of reaching the podium this year. They don’t leave the race with nothing however, Frenchman Nans Peters won the first serious mountain test on stage 8 to Loudenvielle. Benoit Cosnefroy also held the King of the Mountains (KOM) jersey for much of the race, but lost it on stage 17.

Rating: 3/5

Astana Pro Team.

Embed from Getty Images

With two stage wins, this was a fairly successful Tour for the Kazakh outfit. Alexey Lutsenko took stage six to Mont Aigoual, whilst Miguel Angel Lopez gave Columbian fans something to cheer about from this year’s Tour by outclimbing the other GC favourites to win stage 17 on the Col de la Loze. The squad will be disappointed that Lopez could not defend his third place overall on stage 20; a miserable time trial saw him plummet to sixth place. Nevertheless, this is still a notable achievement for the Tour debutant.

Rating: 4/5

Bahrain McLaren.

Embed from Getty Images

Basque rider Mikel Landa secured fourth place overall, his joint-best finish in the Tour alongside 2017. A painfully average TT ride on stage 20 and losing 20 seconds to Trek’s Richie Porte on stage 17, as well as 10 on stage 15, prevented him from achieving that elusive podium position. He can take encouragement from the strength of his team however, they appeared to be the only ones capable of challenging Jumbo-Visma in terms of numbers. It’s a shame Wout Poels crashed on the first stage, he would have been useful earlier on. Damiano Caruso also achieved 10th place, his best Tour result yet. A stage win was a realistic goal, but they failed on that front.

Rating: 3.5/5

B&B Hotels-Vital Concept.

Embed from Getty Images

It’s always tough for Pro-Continental outfits to compete for victories at the Tour, and this year was no exception for the French outfit, based around sprinter Bryan Coquard. He was consistent, achieving top-ten podium positions, but could not convert any into a victory. The closest he came was third on stage seven. Elsewhere, Pierre Rolland was active in mountain breakaways, but couldn’t do any better than winning the Combativity Award on stage 15, although he did finish second on stage 12. Quentin Pacher also rode aggressively, achieving three top-tens. An overall average performance from the Tour debutants.

Rating: 2/5

Bora-Hansgrohe.

Embed from Getty Images

It wasn’t to be for any of the team’s GC riders, with all still suffering from pre-Tour injuries sustained from the Criterium du Dauphiné and Il Lombardia. Their Points Classification challenge also failed; Peter Sagan was simply not on top form in this edition, and was a distant second to Sam Bennett in the fight for the green jersey. No stage win(s) for the Slovak this time around, the first time since the 2015 Tour he has failed to do so. Young German Lennard Kämna was able to rescue their Tour, and his aggression in the final week paid off with a victory on stage 16, to add to his stage win in the Dauphiné. One to keep a close eye on.

Rating: 3/5

CCC Team.

Embed from Getty Images

Whilst they were ever-present in breakaways, a stage win never materialised, as CCC had a low-key final Tour, assuming the team folds as predicted at the end of year. Ilnur Zakarin came close on stage eight, but his notoriously unreliable descending skills ultimately cost him. He abandoned on stage 12. Matteo Trentin was often visible in the sprints, finishing third in the points classification, but this year’s route wasn’t especially well-suited to him, or Greg Van Avermaet. A spirited performance, but ultimately they have nothing to show for it.

Rating: 2/5

Cofidis.

Embed from Getty Images

On paper they were well-placed to claim their first Tour stage win since 2006 with new signing Elia Viviani. He was almost nowhere to be seen however, and you’d be forgiven for forgetting he was in the race at all. Fourth on stage ten was the best he could manage, his win-less year continues. Viviani is yet another sprinter to have worsened since leaving QuickStep, although the strict lockdown measures in his native Italy surely played a part. Elsewhere, they will take some comfort from the success of young Guillaume Martin. He finished 11th overall, after falling from third having weakened towards the end of the race. Another one to watch in the future.

Rating: 2.5/5

Deceuninck-Quick Step.

Embed from Getty Images

Always successful at the Tour, the Belgian outfit took three stages courtesy of Sam Bennett and Julian Alaphilippe. Bennett also took the green jersey thanks to his consistency in the intermediate sprints. Alaphilippe took an emotional victory in Nice on stage two, dedicating it to his late father. He might have expected a little more, he looked weak in the third week and was frequently dropped from breakaways. He was nowhere near the thick-end of the GC action either, unlike last year when he was fifth overall. Zdenek Stybar and Bob Jungels might have been wanting their own glory as well, but three stage wins is hardly a failure.

Rating: 4/5

EF Pro Cycling.

Embed from Getty Images

A mixed bag for the American squad. Coming into the race they had three riders capable of challenging for a high GC placing in Sergio Higuita, Rigoberto Uran, and Dauphiné winner Dani Martinez. Higuita never looked in good form, and eventually crashed out on stage 15. Uran was in third place coming into the final week, but failed to sustain his form to the end of the race, losing time on stages 18 and 20 to put him eighth overall. Martinez compensated for their failed GC campaign with a win on stage 13. Neilson Powless and Alberto Bettiol were also frequently present in breakaways. With no stage victories since 2017, they can be fairly happy with their results.

Rating: 3.5/5

Groupama-FDJ.

Embed from Getty Images

Once again, Thibaut Pinot cracked and shed a huge chunk of time to put him out of GC contention as early as stage eight. He has since hinted that his GC days are over. That set the tone for the remainder of the race for the French team, Rudy Molard abandoned on stage 16 and at no point did any of their other riders look capable of challenging for a stage win. They were only ever visible thanks to Sébastien Reichenbach’s striking Swiss national champion jersey (which did manage third on stage 16). Leaving in-form sprinter Arnaud Démare at home proved to be a huge mistake.

Rating: 1/5

Israel Start-Up Nation.

Embed from Getty Images

Little was expected of Tour debutants ISN. They hardly had any impact on the GC, or indeed any stages. Dan Martin had a dreadful Tour, finishing 41st overall and never finishing stage higher than 11th; a broken sacrum at the Dauphiné hampered his race. André Greipel was largely absent from sprint finishes, barring a sixth place on stage ten. His stage-winning days seem over. Hugo Hofstetter managed top-tens on stages three, five, seven, 11 and 21; the Frenchman was the only consistent performer in a debut Tour to forget. Next year will see a completely different look to the team, as they welcome Chris Froome in his attempt for a record-equalling fifth title.

Rating: 2/5

Lotto-Soudal.

Embed from Getty Images

The Belgian squad could not have got off to a worse start than on stage one, when John Degenkolb finished outside of the time cut, and Philippe Gilbert was forced to abandon prior to stage two with a broken kneecap. They were able to regather themselves however, and delivered Australian Caleb Ewan to two stage wins. He wasn’t quite as dominant as in last year’s race, perhaps hindered by the loss of Degenkolb as his final lead-out man, but he won’t be disappointed with his results. Thomas de Gendt was aggressive as usual, but was unable to match the stronger climbers in mountain breakaways.

