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The Tour de France Contenders

The Tour de France starts on Saturday and there’s no obvious favourite. Primož Roglič and Egan Bernal are the two central contenders, each with very strong teams but they have questions over their fitness and form. Here’s a look at the contenders for the general classification.

Route reminder: mountainous and instead of three or four set piece stages, there are regular tests across the three weeks. There’s one time trial on Stage 20, 36km including the 6km climb of the Planche-des-Belles-Filles. There are time bonuses at the finish of the stages, 10-6-4 seconds to the first three.

  • There’s more detail on each stage plus all the rules, points scales, time cuts and more at inrng.com/tour

Primož Roglič was going to be the easy choice, the five-chainring prime pick after he won the Tour de l’Ain and dominated the Critérium du Dauphiné… then he withdraw on the final day. He’d crashed the day before and finished the stage but the injuries proved persistent, forcing him to skip rides last week. It’s this uncertainty that means he’s not the certain pick he ought to have been. Management say he’s back in business and we’ll know more in the coming days, there are two summit finishes between now and Thursday and the Pyrenees are just a week away. A year ago placing Steven Kruijswijk on the podium in Paris felt like the triumph of a delicate game of Mikado for Jumbo-Visma, now the team look formidable, especially in the mountains. Roglič has been superior to rivals like Egan Bernal and Thibaut Pinot in recent races such that to win the Tour he need only follow them – easier said than done – until the final time trial where he should beat them. But he can do more than that, he sprints well from a small group to harvest time bonuses and on the Col de Porte in the Dauphiné he could ride away from everyone while staying seated. Some ask “has he peaked too soon?”, evoking his strong start to 2019 when he won the UAE Tour, Tirreno-Adriatico and Romandie before fading in the third week of the Giro d’Italia, his big goal. But he crashed in the Giro and fell ill, plus that winning streak lasted from February to May before drying up. This time he hasn’t been on top of his game for as long but his rivals will test him in the coming days and hope he’s vulnerable in the third week of the race.

Should Roglič fade then Tom Dumoulin is on the up. Jumbo-Visma just want to win the Tour de France but everything else being equal, wouldn’t a Dutch team want an articulate Dutch winner? Only everything else won’t be equal, events get in the way but he’s a strong back-up. Second in the 2018 Tour, Dumoulin’s on a long recovery path from injury in the 2019 Giro but the form is improving, wheezing after the first mountain stage of the Tour de l’Ain, smiling by the final day of the Dauphiné. This is a tough route for him though, this year’s route doesn’t have the steady celebrity climbs like the Galibier, Tourmalet and Alpe d’Huez but instead features more irregular ascents, but the final time trial is ideal.

Egan Bernal won last year and after the Brexit of Froome and Thomas from the Ineos Tour squad he is now the sole leader. But can the team put all their eggs in his basket? He won the Tour de l’Occitanie with ease and talked about approaching his “Tour form” but come the Tour de l’Ain he was getting outfoxed by Roglič and in the Dauphiné he was simply outclimbed by the Slovenian and then others. He left the race before the final weekend, there was talk of a back injury but it was probably to stop wounded pride and it’s his form that’s the question today. Still Bernal was close and he’s arguably more suited to the Tour with its longer climbs and might be a good pick for the third week. Many gigabytes have been spent on Ineos’s selection but without Froome and Thomas they look solid versus Jumbo-Visma. The next question is who is their number two? Richard Carapaz apparently but Pavel Sivakov is another potential card to play. Carapaz is a late call-up after the team hastily rewrote their Tour plans, the Giro winner is in good shape and a tough customer who, if given an inch, will take a mile, especially if rivals are marking Bernal but hasn’t demonstrated sizzling form, dropped in the Vuelta a Burgos, he took a stage of the Tour de Pologne. Sivakov’s the form pick, strong in the Dauphiné, able to tow Julian Alaphilippe around the Alps on the final stage before crashing and yet still troubling Pogačar and Martinez when they caught him before the tricky final climb.

Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ) is the home hope. Making Paris and the podium might be a decent goal but inside Pinot knows he can win if things go his way. It’s no pipedream, last year he showed he could outclimb everyone and match them in the time trials, until his persistent tendency for injury or illness to strike late into the third week a grand tour. The form is improving, dropped by Bernal on the Col de Beyrède in Occitanie, he was dropping Bernal in the Dauphiné but lost this race on the last day. Another on the injury list, he skipped last Sunday’s French nationals citing a sore back… but we’d all have a sore back if we had to make a 2,000km round trip for a race that didn’t suit, no? He’ll have a stronger team than the recent Dauphiné with David Gaudu and Rudy Molard offering mountain support but this only narrows the gap, it won’t outpower the big squads. It’s a cliché to say he doesn’t ride well in hot weather – he’s won on broiling days too – but the September slot is probably a plus for him, it’ll could be warm but not infernal. But how to win? As we saw in the Dauphiné Jumbo and Ineos are strong but both ran out of riders for the final phase of the summit finish, it’s here that Pinot and others might find an opening.

Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe) keeps improving, he was just off the podium last year and so the podium is very much within reach on this hilly route. He should be a superstar but is rather shy so his profile is low, but so is his win rate. He should feature in the race but, like Pinot, how to win overall? By his consistency, if he doesn’t win stages he can hope to place among the best in the mountains. In the recent Dauphiné Roglič looked the best but “Emu” was probably joint with Pinot as the next best on the climbs. His time trial ability is much better than you might think, for example he was fifth in the Dauphiné’s TT stage last year. The big question is his form, he crashed in the Dauphiné sustaining heavy bruising to a leg and has had an anxious time being unable to ride for several days. So like others he’s docked a chainring below as a consequence, we’ll get a quick answer in the opening days and if he looks fine then his chances get upgraded as quickly. Lennard Kämna is one to watch, very strong in the Dauphiné and a precious help and the Austrian tandem of Felix Großschartner and Gregor Mühlberger offer good support.

Nairo Quintana had a roaring start to the season making his improbable move to Arkéa-Samsic look shrewd. Only on resumption of the season he’s not looked as stellar, one reason is that in July a motorist in Colombia drove into him causing a knee injury and enforced rest, so he’s been behind in his build-up and looked sluggish recent races before abandoning the Dauphiné citing a sore knee. Frankly the French team, from cycling’s second tier Pro series, would be delighted with a stage win and a Parisian podium. It’s not the strongest team but Quintana has support from World-Tour quality lieutenants Diego Rosa and Winner Anacona although both have been a touch off the pace. Warren Barguil is free to ride for himself, tenth overall last year he looks to be going better now too.

Tadej Pogačar can climb with the best and as we saw in the Vuelta one year ago, do this well into the third week of a grand tour, highly impressive for a 21 year old. Still, the Tour de France isn’t a step up, it’s a storey above. He was improving in the Critérium du Dauphiné but enough to go for the overall against the top names and big teams? His UAE Emirates team are hungry for success but might want to manage Pogačar for the long term by letting him aim for a stage win… or three rather than a relentless focus on GC for three weeks. But he was fast-improving in the Dauphiné and could be a pick to take the yellow jersey in the coming days and we’ll see what the rest brings.

Miguel Angel Lopez is 26 now and if he’s been on the podium in the Giro and Vuelta the grass is beginning to grow under his feet as riders many years his junior eclipse him. How to convert those white jerseys of promise into yellow ones? He’s making his Tour debut and it’s hard to see an outright win but he’s dogged, dependable top-10 material and can aim for a mountain stage win and his form’s been fast-improving to make him an podium outsider. Harold Tejada starts as a team mate and is one to watch. Alexey Lutsenko’s probably too limited in the high mountains to drop the rivals cited above but good for a breakaway stage win.

EF Pro Cycling come with a Colombian tridente and unlike Movistar look like they know how to use it. Dani Martinez has just won the Dauphiné and, yes several riders abandoned but it wasn’t a fluke, he was climbing with the best on all the mountain stages, losing only a few seconds here and there until he took 30 seconds on the final day to win overall. He’ll be heavily marked as a result. Sergio Higuita is maybe better for stage wins and perhaps taking the yellow jersey in the first week than the overall but he crashed in the Dauphiné so we never got to see what he could do on GC that week and cast your mind back to Paris-Nice to remember how impressive he looked. Rigoberto Urán is consistent but probably needs a gear or two more to get on the podium.

Mikel Landa just needs a good day, nevermind a good three weeks. On his day he’s an excellent climber, but erratic across a grand tour. Now Bahrain-McLaren’s team leader with Wout Poels recruited in support but also talking about having the chance to play his own cards. Landa’s suited to this course, capable of a podium if he can avoid any hiccups but form is the big question, he lost 20 minutes on the final day of the Dauphiné and can’t afford a jour sans in the Tour.