Rating: 3.5/5

Mitchelton-Scott.

Embed from Getty Images

Adam Yates’s spell in the yellow jersey will be the highlight for the Australian team, who last wore the maillot jaune in 2013 with Daryl Impey. Yates was never quite able to match the pace of the other GC contenders however, and could only hold the jersey from stage five to nine. It was a quiet Tour from then on; Yates eventually had to settle for ninth overall. Basque climber Mikel Nieve abandoned; he is usually a good pick for a mountain stage win. Luka Mezgec sprinted to second on stages 14 and 19, which were the only other highlights for the team.

Rating: 3/5

Movistar Team.

Embed from Getty Images

It’s hard to define Movistar’s performance in this year’s Tour. Perhaps a ‘could do better’ for the Spanish squad, whose relationship with the Tour has been a rocky one. After an inauspicious start, Enric Mas eventually snuck into fifth place, thanks to a strong third week and a surprisingly good time trial. Elsewhere, it looks like Alejandro Valverde’s best days are finally behind him (he is 40, bare in mind), whilst Marc Soler proved hugely disappointing, finishing only 21st overall. The ‘Trident’ strategy yielded little, barring yet another Team Classification victory. The team seemed to lack focus somewhat, having lost Landa and Quintana to other teams. The lack of a stage victory will also be a huge disappointment; Movistar have just one win in 2020.

Rating: 2.5/5

NTT Pro Cycling Team.

Embed from Getty Images

A team that lacked coherence, NTT (formerly Dimension Data) were largely invisible throughout the Tour. The abandon of Giacomo Nizzolo was frustrating; he finished third on stage one and would have fancied his chances in the remaining sprints. The remaining sprinters were simply unable to match the power of Ewan and Bennett, whilst Domenico Pozzovivo also abandoned, eliminating any chance of a mountain stage victory. The likes of Michael Valgren and Roman Kreuziger looked like mere shadows of their former selves.

Rating: 1/5

Team Arkea-Samsic.

Embed from Getty Images

Until stage 15, it looked like Nairo Quintana was finally rolling back the years and in a great position to challenge for the Tour podium. However, he succumbed to injuries from the same crash that ended Bardet’s Tour, and was dropped early on the Grand Colombier alongside compatriot Egan Bernal. They achieved nothing of note, and Frenchman Warren Barguil could not recapture the form that saw him win two stages in 2017. The news that the team are being investigated for a potential doping violation makes this a dreadful start to Quintana’s career with Arkea.

Rating: 1/5

Team Ineos-Grenadiers.

Embed from Getty Images

Having won seven of the previous eight editions of the Tour prior to 2020, anything less than another yellow jersey on the shoulders of Egan Bernal would prove to be a disappointment. Indeed, it turned out to be worse than mere disappointment: Bernal completely collapsed on stage 15 and abandoned prior to stage 17. Bernal just did not have the same smoothness that saw him fly up the Alpine climbs last year, and visibly struggled to match any attacks from other GC contenders. The team as a unit also looked weak; they never looked capable of challenging the stranglehold on the peloton that Jumbo-Visma held. Their ended ended on a more positive note though; Michal Kwiatkowski finally took a Grand Tour stage victory on stage 18.

Rating: 2/5

Team Jumbo-Visma.

Embed from Getty Images

Such was the Dutch outfit’s control on the race from the start, many assumed the GC was finished as soon as Primož Roglič won stage four’s uphill test to Orcières-Merlette. From then on, there never appeared to be any danger of the Slovenian losing his lead, despite the ever-aggressive Tadej Pogacar beating him on stages nine and 15. Roglič seemed to have all-but secured victory when he finally outclimbed Pogacar on stage 17’s summit finish on the Col de la Loze. With a time trial to come, Roglič was expected to cruise to victory in his favoured discipline. He would never have predicted that Pogacar would put in one of the performances of the decade, overturning a 57-second deficit into a 59-second lead. Still, three stage wins (two from superstar all-rounder Wout Van Aert) gives them something to cheer about.

Rating: 3.5/5

Team Sunweb.

Embed from Getty Images

I wrongly thought before the race that Sunweb would struggle to feature on any stages, with what appeared to be a fairly muddled roster with no GC options. Immediately I was proved wrong with Marc Hirschi’s narrow second place on stage 2, followed by a heart-breaking defeat on stage nine when he was caught just kilometres from the finish and then outsprinted by a select GC group. His perseverance finally paid off on stage 12, taking a solo win into Sarran. Dane Søren Kragh Andersen took two breakaway stage wins, one on stage 19 where he caught an elite sprinters’ group napping on a lumpy finish into Champagnole. His win on stage 14 was a tactical masterclass from Sunweb, who used several riders to shut down every attack on the final climb, leaving Andersen to attack over the top.

Rating: 4.5/5

Total Direct Energie.

Embed from Getty Images

With 2017 stage-winner Lilian Calmejane abandoning early on, it was always going to be tough for the French Pro-Continental Team to notch up a victory. Sprinter Niccolò Bonifazio underperformed after a good start to 2020, faring no better than tenth on stage three. Fabien Grellier took the KOM jersey on the first stage, but couldn’t defend it for any longer. As always, they animated nearly every breakaway out there, but nothing ever came of it.

Rating: 2/5

Trek-Segafredo.

Embed from Getty Images

Whilst not looking too strong on paper, Trek can be more than happy with their third place on GC with Australian Richie Porte, his best-ever result in a Grand Tour after several leadership roles blighted by crashes and bad luck, and the best finish by an Australian rider since Cadel Evans won in 2011. All the more impressive that he lost 81 seconds to the other GC favourites on stage seven’s crosswind chaos. One of the best time trials of Porte’s career sealed the deal. World Champion Mads Pedersen was always there or thereabouts, with two second places and two more top-tens; he’ll be a little disappointed he couldn’t turn any of these into a victory

Rating: 4/5

UAE Team Emirates.

Embed from Getty Images

After a somewhat surprising victory on the first stage for Alexander Kristoff, UAE would never have predicted that it would only get better from there. Tadej Pogacar first announced his intentions on stage eight, taking nearly 40 seconds from the other GC favourites. He followed this up with a stage win the next day, followed by yet another on the Grand Colombier on stage 15. He lost time on stage 17, and everyone assumed that the race was now firmly in Roglič’s grasp. They assumed wrong, and a career-defining ride in the final time trial shocked the cycling world, taking nearly two minutes out of Roglič and becoming the youngest winner of the Tour since 1904.

Rating: 5/5

Tour de France: Five Key Takeaways From the Final Week

Featured image courtesy of Kenzo Tribouillard/Getty Images

In what proved to be one of the most dramatic ends to a Grand Tour in recent history, Slovenian youngster Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team-Emirates) took a shock victory in his debut Tour de France. Here’s a breakdown of the key events that defined the third and final week of La Grande Boucle.