Julian Alaphilippe was supposed to ride the Tour de France as a stepping stone to the Olympics but Tokyo’s drifted into 2021. Then the World Championships was supposed to be his new focus, now that’s hanging in the balance. Which leaves the Tour, only you can’t change focus from one day punch to three week consistency so quickly. Here he’ll find a course that suits with less high altitude but repeating his 2019 season is a big ask, for starters he’ll be under pressure from the big teams, they might be delighted if he takes the yellow jersey in the first week but not if he’s wearing it into the third week. As to any secret GC ambitions, yes he’s been spotted on recon rides in the Alps but look at the Deceuninck-Quickstep team, it’s got a sprinter and some stage-hunters rather than helpers.

If you’re someone who tunes into cycling just for the Tour, you’ll be asking about Movistar? They’ve come to the Tour with big ambitions in recent years only for their trident to flop. This time there’s less ambition and even the cherished team prize could be a struggle this time, they’ve only one victory all season. Some years ago Alejandro Valverde would have liked this route with its high altitude summit finishes but he’s talking more about retirement these days than winning and even before the season lockdown hadn’t won a race which is unusual. Instead Enric Mas is the GC contender but struggling to repeat his form of 2018 when he impressed in the Tour de Suisse and Vuelta. Marc Soler is a late call up. It’s hard to see a podium finish for any but all the more reason to take risks and infiltrate the early breakaways on the mountain stages.

Trek-Segafredo have Bauke Mollema and Richie Porte and both have a similar challenge: to convert the ability to climb and time trial with the best on their good days into a three week ride without cracking or crashing. Porte is likely to join Ineos next year so this is his last chance at leadership in a grand tour but he’s 35 now and a touch less punchy than his prime days but was still groupe de tête material in the Dauphiné and the course suits with its shorter climbs.

Among the other outsiders, Adam Yates rode the field off his wheel in the UAE Tour’s mountain stage back in February and if it’s an unfancied race he still had gravity and big rivals to contend with and put over a minute into them. But now Mitchelton-Scott say he and Esteban Chaves are stage hunting, fair enough but the team looks suspiciously like it’s built in support of a GC leader with the likes of Mikel Nieve very useful. It wasn’t long ago that Romain Bardet (Ag2r La Mondiale) was a contender and this climb-heavy route should suit but he’s looked out of sorts and reset with Sunweb awaits in 2021, ditto Pierre Latour who’s off to Total Direct Energie in part so he doesn’t have to target the GC but can become a stage hunter, still Bardet could still place high on GC. Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) has gone up a gear but if we imagine he climbs with the best for three weeks – a big ask – there’s still a time trial at the end and he really struggles in this area.

Primož Roglič, Egan Bernal
Thibaut Pinot, Tom Dumoulin
Emanuel Buchmann, Richard Carapaz, Pavel Sivakov, Tadej Pogačar
Quintana, Lopez, Martinez, Landa, Porte

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Sam G Friday, 28 August 2020, 11:33 am

    I don’t understand why Buchmann is so underrated. 4th last year. If he had not have crashed recently he was looking very good and on for a podium. As a good as Pinot but more consistent. A solid defensive GC rider.

    • The Inner Ring Friday, 28 August 2020, 11:43 am

      That’s my point above but he’s had a hard injury, tissue damage can be serious and enduring. Also the chainrings are for winning not placing.

  • Charles Friday, 28 August 2020, 11:37 am

    Really looking forward to it, if only for how open it seems. Let’s just hope it can run to conclusion without teams/contenders being forced out.

  • weeclarky Friday, 28 August 2020, 11:40 am

    Feels unusually wide open this year, and weird not to have a brit in contention! Could be Pinot’s year, but the TT may screw his chances — won’t he need a minute on the other top 3 picks by that stage?

    • The Inner Ring Friday, 28 August 2020, 11:44 am

      He’d like a minute but see his ride in Pau last year, on his day he can do well. It’s in his home town but this is probably just a source of pressure than any performance gains.

  • Ecky Thump Friday, 28 August 2020, 11:47 am

    I’m still looking forward keenly to the Ineos v Jumbo-Visma battle, it’s just not the cast of warriors that we would have first thought.
    It looks, essentially, to be a battle of the mountain trains. Both teams have such depth of strength that, it seems to me, the rest are either hanging on or reacting to that tactic.
    There is the possibility of both teams watching each other whilst someone sneaks away, but perhaps the possibility also of both teams working *together* if there is an interloper to the duopoly.
    The latter is a frightening thought.
    We’ve also seen in past Tours how Sky have been able to take seconds here and there on descents and in the winds but here both the British and Dutch teams look well matched such that stealing a march on their rival looks less likely, though perhaps Jumbo-Visma have the slight edge in overall versatility.
    Which all suggests that the penultimate stage TT will be crucial.
    I find it impossible to contemplate how Pinot can survive the flat and any winds, and take enough seconds in the mountains, to reach the TT and be able to fight off Bernal but particularly Dumoulin and Roglic.

    The strongest team invariably wins the Tour.
    I’m going Jumbo-Visma with a possible one / two on the podium.

  • Ride4fun Friday, 28 August 2020, 12:04 pm

    Bernal may still have back problems, Roglic may not have completely healed from his fall. Pinot may again have bad luck in the third week. Whatever, I’ll be watching the new guys Emanuel Buchmann, Richard Carapaz, Pavel Sivakov, Tadej Pogačar. They’ll bring some excitement to the tdf. The boring years of the tdf being a Sky/Ineos Team Time Trial may be over.

  • Krishna Friday, 28 August 2020, 12:07 pm

    Interesting, that you didnt even discuss the possibility of Fabio Aru. 🙂
    And I agree, he hasnt ridden anything offlate to justify even why he is not a contender, even though Team UAE are bringing him as their top leader.

    • Nick Friday, 28 August 2020, 1:17 pm

      Pogacar’s the UAE leader, isn’t he? He’s certainly wearing their no 1 jersey, 131.

      One extra point to add to this excellent preview: as well as the stage bonuses, there are mountain top bonus for all the stages with a climb about 20-30km from the finish. The first of these is on stage 2. Presume the GC rivals will be contesting that one, to try to take a little time on their rivals, rather than letting a break sweep up the points?

      • Digahole Friday, 28 August 2020, 7:48 pm

        I haven’t seen it discussed much that the bonus points were 3-2-1 seconds last year and now 8-5-2 this year. That’s 18 seconds for someone who can stay out front. Perfect for, say, some canny little puncheur who can descend well 😉

        • The Inner Ring Friday, 28 August 2020, 8:05 pm

          They were 8-5-2 last year too, intermediate sprints are 3-2-1 seconds as usual. 8-5-2 is small in the scale of a three week race but interesting to watch for riders in the first week.

          • Digahole Friday, 28 August 2020, 9:20 pm

            Now that you say that, I remember having the same high hopes for them last year without too much happening. Still Alaphilippe must be eyeing the one on stage 2 as the start gate for a downhill TT to yellow glory

          • hoh Friday, 28 August 2020, 11:32 pm

            It used to be 10-6-4 wasn’t it?

    • The Inner Ring Friday, 28 August 2020, 1:49 pm

      Notionally Pogacar and Aru are co-leaders but Aru’s got the experience but not the form, he’s looked ok this year, almost resurgent but nowhere near like the form that saw him win the Vuelta and pick off Giro stages. UAE are an interesting team, Formolo and De la Cruz are strong in the mountains too.

      • Michael B Friday, 28 August 2020, 3:01 pm

        Aru’s won a Tour stage as well, on Planche des Belles Filles. Like you say though he seems a long way from that type of success.

    • Euro Bikesales Friday, 28 August 2020, 2:48 pm

      Aru is way past his prime, won’t even make a mark on the Tour.

  • J Evans Friday, 28 August 2020, 12:30 pm

    Roglic is relatively untested over a grand tour route, and there are lots of mountains in this one. And that’s before his injury (if it’s not a bluff). Caveat: I didn’t see the Vuelta last year, but it wasn’t the most stellar start list.
    I’d imagine Carapaz is unhappy to be here. How likely is he to be in his best form as he was targeting the Giro? And wouldn’t he rather be defending his title there, rather than playing second fiddle to Bernal here?
    I’d love to see Landa fulfil his potential in at least one race – he looked to be possibly the best rider in last year’s Giro. Can’t see it happening, though.
    The biggest threat to riders not on DQS, JV or Ineos is losing time on difficult (probably windy) flat stages: Pinot could really do with avoiding that this year.
    I really hope Alaphilippe remains an exciting one-day rider/stage hunter rather than following the long line of those people who chose instead to become grand tour also-rans.

    • Michael B Friday, 28 August 2020, 3:05 pm

      Did you watch the Movistar doc? He seems an absolute killer to me and, if his legs allow it, I think he’ll go for the win. If Bernal/Carapaz were British I think there’d be loads of hype over the tension, dynamics etc. If the form isn’t there it isn’t there but I honestly think if Carapaz goes into the final week within touching distance of Bernal in yellow, he would try and engineer an attack… which would be brilliant to watch.