Pogacar Demolishes Time Trial to Overhaul Roglič

Pogacar came into his debut Tour for ‘experience’ as opposed to being a genuine General Classification (GC) contender. Few expected Pogacar to make the top five, even fewer the podium.

Embed from Getty Images

Practically no-one predicted that the Slovenian would be on the top step of the podium after stage 20’s time trial. The 21-year old produced what will go down as one of the most memorable performances in Tour history, overcoming several noted time-triallists on a flat course with a hilltop finish to La Planche des Belles Filles.

Pogacar took a whopping 1:21 out of second-placed Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo-Visma), and nearly two minutes out of yellow jersey holder Primoz Roglič. Just 9 riders finished within three minutes of his time.

At the first intermediate time check, Pogacar was thirteen seconds up on compatriot Roglič. This became 36 seconds at the second check before the climb.

Many expected that Pogacar had gone out too hard, and that Roglič had measured his effort perfectly in view of the tough 5.9km climb to come.

The opposite was true however, and Pogacar continued to stretch out his advantage all the way to the finish line, in what many will argue was the most thrilling end to a Tour for years.

Incredibly, this was just Pogacar’s third TT victory, and the first besides the Slovenian national championships.

Pogacar becomes the youngest winner of the Tour since 1904, and joins a select group of riders to have won it on their debut, including Fausto Coppi, Jacques Anquetil, Eddy Merckx, and Bernard Hinault.

Roglič Falls at the Last Hurdle

When the 2019 Vuelta a Espana winner won stage four to Orcières-Merlette, many assumed that that would set the tone for the rest of the race, with Roglič cruising to victory thanks to a menacingly-strong Jumbo-Visma team, as well as his noted TT skills.

Roglič never put a foot wrong, and when he extended his lead on the ferociously difficult Col de La Loze on stage 17, the race seemed like a done deal.

The TT was expected to be a formality, with Roglič’s noted ability against the clock that saw him win two time trial stages at last year’s Giro, and one at the Vuelta, hold firm against Pogacar.

That was until Roglič began the climb to La Planche des Belles Filles. His usual silk-smooth cadence and fluid position on the bike was replaced by ugly, erratic efforts in and out of the saddle, as he struggled to find his rhythm.

Embed from Getty Images

Even his helmet was not fitted correctly, and a ragged bike change at the foot of the climb cost him even more seconds. That incident counted for little however; Roglič was roundly beaten, crossing the line dejectedly in fifth place.

Roglič will be looking back and wondering whether he could have put more time into Pogacar in the mountains, although such was his collapse on stage 20, as well as Pogacar’s two stage wins, he can’t protest that he was simply beaten by a stronger rider.

Porte Secures Career-Best Grand Tour Finish

Finally, after years of working as a domestique at Team Sky and a string of failed Grand Tour leadership attempts, Australian Richie Porte (Trek-Segafredo) secured his place on the podium in his best-ever result in a Grand Tour.

Despite lying in sixth after stage 15, Porte was able to move up to fourth on stage 17, outclimbing all except Roglič, Pogacar, and stage winner Miguel Angel Lopez (Astana Pro Team), who was almost two minutes ahead in third.

Embed from Getty Images

Rolling back the years, Porte put in a mesmerising ride on stage 20 to finish third, level with Dumoulin, whose ride was enough to secure seventh overall.

Meanwhile, Lopez had a day to forget, finishing in 45th and over six minutes down on the winner, helping catapult Porte into third place on GC. The Columbian will need to make serious improvements to his TT ability if he is to challenge for a GT win.

For Porte, his podium finish will be an emotional result in the twilight of his career, at his final Tour in a leadership role (assuming the rumours he has signed to Ineos Grenadiers prove to be true).

Away from the podium, Mikel Landa (Bahrain McLaren) and Rigoberto Uran (EF Education-First) also fell foul of a poor TT, leaving them minutes off of third place. Landa records another fourth place, his joint-best position at the Tour alongside the 2017 edition. Uran could only manage eighth overall, having been in third after stage 15.

Spaniard Enric Mas gave Movistar something to cheer about for once; a surprisingly-good TT and a strong third week took him to fifth place. They once again take home the Team Classification prize, as they did in four of the previous five editions.

Bernal Abandons as Ineos Grenadiers Refocus.

Defending champion Egan Bernal did not start on stage 17, after the Columbian’s collapse on stage 15 and continuing problems with knee and back pain.

For the first time since 2014, the Ineos Grenadiers (formerly Team Sky) rolled onto the Champs Elysees on the final stage without the Tour winner in their squad.

Whilst the team’s staff scratch their heads and refocus on next year’s race, the remainder of the team’s riders sought to salvage their race and look for stage wins.

2019 Giro winner Richard Carapaz came close on stages 16 and 17; finishing second on the former and being the last man standing from the breakaway until the final kilometres of the latter.

Stage 18 finally gave the British squad the victory they were after, with the duo of Carapaz and the ever-reliable Michal Kwiatkowski riding away from the large breakaway group, leaving them alone from the Hors Categorie Plateau des Glières.

Embed from Getty Images

The pair rode together arm-in-arm across the line, with Kwiatkowski taking (surprisingly) his first GT stage win as a reward for his domestique duties since helping Froome win his fourth Tour title in 2017.

Carapaz took the King of the Mountains jersey as well, but was unable to prevent Pogacar from taking it back on stage 20. He finished second in that competition.

Bennett Secures Green with Emphatic Champs-Élysées victory

2020 proved to be the first edition of the Tour de France that Peter Sagan (Bora-Hansgrohe) has finished and not won the Points Classification. The Slovakian also failed to win a stage for the first time since 2015.

This left Irishman Sam Bennett (Deceuninck-QuickStep) to take his first green jersey, becoming the second Irish national to do so after Sean Kelley took his fourth and final maillot vert in 1989.

Embed from Getty Images

Coming into the third week with a 45-point lead over Sagan, Bennett was able to survive the mountain stages and compete for the remaining intermediate sprint points, where he was able to overcome Sagan each time.

By the start of the final stage, Bennett had all but secured the jersey, and a dream Tour culminated with an emphatic victory on the Champs-Élysées to add to his stage win on stage 10 to Île de Ré, beating World Champion Mads Pedersen (Trek) and Sagan himself.

For Sagan, he is still without a win since the 2019 Tour, and will be wanting to forget this edition as soon as possible.

Tour de France: Five Key Takeaways From the Second Week

Featured image courtesy of Tim de Waele/Getty Images

With the first serious mountain stages now behind us, the General Classification (GC) battle continues to unravel, with Primoz Roglič in control in front of an aggressive Tadej Pogacar knocking at the yellow jersey’s door. Let’s examine the main events from the second week of La Grande Boucle.

A Two-Horse Race?