      • The Inner Ring Friday, 28 August 2020, 3:07 pm

        One big difference now though is Carapaz is on a giant contract when he wasn’t at Movistar, there’s less incentive to upset the team that will pay him more than anyone else and more to ensure they renew or increase his value.

        • Michael B Friday, 28 August 2020, 3:19 pm

          Very true. It makes my scenario more unlikely, but wouldn’t it be great…

      • broken spoke Friday, 28 August 2020, 3:56 pm

        Also worth noting that Carapaz has beaten Roglic in a mountainous grand tour that contained more ITT kms. Ineos’ best tactic might be unleashing the Paz and protecting Bernal who seems to like watching Roglic in recent weeks. I don’t see how Ineos win with their eggs in one basket. Jumbo have out-skyed them and must be out thought as a consequence.

    • dale nixon Friday, 28 August 2020, 4:51 pm

      Not a lot has been said about Carapaz’s role in the team. Is he going in as a co-leader or super-domestique? It would be interesting to know what will happen if Bernal punctures near the end of a stage in the first week in the mountains.

      A big difference this year is that are far fewer opportunities for teammates to get a result at other races. There is a chance that the tour will be the final race of the year so how much will people be prepared to go all in for the team leader if their contract runs out at the end of the year.

  • dft Friday, 28 August 2020, 12:43 pm

    This feels a bit 2014 to me, with Roglic or Dumoulin winning by an unhealthily large margin. Defending a title at a young age brings pressure, Bernal will win again but not this year I feel. He lacks experience, he lacks a proven DS, and the race lacks thin-enough air. Ineos are in transition and their performance will probably reflect that.
    I’m pleased to hear that Barguil has freedom, not that anybody would be able to instruct him otherwise, or perhaps he can be Pinot’s eighth man if he really wants France to love him.
    I hope the rumours of fighting to get the yellow early in case of cancellation are nonsense… they’ve annulled god knows how many tour results before, they should do that again if it comes to it.

    • J Evans Friday, 28 August 2020, 1:30 pm

      I’d have thought that ASO would want to protect the integrity of the TdF. If they award the race to someone after fewer than, say, 15 stages surely almost no-one will regard that person as a true winner? For me, it’d have to get to at least Stage 18 to be a grand tour – plus it’d be ridiculous if it was cancelled without a few days’ warning and whoever was in yellow wins.
      To me it is still astoundingly senseless to allow any crowds at the side of the road: they are not an essential part of a race and other sports have taken place without crowds. The government should ban this (and ASO should stop the caravan). Having thousands of people mingling is a far greater risk to public health than the peloton plus entourage.

      • Lukyluk Friday, 28 August 2020, 2:27 pm

        I think if the Tour is to be cancelled before the planned end of it, we’ll probably know about it for a while before it happens. They’d prefer cancelling a stage (or more) a few days in advance than just announce abruptly that it won’t start again. If for some reason it has to be a sudden and brutal end (like, an outbreak in the peloton, for instance) they wouldn’t declare a winner, and we’ll be able to engage in online flamewars on who should – nay, would!! – have won.

        As for the caravan, I’d rather agree, although of course whether the caravan event is necessary is a debate we could apply to the race itself. I doubt we’ll see much in the way of huge crowds on the side of the road, either way, though. ASO has already announced that most climbs, as well as start/finish areas, will mostly be off limits, at least to motor vehicles. They’ve also said in no uncertain terms a few months ago that they considered the “spectacle” around the race to be just as important as the race itself, with Prudhomme heavily implying that he’d rather cancel the race than do away with the public altogether.

        We’ll do well to remember as well that most of the people on the side of the roads (rather than cheering on iconic climbs or at the finish line) are just locals, mingling with other locals, and most of them would have met at the bakery in the morning anyway.

        As for me, I’m looking forward to see the race run past my home (on stage 3, for those who didn’t ask) but that bittersweet feel will still kick in as I won’t be trying to spot my family on TV (they’ll be staying home) or trying to resist that second glass of wine to stay in shape for l’etape du Tour. Hopefully next year.

        • DJW Friday, 28 August 2020, 2:41 pm

          Schools return here next week, employers annual holiday weeks are over, it’s inevitable that there will be far fewer people on the roadside – though stopping fans observing from the roadside seems almost impossible even if the PM, Castex, tried. If it passed through my town (which it won’t this year), I would put on a mask and watch. I sense a general lack of interest too – except for diehards like us. People have other worries, while loss of the normal race sequence has undermined the narrative.

          • J Evans Friday, 28 August 2020, 3:40 pm

            Replying to DJW: yes, I’m far more concerned about crowds on the climbs than people standing in their own streets (although personally I’d avoid that as it’s still a far bigger crowd than you would be amongst in your daily life). With people allowed to walk/cycle up I imagine the crowds will still be fairly large. If they’re even 10% of what they usually are it will surely prove disastrous for COVID spread.
            (There was a bloke – about 50 years old – running alongside the riders, without a mask, shouting at them in the Giro di Lombardia; the riders keep physically congratulating those from other teams, post-race; and just imagine the possibility of a tunnel of people on a mountain climb, even if it’s greatly reduced.)
            People will act stupidly. They always do.
            I, however, will try to ignore all that and enjoy the race – and wind my neck in commenting about it too (it all gets a bit much after a while).

          • J Evans Friday, 28 August 2020, 3:40 pm

            Oops, was actually replying to Lukyluk.

      • Nick Friday, 28 August 2020, 6:04 pm

        The Tour has had as few as 6 stages in the past. Long stages mind you, but it is a precedent.

  • Sam G Friday, 28 August 2020, 12:59 pm

    2020 TDF based on Rumsfeldian Theory.
    Known-knowns: JV and Ineos have the best squads and leaders
    Known-unkowns: The form of Roglic and Bernal
    Unknown-unknowns: ???????????????? (we are in 2020)

    • StevhanTi Friday, 28 August 2020, 1:56 pm

      Seen that other J.V. squad? They seem strong enough to derail any mountain train on the earliest sign of weakness or hesitance.

    • The Inner Ring Friday, 28 August 2020, 1:57 pm

      The unknown things that would be interesting to see include:
      – Pavel Sivakov’s form for the third week and status
      – if Movistar can salvage something with Mas and Valverde
      – unmentioned above but am interested in Tiesj Benoot’s riding, he had an excellent Paris-Nice
      – Ilnur Zakarin’s going to turn 31 in September, are his GC outsider days over or can he pop up again?

      • DJW Friday, 28 August 2020, 4:33 pm

        Hugh Carthy seems a little forgotten. Last year he often climbed with the best in the Giro, and now he’s classed a fourth climber for EF behind Uran, Higuita and Martinez. Maybe he will have his turn and some support in the Vuelta. All that makes EF a good team with Bettiol, TVG, Keukeleire and Powless for the flatter/mixed stages. They can even leave Clarke and Kangert on the bench.

        • Cd Friday, 28 August 2020, 10:25 pm

          I think Higuita is the real dark horse here. Was supposed to be the leader at the Dauphiné. Can go for bonus seconds on mountain tops. Think he can podium but the TT may limit any more.

  • jc Friday, 28 August 2020, 2:17 pm

    I have a suspicion this is Tom Dumoulin’s year. He has the experience and he seems to be back in form. Not sure the TT is the one he would have chosen but he has form winning a Grand Tour with a final TT. Difficult to know about Primoz Roglic, how much the “injury” is real and how much mindgames. If he can keep the form he showed before his crash then he is the obvious choice but it is a big if. I also wonder about how he responds to pressure, when things started to go wrong in the Giro he (and the team) did not respond well. Tom Dumoulin has shown he can deal with adversity and has a huge amount of self belief.

    I am unconvinced by Ineos, Egan Bernal has not shown stellar form, the whole media circus around “Froomey and G” cant have helped either. I think the biggest miss is Nico Portal his influence was key to the whole set up, with the changes to the team he will be missed even more. This has the feeling of a transitional year in a number of ways.

    Given the usual “incidents & accidents” plus the added uncertainty of the virus stuff (what are the chances of the yellow jersey wearing being excluded due to a “false positive”?) riders such as Emu Buchmann & Thibaut Pinot must have a chance but if at least one of Primoz Roglic, Tom Dumoulin or Egan Bernal finish and avoid any elephant traps the winner will be one of the them.

    • jc Friday, 28 August 2020, 3:08 pm

      Not sure if the Egan Bernal back pain thing is yet more mindgames, if not hardly likely that it will get better over a three week GT, which rather amplifies my feelings above. I wonder if any of the other teams will try to test him out on Tuesday

    • broken spoke Friday, 28 August 2020, 6:45 pm

      If the yellow jersey gets the virus he will be excluded. I don’t think I’ll believe we are getting a whole Tour until the Patrouille de France are flying over the Arc de Triomphe. Not knowing if we will even get a winner is adding its own spice for me. That and Roglic having a few question marks about his fitness and ability to last 3 weeks healthy. It was he who faded on stage 20 in 2018 and it was he who faded in week 3 in last year’s Giro.