Embed from Getty Images

It’s been rare in the past few editions of the Tour to have more than one rider still capable of taking the overall victory at this stage of the race; we’ve been used to Chris Froome or Geraint Thomas holding a commanding lead well before the second rest day.

But here we have a fascinating scenario unfolding between Jumbo-Visma’s Primoz Roglič and the ever-aggressive Tadej Pogacar of UAE Team Emirates

Few predicted Pogacar to challenge for the overall win before the race, but the youngster will be evermore confident after taking a second mountain stage win on stage 15, where he used his fast finishing kick to overcome Roglič once again.

Roglič still leads, albeit by a slender 40 seconds. He is yet to drop Pogacar in the mountains, something he will want to rectify on stage 17’s summit finish on the Col de la Loze. Otherwise, he will have to count on his noted time-trialling skills, although his defeat at the hands of Pogacar at the Slovenian national time trial championships will surely worry him.

He will be encouraged by Pogacar’s lack of a strong team however, he only has David de la Cruz and Jan Polanc for support in the mountains, and has been frequently isolated. Not that this has proved detrimental in any way yet…

Fini for Bernal

Egan Bernal’s attempt to defend his Tour de France title came to a sudden end on stage 15, losing over seven minutes after he was dropped 13km from the end of the ascent of the Colombier. He now lies a distant 13th in the GC.

There were several doubts over Bernal’s form coming into the Tour due to his abandonment from the Criterium du Dauphiné with a back injury.

Bernal refused to use this as an excuse however, conceding that he simply ‘did not have the legs’ in a post-stage interview with ITV, and conceding that other riders were simply stronger.

Embed from Getty Images

A simple ‘jour sans’ seems an odd reason however, he has hardly looked his best in any of the mountain stages. He just barely held on in the first week, and lost over 30 seconds to Roglič and Pogacar on stage 13’s steep final ascent to Puy Mary.

The Ineos Grenadiers will be scratching their heads as to why their prime contender could have failed so dramatically, given how famous the team are for never putting a foot wrong at the Tour.

Is there an illness within the team, or have they been hampered by the Coronavirus lockdown restrictions, disrupting normal training and racing regimes? Nonetheless, such a huge time loss is surely indicative of a deep-rooted issue.

Jumbo-Visma Dominate as Ineos Grenadiers Crumble

Any hopes that the days of one team controlling entire mountain stages from the front were quickly dashed this week, with the strength of Jumbo-Visma easily neutralising attacks and putting Roglič in a prime position whenever needed.

Nowhere else was this more evident than on the Grand Colombier on stage 15. The Dutch outfit began the 17.4km test with six riders, far outnumbering any other team.

Attacking from the group of favourites proved impossible due to the pace set, indeed just one rider attempted to in the form of Adam Yates, who was swiftly reeled back in.

Embed from Getty Images

Worth noting though is that the time gaps were not huge; it was customary for Team Sky in their heyday to simply drop every other rival and leave Froome to attack. Jumbo-Visma were more akin to a sprinter’s lead-out train, setting up Roglič for his customary late sprint to the line (although again he could not overcome Pogacar).

The Ineos Grenadiers were left for dust, with the usually-reliable Dylan Van Baarle and Andrey Amador dropped very early on, quickly joined by Pavel Sivakov and Richard Carapaz. Bernal was left with just Jonathan Castroviejo and Michal Kwiatkowski to painfully shepherd him to the finish.

This Tour has proved a disaster for the British squad, and serious questions will be asked of their preparations for the race, given how high the level of expectation is for them the Tour, and rightly so.

Questions will also be asked of their team selection: Geraint Thomas currently lies third overall at Tirreno-Adriatico, and likely would have proved far more reliable than much of the Tour squad.

One must also ask whether it is time to completely revamp the Ineos Tour de France team; a roster with an in-form Ivan Sosa, Eddie Dunbar, Tao Geoghegan-Hart and Jhonatan Narvaez would surely be more than capable of supporting Bernal.

Sam Bennett Tightens Hold on Green.

Embed from Getty Images

Finally, it looks like the green jersey could change hands this year, after a run of poor form has left Peter Sagan unable to take a decisive lead in the Points Classification, something he has managed with ease since 2012 (barring his disqualification in 2017).

On stage 10, Bennett became just the sixth Irishman to win a Tour de France stage, beating Caleb Ewan and Sagan. With it, he reclaimed the green jersey, and was able to strengthen his lead on stage 11 with a second-place finish. Unfortunately this was in controversial circumstances; Peter Sagan had himself finished second but was relegated for dangerous sprinting. Otherwise, he would have been in touching distance of green.

He currently trails Bennett by 45 points, this despite a concerted effort by Bora-Hansgrohe on stage 14 to drop Bennett and take 15 points in the intermediate sprint.

Providing Bennett does not fall foul of time cuts in the mountain stages, he is in a fantastic place to take green to Paris, with another two flat stages. The remaining intermediate sprints are also early enough in the hillier stages that he should be able to contest them without being dropped beforehand.

A Close-Knit Battle for the Podium.

It seems unlikely that anyone can knock Roglič and Pogacar from the top two positions, but there are a whole host of riders in touching distance of the podium.

Third place is currently held by EF Education-First’s Colombian Rigoberto Uran, who looks set to produce his best performance in a Grand Tour since finishing second in the 2017 Tour. He can count on a strong time-trial to overcome his nearest rivals on stage 20.

Trek-Segafredo’s Richie Porte seems the best of the rest, lying in sixth place. However, he will have gained confidence after finishing third on stage 15, just five seconds behind Roglič and Pogacar. He too can produce a decent time-trial when it counts, especially an uphill one.

Embed from Getty Images

Elsewhere, Astana’s Miguel Ángel Lopez has quietly ridden into fourth place, just 11 seconds off the podium in his first Tour. Mitchelton-Scott’s Adam Yates lies a further 10 seconds back. Both riders will be hoping they can take time back before stage 20.

Bahrain-McLaren’s Mikel Landa will be rueing his time loss in the crosswinds on stage seven, had he not lost over a minute that day he would be currently lying in third place. It will be a huge ask to take that much time back with the opportunities remaining.

Much of the top-ten are closely matched in terms of climbing ability, and thus it is likely the battle for the podium will come down to Le Planche des Belles Filles on Saturday.

Tour de France: Five Key Takeaways From the First Week.

Featured image courtesy of Tim de Waele/Getty Images

With the first nine stages of the 107th Tour de France now complete and the race starting to take shape, let’s look at the key moments and stories from the first week.

A quiet start leads into an explosive weekend.

Embed from Getty Images

Let’s be honest, you didn’t miss much if you didn’t watch the first six stages. They were the typical first-week affair, with a mixture of flat and medium-mountain stages.

The first stage was notable for all the wrong reasons: it’s hard to name a rider who didn’t crash on the treacherous roads around Nice, so much so that the riders took it upon themselves to neutralise descents.