      • StevhanTI Saturday, 29 August 2020, 5:34 pm

        I don’t really see where all this questioning of Roglic’ capabilities come from. The man is still the winner of the most recent Grand Tour (he took the points classification there too by the way). He did fade in the giro last year but only after way more racing leading up to that race than he did before this TdF. And to bounce back after such a disappointment and reign supreme over the Vuelta: if that’s not a display of mental and physical strength I don’t know what is. He did come in fourth place the previous time when he was much less supported and experienced. And finally J-V have the strongest team we’ve all agreed on that already haven’t we. Roglic must be the prime contender with Bernal trailing him closely and Tom D and Pinot trailing those two but not by much.

  • RQS Friday, 28 August 2020, 2:18 pm

    Before any other comments, just wanted to thank you for your dedication to the important work you do here. The cycling commentatarati thank you Mr Inrng.

  • Greasy Wheel Friday, 28 August 2020, 3:06 pm

    Heart says Pinot.

    Head says one of Roglic/Dumoulin. Head also says that, if Roglic is back on form, attacking may feel fruitless on anything <8% with Dumoulin there to do the pulling until the last couple of km's at the most.

    I think the challenge for Bernal is that Roglic will pick up quite a few seconds from him in terms of bonuses and small bits of distance in the last few hundred metres of any stage finish at <2000m. I think people forget that Bernal was getting dropped by Pinot on every mountain stage last year until the latter's injury.

    • J Evans Friday, 28 August 2020, 8:58 pm

      True, apart from Stage 18, the last before Pinot’s injury (I believe it happened after it). Many like to claim that the result was done and dusted, but it was very far from it: I very much wanted Pinot to win, but there’s no way I can claim he would have in a ‘what if’ scenario.

      • Greasy Wheel Saturday, 29 August 2020, 12:35 am

        No, Stage 18 he was already suffering – comments like pedalling on one leg and not being able to sprint out of corners on the downhill if I remember rightly.

        • Greasy Wheel Saturday, 29 August 2020, 12:37 am

          You are right that it wasn’t done and dusted but at that stage he was ahead of Bernal.

          Tricky for him this year, I think it would almost be better if the TT was earlier; he probably needs 1 min for the TT but if he gets in to the lead, stronger teams will start attacking FDJ.

        • J Evans Saturday, 29 August 2020, 9:51 am

          Interesting, thanks.

  • weeclarky Friday, 28 August 2020, 3:15 pm

    Actually something that is interesting is that in terms of bike manufacturers: it may be between Bianchi and Pinarello [and I guess whatever it is Pinot rides…] — presumably they have a long rivalry. Interesting that the Bianchi seems quite an old model now. If the race comes down to seconds presumably this makes a differnce.

    • The Inner Ring Friday, 28 August 2020, 3:36 pm

      There’s not much in it bike-wise but both the Pinarellos and Bianchis are relatively heavy and both teams are sponsored by Shimano but will be quietly breaking this to ride lighter wheels, eg in the Tour de l’Ain Jumbo had Corima wheels, in the Dauphiné Ineos had Lightweights.

      • Nick Friday, 28 August 2020, 6:03 pm

        Jumbo also going for the black Bianchis and rim brakes to try to reduce the weight, as bright, light paint is a fair bit heavier. (Needs more base coats.)

      • Lukyluk Friday, 28 August 2020, 7:52 pm

        Interesting to know, I heard about Ineos and Lightweight last year, but I had no idea Jumbo was going for non-sponsored wheels.

        How many pairs would that represent? Last I checked, top-end Corimas’ RRP is about $2000 a wheel (not a pair – a wheel!) Even with a decent discount, surely that must weigh heavily (no pun intended) on the budget… Or are they rentals?

        Corima wheels sure look sexy to me, and they review very well, but they don’t come cheap… It could be a sign of the budget J-V can boast nowadays… as if the avalanche of established talent in their roster wasn’t enough of a clue!

        • Anonymous Friday, 28 August 2020, 10:08 pm

          I’m sure that Corima will be happy to supply wheels for free and benefit from some guerilla marketing.