Besides an emotional stage win for Julian Alaphilippe on stage 2, there was little in terms of excitement. Quite the opposite in fact, stage five was so dull even a breakaway did not form, and only the most dedicated cycling fan would have dared watched anything more than the final ten kilometres.

Embed from Getty Images

The hillier stages did not provide much in terms of GC action: Roglič won stage four but couldn’t drop any other riders, and the favourites all finished together on stage six. Stage seven looked like another inconsequential sprint stage, until Bora-Hansgrohe exploded into life in crosswinds with over 100km to go, decimating most sprinter’s chances and causing the likes of Tadej Pogacar, Mikel Landa, and Richie Porte to lose over a minute.

In recent Tours, we’re used to seeing the GC favourites still very close on time into the second week, but stages eight and nine provided an immediate shake-up of the standings…

The GC battle begins to take shape…

At the end of stage nine, there are still a large number of riders capable of challenging for the overall win. Pre-race favourite Primož Roglič tops the standings with a 21-second advantage over last year’s winner Egan Bernal. It’s worth pointing out that Roglič’s lead is based purely on time bonuses: he is yet to actually gap Bernal, or Guillaume Martin of Cofidis, despite his uphill victory into Orcieres-Melette which was aided by his strong sprint.

Bernal himself has not looked particularly strong in comparison; despite not losing time to Roglič outside of bonuses, he looked ragged on the Col de Peyresourde on stage eight. He displayed much better form on stage nine however, and attacked the group of Roglič, Mikel Landa, and eventual stage-winner Tadej Pogacar on the Col de Marie Blanque, albeit with no time gain.

Embed from Getty Images

Behind Bernal and Roglič, Martin is proving to be somewhat of a revelation so far. He lies just 28 seconds from the lead, and is France’s best hope of a podium finish.

Nairo Quintana is showing signs that his former self is back; he lies in fifth but did miss the first group of GC riders on stage nine. Landa recovered some of the time he lost in stage seven’s crosswinds, and could well climb to a top-five finish should he be able to match his climbing ability on stage nine.

Pogacar will be cursing his luck on Friday; if he had not been dropped in the echelons he could be knocking on the door of the yellow jersey. He’s been the most aggressive of the GC contenders, which will worry Roglič and Bernal.

…With some notable casualties.

Another Grand Tour, and another jour sans from Groupama-FDJ’s Thibaut Pinot. Viewers faced the familiar sight of the French hopeful being slowly shepherded up the climbs on stage eight by most of his teammates, as Pinot is still suffering from a back injury from stage one. His third place in the 2014 Tour remains his only podium in a Grand Tour. He has since hinted that he will refocus his career, presumably focusing on stage wins as opposed to GC bids.

Embed from Getty Images

Bora-Hansgrohe’s Emanuel Buchmann lost over four minutes on stage nine, last year’s fourth-place finisher is clearly still feeling the effects of crashing out of the Criterium du Dauphiné last month, in a blow to the German team who had placed more focus on a GC bid this year.

EF Education First’s Sergio Higuita won the Dauphiné, but seems well off the pace here, being over six minutes down having been frequently dropped on climbs.

Any hopes that Movistar’s ‘Trident’ strategy would finally pay off have also been dashed. Spaniard Marc Soler has been effectively invisible, and lies way down in 35th place. Compatriot Enric Mas has snuck into 12th place, ‘snuck’ being the keyword here as he has mainly followed wheels as opposed to making any attacks. The same goes for veteran Alejandro Valverde, who lies in 17th place.

Embed from Getty Images

They do now lead the Team Classification, which once again looks like it could merely be a consolation prize for Movistar, who have had a turbulent Tour, and 2020 season.

The most open green jersey battle for years?

Coming into the Tour, Peter Sagan was, as usual, a shoe-in to win his eighth green jersey in the Points Classification. After stage nine he is leading, but his advantage is a mere seven points ahead of Deceuninck-QuickStep’s Sam Bennett, who held the jersey for stages five and six.

Embed from Getty Images

Behind him is double stage-winner Wout Van Aert on 111. Sagan can usually count on several stage wins and numerous top-five placings in sprint stages to amass points, but this Tour he has been sub-par. He has failed to finish a stage higher than fourth place.

There are another five stages likely to suit the pure sprinters, which makes Bennett a very strong candidate to challenge Sagan. Van Aert could also take the jersey; unlike the pure sprinters he can cope on all types of terrain and thus could gain points on hillier stages when other riders may be dropped.

Jumbo-Visma vs. Ineos Grenadiers.

It’s round one to Jumbo-Visma in the battle with defending champions Ineos Grenadiers. The Dutch outfit have taken a leaf out of the British squad’s book from past Tours, controlling the race from the front on most stages, outnumbering every other team even deep into the high mountains.

However, for all their strength, it hasn’t made much difference to the General Classification. Roglič’s lead is narrow, and there are still plenty of riders in contention. Their original three-leader strategy has now crumbled to one leader. Tom Dumoulin did not have the legs to finish with the other GC contenders on either stage eight or nine, losing enough time to end a GC bid.

Embed from Getty Images

Sep Kuss and George Bennett also took comparatively shorter turns on the front than expected, on stages eight and nine respectively. Jumbo have burned their domestiques with little to show, whilst Ineos have quietly been following the wheels doing little work.

On previous Tours, they [Sky/Ineos] have let some domestiques (usually Wout Poels) take it easy early on and then explode into life in the third week. It seems Andrey Amador and Pavel Sivakov are fulfilling this role. Have Jumbo-Visma played their cards too soon?

The Teams of the 107th Tour de France: a Guide

Featured image courtesy of Christopher Jue/Getty Images

22 teams will take to the start of the 107th edition of the Tour de France on Saturday.

With the start list now confirmed, let’s take a brief look at each team and what they might expect to achieve in the next three weeks to Paris…

AG2R La Mondiale.

Embed from Getty Images

Romain Bardet, Mikaël Cherel, Benoît Cosnefroy, Pierre Latour, Oliver Naesen, Nans Peters, Clément Venturini, Alexis Vuillermoz.

The French outfit bring two leaders this year in the shape of Bardet (pictured) and the 2018 Tour’s best young rider, Latour. Bardet won the King of the Mountains jersey last year, however he never looked in contention for the overall, and hasn’t since his third place in 2017. He finished sixth at the Criterium du Dauphiné; can he do better here, or is it time for Latour to step up and get a big result? Given his fairly anonymous results this year, it seems unlikely.

Prediction: Bardet will struggle with anything more than a top five. Latour won’t break into the top-ten.

Astana Pro Team.

Embed from Getty Images

Miguel Angel Lopez, Alexey Lutsenko, Luis Leon Sanchez, Ion Izagirre, Gorka Izagirre, Hugo Houle, Omar Fraile and Harold Tejada.

With a third place at the Giro and Vuelta, it’s about time Lopez (pictured) and the Kazakh outfit made an impact on French soil. They have often struggled to make much of an impact on the Tour in terms of the general classification (GC), but on paper they bring a very strong team with recent good form. Sanchez and Gorka Izagirre have both won since racing has resumed. They lack the discipline and ability the control the peloton however, unlike Ineos and Jumbo-Visma. Lopez is an outsider for the podium, whilst their strong complement of climbers provides several stage-winning opportunities.

Prediction: a top-five for Lopez, with a stage win.

Bahrain McLaren.

Mikel Landa, Pello Bilbao, Damiano Caruso, Sonny Colbrelli, Marco Haller, Matej Mohorič, Wout Poels, Rafa Valls.

Embed from Getty Images

Basque Landa (pictured) finally gets sole leadership at a Grand Tour, after a torrid two years at Movistar as a part of their failed ‘trident’ leadership strategy. His best Grand Tour result was third at the 2015 Giro. This Tour will provide his best opportunity yet at going for the podium or higher, but Landa has never quite lived up to his full potential. Poels joins from Ineos and is one of the strongest mountain domestiques in the peloton, with Caruso and newly-crowned Spanish time trial champion Bilbao being other reliable additions.

Prediction: If he is on top form, Landa is certainly capable of getting onto the podium.

B&B Hotels-Vital Concept.

Embed from Getty Images

Cyril Barthe, Maxime Chevalier, Bryan Coquard, Jens Debusschere, Cyril Gautier, Quentin Pacher, Kévin Reza, Pierre Rolland.

The first of three Pro-Continental outfits selected for this Tour, this young French squad make their first appearance since their inception in 2018. They will be seeking stage wins with sprinter Coquard (pictured), who is on good form having recently won a stage at La Route d’Occitanie. He hasn’t raced the Tour since 2016 when he came within millimetres of beating Marcel Kittel in the stage to Limoges. Beating the likes of Caleb Ewan and Elia Viviani will prove very difficult however. They also bring the popular Rolland, who could challenge for a stage win if he is in the right breakaway.

Predicition: A single stage win will be a major achievement.

Bora-Hansgrohe.

Embed from Getty Images

Emanuel Buchmann, Felix Grosschartner, Lennard Kämna, Gregor Mühlberger, Daniel Oss, Lukas Pöstlberger, Peter Sagan, Maximilian Schachmann.

On paper this is one of the strongest teams in the race, with cards to play on virtually all stages and terrains. However, Buchmann, Mühlberger and Schachmann start despite still recovering from injuries sustained from the Dauphiné and Il Lombardia. Thus, the team may be adjusting their strategy in favour of stage wins, as opposed to supporting Buchmann who finished fourth last year. Not forgetting Sagan of course (pictured), who as always, is a near-certainty to win the points classification again. He is without a win this year, but always delivers at the Tour.

Prediction: Sagan will win green again with a stage win or two in the process, but the GC riders will struggle to get a top-ten.

CCC Team.

Embed from Getty Images

Alessandro De Marchi, Simon Geschke, Jan Hirt, Jonas Koch, Michael Schär, Matteo Trentin, Greg Van Avermaet, Ilnur Zakarin.

The Polish outfit have had a turbulent 2020. They are the only World Tour team without a win this year, and to add insult to injury their title sponsor has announced that they will be withdrawing at the end of the season. Thus, they need a strong showing at this year’s race more than ever. They have riders capable of challenging for every stage, though Trentin and Van Avermaet (both pictured) provide the best opportunities for securing the team’s first win of the year. With the amount of hilly stages, both can win from reduced bunch sprints, or go solo as Trentin did on stage 17 last year.

Prediction: a stage win from a breakaway is more than possible, and Van Avermaet could be an outsider for the green jersey.

Cofidis.

Embed from Getty Images

Simone Consonni, Nicolas Edet, Jésus Herrada, Christophe Laporte, Guillaume Martin, Anthony Pérez, Pierre-Luc Périchon, Elia Viviani.

Finally, the French outfit got their promotion to the World Tour, with a solid roster to match. They haven’t won a Tour stage since 2006, but their team this year provides an excellent chance to end a 14 year drought. Viviani (pictured) arrives from Deceuninck-Quick step having won his first Tour stage last year into Nancy. He has yet to win this year however. For the mountains, Martin looks very promising, having taken third at the Dauphiné. A top-10 result is well within reach.

Prediction: Martin could prove to be the revelation of this year’s Tour.

Deceuninck-Quick Step

Embed from Getty Images

Julian Alaphilippe, Kasper Asgreen, Sam Bennett, Tim Declercq, Dries Devenyns, Bob Jungels, Michael Mørkøv and Zdenek Štybar

A team that is no stranger to Tour success, the Belgian squad bring several riders who can challenge for multiple stage wins. Alaphilippe returns after his surprise fifth place last year. He has played down his GC ambitions this year though, and is unlikely to be allowed to attack by other GC teams. Bennett starts his first Tour since 2016 and will be a favourite to become the sixth Irishman to win a stage, having already won stages of the Giro and Vuelta. Asgreen and Stybar provide options for breakaways, whilst Jungels and Devenyns will ride in support of Alaphilippe.

Prediction: Alaphilippe won’t be in the top-ten this year, but will no doubt provide a stage win or two, as will Bennett.

EF Pro Cycling

Embed from Getty Images

Rigoberto Urán, Sergio Higuita, Dani Martínez, Jens Keukeleire, Tejay van Garderen, Neilson Powless, Hugh Carthy, and Alberto Bettiol.

The American outfit bring a strong, all-round team centred on the Columbian trio of Uran, Higuita and Martinez; the latter fresh from winning the Criterium du Dauphiné. Uran will be looking for a strong performance having finished second in 2017, and after crashing out of last year’s Vuelta. Higuita and Martinez are unproven over three weeks, but their form this year has been outstanding and thus this Tour will provide the perfect opportunity to showcase their talent. Brit Carthy makes his Tour debut and will on the lookout for breakaway success.

Prediction: A top-five will be a stretch, though a stage win is certainly realistic.

Groupama-FDJ

Embed from Getty Images

William Bonnett, David Gaudu, Stefan Küng, Matthieu Ladagnous, Rudy Molard, Thibaut Pinot, Sébastien Reichenback, Anthony Roux.

Groupama-FDJ are all-in for Pinot this year after his heartbreaking abandon on stage 19 last year, whilst in a prime position to challenge for the yellow jersey. The form is certainly there; he finished second at the Dauphiné and has not finished any lower than seventh in every stage race he has competed in this year. He is very prone to injury or cracking under pressure though, something that has hampered most of his Grand Tour bids. He has reliable mountain support in Molard, Gaudu and Reichenbach, but they won’t be able to match Ineos or Jumbo-Visma.

Prediction: Pinot will crack again whilst lying high on GC.