    • Gelato4bahamontes Friday, 28 August 2020, 6:17 pm

      Pinot and fdj on lapierre bikes. Xelius I think

      • Lukyluk Friday, 28 August 2020, 7:58 pm

        Xelius and Aircode, current models, and I think a new Aerostorm TT bike that is yet to be released. FDJ has been with Lapierre for a long time now.

  • Richard S Friday, 28 August 2020, 3:31 pm

    So whats the story with Covid-19 testing then? If two riders from any one team test positive that team has to withdraw?

    • The Inner Ring Friday, 28 August 2020, 3:34 pm

      Yes but after repeat testing and from tests on the same day, eg if one rider is ejected on the first rest day and a second rider on the second rest day the team could carry on, it’ll be dependent on circumstances etc. But I’m keen to leave the virology and epidemiology to public health experts, there are too many armchair experts and trying to predict the racing angle is hard enough. Back the sport…

      • Richard S Friday, 28 August 2020, 3:45 pm

        Its not a case of backing the sport or being an armchair expert, I just wanted to know what the rules are. So if two riders or more on one team test positive, and then test positive again, on the same day they’re out. That’s all I wanted to know.

        • The Inner Ring Friday, 28 August 2020, 3:47 pm

          Fair enough, things are more subtle than positive/negative, see https://www.uci.org/press-release/update-of-uci-protocol-for-the-resumption-of-cycling-competitions-regarding-the-grands-tours from the UCI which sets things out, the three bullet points there are helpful.

          • Fingers Crossed It's All Ok Friday, 28 August 2020, 5:36 pm

            Boy, the UCI leaving themselves and RCS/ASO a lot of wiggle room in those rules vs other sports that operate a much stricter “one and done” attitude with instant withdrawals.

            Makes me wonder at what point the event itself gets cut short. Two teams gone, three? And we all know how often cyclists are affected by colds and asthma in normal circumstances :/

        • Gelato4bahamontes Friday, 28 August 2020, 6:18 pm

          It’s not just riders it’s any team staff.

          • The Inner Ring Friday, 28 August 2020, 6:23 pm

            It was going to be that way but now there’s flexibility and a distinction between riders and staff, see the third bullet point in the UCI piece.

          • Gelato4bahamontes Saturday, 29 August 2020, 9:41 am

            Seemingly back to include staff now at French government insistence.

          • Charles Saturday, 29 August 2020, 5:07 am

            Can teams replace staff as they lose them? Eg if Roglic loses his mechanic does another mechanic join the team?

          • The Inner Ring Saturday, 29 August 2020, 10:15 am

            Gelato4bahamontes: yes, back to where things were. The teams didn’t want to sign up to this before and so we had negotiations and conference calls but faced with the French government saying “non” there’s not much room. The saving grace is that ASO has a 20 person “Covid crew” on the race including a mobile testing unit to turn around tests within hours so the false positive threat is reduced.

            Charles: no because they’d be coming into the “bubble”.

  • Anonymous Friday, 28 August 2020, 3:43 pm

    Landa also said he had back problems at the Dauphine btw – https://www.cyclingnews.com/features/tour-de-france-2020-the-contenders/

  • Cooper Friday, 28 August 2020, 5:26 pm

    “Rigoberto Urán is consistent but probably needs a gear or two more to get on the podium.”

    …I see what you did there!

  • RQS Friday, 28 August 2020, 11:43 pm

    Sort of feel Kuss should get a ring. But only if Roglic is still injured.

  • Othersteve Saturday, 29 August 2020, 12:52 am

    Thanks INRNG,
    It will be a different tour with Froome , and G.
    Oh and where is Larry? Hope he is okay and just resting for the Giro?

  • Othersteve Saturday, 29 August 2020, 12:54 am

    woops
    Thanks INRNG,
    It will be a different tour with NO Froome , and G.
    Oh and where is Larry? Hope he is okay and just resting for the Giro?

  • qlimbing quaranta Saturday, 29 August 2020, 6:59 am

    Alright, Alright! Tour Time – Please save me from the monotony that has been my life the past few months. Nice to see Pogacar with 2 Chainrings, as I believe he is one of only 5 being able to win (Roglic/Dumoulin/Bernal and Pinot. Wait, and Alaphilippe, so 6). I don’t understand most everyone discounting him almost solely based on his age, as being 21 does have its advantages – recuperation/ignorance of youth/etc. Was he not the strongest rider in the 3rd week of the Vuelta last year? I don’t think he will win, but I do think he is one of the few capable of it.