Israel Start-Up Nation

Embed from Getty Images

Dan Martin, André Greipel, Ben Hermans, Hugo Hofstetter, Krists Neilands, Guy Niv, Nils Politt, Tom Van Asbroeck.

Tour debutants, ISN bring a mixed team that will be hunting for stage wins. They won’t be trying for the general classification, but experienced Dan Martin is capable of a mountain stage win and perhaps a top-ten finish. André Greipel doesn’t have the legs anymore to compete in bunch sprints, but nevertheless this is a team that will undoubtedly race aggressively. Classics specialist Politt provides options on flatter stages, and expect to see Hermans in mountain breakaways; he just finished ninth at Il Lombardia.

Predicition: a stage win will make for a very successful Tour debut.

Lotto-Soudal

Embed from Getty Images

Steff Cras, Jasper De Buyst, Thomas De Gendt, John Degenkolb, Caleb Ewan, Frederik Frison, Philippe Gilbert, Roger Kluge.

Ewan (pictured) will be the sprinter to beat at this year’s Tour; he won three stages last year and has four wins this year already. Degenkolb will lead him out, the German also being a good sprinter in his own right, making for a formidable duo in the final kilometres of flat stages. De Gendt is guaranteed to be in multiple breakaways, which are often successful as shown in his victory on stage eight last year. Veteran Gilbert makes his Tour debut for Lotto after moving over from Deceuninck and could pair up with De Gendt in medium-mountain breakaways.

Prediction: they should be able to match last year’s four stage wins.

Mitchelton-Scott

Embed from Getty Images

Jack Bauer, Sam Bewley, Esteban Chaves, Daryl Impey, Christopher Juul-Jensen, Luka Mezgec, Mikel Nieve, Adam Yates.

Adam Yates leads the Australian squad this year. He’s had a turbulent relationship with the Tour; after winning the youth classification in 2016 he hasn’t troubled the top of the GC standings. He’s only ridden two races this year: the UAE Tour which he won comprehensively, and the Dauphiné in which he finished an anonymous 17th. He’ll need to be at his very best if he is to challenge for a top placing. Strong climbers in Nieve and Chaves are also present; they both have stage-winning potential, as does Impey who won a stage last year.

Prediction: A top-ten finish for Yates.

Movistar Team

Embed from Getty Images

Dario Cataldo, Imanol Erviti, Enric Mas, Nelson Oliveira, José Joaquín Rojas, Marc Soler, Alejandro Valverde, Carlos Verona.

Despite having won the Giro and the Vuelta in recent years, Movistar have had a sour relationship with the Tour. The past two editions saw them employing a ‘trident’ strategy with Nairo Quintana, Landa, and Valverde. This failed drastically, with none able to get on the podium and only two stage wins to show. Curiously they seem to be employing this tactic again with Valverde, Soler and Mas, none of whom are the designated leader. All three riders have struggled this year and have not featured in any stage race they have ridden. It will be a struggle to compete for the GC.

Prediction: Soler could sneak into the top-ten.

NTT Pro Cycling Team

Embed from Getty Images

Edvald Boasson Hagen, Ryan Gibbons, Michael Gogl, Roman Kreuziger, Giacomo Nizzolo, Domenico Pozzovivo, Michael Valgren, Max Walsheid

You’d be forgiven for forgetting that Dimension Data (NTT’s previous incarnation) were even at the last two Tours, with no stage wins and no riders near the top of the GC. Their squad this year is a confusing mix of sprinters and veteran climbers. Nizzolo (pictured) has notched up four wins this year, including the Italian and European championships. He’s NTT’s best chance of a stage win but can he compete with Ewan and Bennett? Boasson Hagen and Valgren can win from a breakaway, but there’s always a feeling of ‘could do better’ with NTT at Grand Tours.

Prediction: They’ll need to race tactically and choose the right breakaways to have a shot at a stage win.

Team Arkea-Samsic

Embed from Getty Images

Nairo Quintana, Warren Barguil, Connor Swift, Winner Anacona, Dayer Quintana, Diego Rosa , Maxime Bouet, Clément Russo.

The second of three Pro-Continental outfits on the start list, Arkea boast a roster good enough to match most World Tour squads. Nairo Quintana (pictured) will have the full support of the team in a bid to go one higher than his second place in 2015. Since 2016 however, he hasn’t been able to finish higher than eighth. Before lockdown, he was near-unbeatable in the mountains, but will that form return? He finished third in the Tour de l’Ain, but did not finish the Dauphiné, citing a knee injury. Barguil could take a joint leadership role, but since his two stage wins in 2017 his form has waned somewhat.

Prediction: Quintana will roll back the years somewhat and sneak into the top-five.

Team Ineos

Embed from Getty Images

Andrey Amador, Egan Bernal, Richard Carapaz, Jonathan Castroviejo, Michal Kwiatkowski, Pavel Sivakov, Luke Rowe, Dylan Van Baarle.

Winners of seven of the last eight editions, Team Ineos bring a typically stacked roster to help Bernal win a second yellow jersey. With Chris Froome and Geraint Thomas absent after a poor showing in post-lockdown races, Bernal will enjoy sole leadership of the team. He is arguably, the favourite to win, although his abandon at the Dauphiné with back pain has raised questions as to whether he will be on top form. If he fully recovers, there is no reason to doubt he will be in a fantastic place to defend his title. The seven domestiques joining him have all showed excellent form since racing has resumed, with Carapaz a useful tactical card to play should he remain high on GC into the race.

Prediction: Anything other than yellow would be a disappointment.

Team Jumbo-Visma

Embed from Getty Images

Primož Roglič, Tom Dumoulin, Wout van Aert, George Bennett, Tony Martin, Sepp Kuss, Amund Grøndahl Jansen and Robert Gesink.

Until Kruiswijk and Roglič crashed out of the Dauphiné, Jumbo-Visma looked like they could be the team to finally break the dominance of Ineos. Kruiswijk now won’t race, meaning the Dutch team have lost their strongest rider after Roglič. The Slovenian himself was displaying the best form out of all the GC contenders, however his fitness is in doubt after he sustained heavy road rash at the Dauphiné. Just recently, he has expressed worry that his injuries have not healed as fast as expected. They do still of course have Dumoulin, but he has only just started racing for the first time since last year’s Giro. Will he be able to perform over three weeks again? And how will Jumbo-Visma handle dual leadership?

Prediction: If Roglič is at full fitness, fans will be in for a thrilling duel between him and Bernal for yellow.

Team Sunweb

Embed from Getty Images

Søren Kragh Andersen, Nikias Arndt, Tiesj Benoot, Cees Bol, Marc Hirschi, Joris Nieuwenhuis, Casper Pedersen, Nicholas Roche.

Stage wins will be the goal for Sunweb, who lack a GC contender after Dumoulin left for Jumbo. Their only GC options would have been Wilco Kelderman and Sam Oomen, however both are absent. The team will have to rely on breakaways for any stage wins; sprinters Bol and Arndt are not strong enough to beat the other pure sprinters, at least based on their form since racing has resumed. Classics specialist Benoot is arguably their best chance of a win, whilst Roche will animate mountain breakaways.

Prediction: A stage win will prove difficult; none of their riders are the best in their discipline.

Total Direct Energie

Embed from Getty Images

Niccolo Bonifazio, Lilian Calmejane, Anthony Turgis, Mathieu Burgaudeau, Romain Sicard, Fabien Grellier, Jerome Cousin, Geoffrey Soup.

The final Pro-Continental team at this year’s race, Total will be there to animate every breakaway and attack as much as possible in search of stage wins, something that has eluded them since Calmejane (pictured) won stage eight in 2017. Bonifazio has really stepped up this year, as displayed in his stage victory at Paris-Nice. Opportunities for sprinters this year are thin however. Turgis and Calmejane will have the hillier stages covered. If they are in the right breakaway, they have every chance of claiming an elusive stage victory. As the team wish to be promoted to World Tour next year, they will be motivated to race aggressively.

Prediction: Expect them to animate breakaways and win a combativity prize or two, but a stage win will be a big ask.

Trek-Segafredo

Embed from Getty Images

Niklas Eg, Kenny Elissonde, Bauke Mollema, Mads Pedersen, Richie Porte, Toms Skujins, Jasper Stuyven, Edward Theuns.

Trek have opted for a dual leadership approach with Mollema and Porte. With the latter supposedly moving to Ineos next year, this will be his last chance to enjoy leadership at the Tour. Porte’s record at the Tour is poor: he has either crashed out or finished well down in the GC standings. His form this year has done little to convince anyone that he can make amends. Mollema is looking more towards stage wins, although he did record a sixth-place finish in 2016. He finished fourth in Lombardia, so he is on form, as is World Champion Pedersen who took a stage win at the Tour of Poland. Stuyven can win from a reduced bunch sprint.

Prediction: it’s unlikely at this stage we’ll see Porte fight for a top placing, but with Mollema and Pedersen there is stage-winning potential.

UAE Team Emirates.

Embed from Getty Images

Tadej Pogacar, Fabio Aru, Davide Formolo, Jan Polanc, Alexander Kristoff, Vegard Stake Laengen, David De La Cruz, Marco Marcato.

Team UAE have really bolstered their GC talents recently, with Slovenian youngster Pogacar (pictured) spearheading their campaign in France. The team had a collectively strong showing at the Dauphiné, with Formolo winning a stage, De La Cruz winning the mountains classification, and Pogacar coming fourth overall. Can he reproduce the form that saw him come finish third at last year’s Vuelta? It will be a huge ask with the sheer strength of the competition, and the added pressure compared to the Vuelta. He may be better off riding to gain experience, although a top-ten is easily achievable. Aru also rides, but his form has been poor for some time now.

Prediction: it will be a tough ask for Pogacar to achieve a top placing in his first Tour, but a stage win is a strong possibility.

Team Ineos unveil Grand Tour ambitions for 2020.

Featured image courtesy of Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Team Ineos, who will race as the Ineos Grenadiers in France to promote a new 4×4, have unveiled their plans for the three Grand Tours this season.

Egan Bernal is set to defend his Tour de France title, whilst Geraint Thomas will target the Giro d’Italia and Chris Froome the Vuelta a Espana.

In what proved to be somewhat of a surprise, both Froome and Thomas have been left off the Tour de France roster, the pair having won five of the last seven editions.

Embed from Getty Images

It will be the first time since 2011 that Froome has not raced the Tour, and the first since 2012 for Thomas.

The British duo proved to be well off the pace at the recent Criterium du Dauphiné, which was likely the key motivation to leave them off the team.

Given DS Gabriel Rasch spoke at the end of the race that Froome and Thomas would still be on the start line in Nice, the line-up seems to have been changed very recently.

This means Egan Bernal will enjoy sole leadership of the Tour team, enabling him to stamp his authority on Team Ineos and herald what is a changing of the guard within the team; he will be joined by young Russian Pavel Sivakov who impressed in the mountains at the Dauphiné.

This duo will be a symbolic contrast to the experienced veterans of Froome and Thomas.

Bernal will have the added pressure of the entire team being built around him for the first time in a Grand Tour, but given his victory last year this is unlikely to cause any problems.

The team contains various Team Sky/Ineos Grand Boucle stalwarts, as well as some newcomers.

One of those is Richard Carapaz. The Ecuadorian had intended to defend his Giro d’Italia title, but he has swapped places with Thomas. He has displayed good form recently with a stage win at the Tour of Poland.

Embed from Getty Images

Nonetheless, Carapaz is an interesting inclusion. He had not been rumoured to be on the Tour squad at all until Italian newspaper La Gazzetto Dello Sport reported it yesterday; suggesting that Bernal’s back injury that forced him to withdraw from the Dauphiné caused Carapaz to be chosen as a backup should Bernal not recover.

That this decision was made highlights the importance of the Tour de France to the British outfit.

It would have been easy for Dave Brailsford to send Froome to the Tour as a feel-good story after his horror crash last year.

A triumphant fifth attempt at winning the race would have brought with it huge public support in Britain and across the cycling world.

Froome himself seemingly agreed with his non-selection: ‘I’m not confident I can really fulfil the necessary job that would be needed of me at this year’s Tour de France,’ he said after the announcement.

He will return to the Vuelta a Espana for the first time since winning it in 2017. It’s a race the Briton always finds success in, having won it twice as well as two second-place finishes.

Embed from Getty Images

With the late start this year Froome should have ample time to get close to, or at, his top form.

He will also seemingly be able to count on Bernal for support; the Columbian said ‘maybe I can go there [the Vuelta] to try and help Froomey. Now I need to be focused on the Tour but after the Tour I have no plans yet, so it could be a good option.’

Meanwhile, Geraint Thomas returns to the Giro for his fourth appearance at the race, and the first since crashing out in 2017.

Embed from Getty Images

‘It’s something I’ve always wanted to go back to. I enjoy racing there, and the roads and the fans.’

The route includes three individual time trials, something that will surely appeal to Thomas who is one of the strongest riders against the clock against other general classification contenders.

For Thomas however, his non-selection may well be a disappointment. The Welshman has continuously stated his desire to win a second Tour title and would have been motivated this year given his second-place last year, despite a very tough build-up.

Given the disruption to racing this year, Thomas will have felt he would still be able to prove himself at the Tour, whether it be in a leadership or domestique role.

Whether he will be able to re-motivate himself for the Giro remains to be seen, as does the squad Ineos will take to support him, which could included Carapaz relegating himself to a support role as opposed to defending his title.

The Ineos Grenadiers squad for the Tour de France contains:

Andrey Amador

Egan Bernal

Richard Carapaz

Jonathan Castroviejo

Michal Kwiatkowski

Luke Rowe

Pavel Sivakov

Dylan van Baarle