Tour de France Preview

A look at the contenders and pretenders for Tour de France.

Route recap: seven mountain stages with three summit finishes, two time trials totalling 58km. Recent editions have given pure climbers a shot, now it suits all-rounders. There are fewer riders in this bracket which explains why many announced they’re stage hunting instead which will have its own effect on the race with the hilly stages likely to be more intense at the start. There can be daily traps, the hectic opening weekend, the danger of crosswinds down south and so on and there are time bonuses at the finish line of 10-6-4 seconds, and 8-5-2 seconds at six special bonus points along the route.

Let’s start where we left off with Tadej Pogačar. He’s got everything right since winning last year, an early season win in the UAE Tour to satisfy his sponsors and a win this month in the Tour of Slovenia for to please locals. The only loss this year was the Tour of the Basque Country and where he was helping Brandon McNulty, although he got smashed by Roglič in the TT stage and last week he was leading in the Slovenian TT championships at the first checkpoint and faded to finish third on a flat course which doesn’t reassure for the time trials either. His UAE team is strong but rivals stronger, as good as David de la Cruz and Brandon McNulty might be, taking Marc Hirschi suggests they want other stage wins too and they look prone to being caught out on the flat. We’ll get to Ineos’s hydra-headed squad in a moment. He’s going to be heavily marked this time but said to have big recovery powers so the longer the race goes on the better he gets, relative to others. He also seems unflappable, he seems to have fun racing and appears oblivious to pressure and the interests riding on him.

Primož Roglič is dependable and mysterious, it all depends on your time frame. Take a longer view from 2018 on and he’s as reliable as an atomic clock, the most consistent stage racer in the peloton. But the third week of a grand tour is where he starts to decay, exemplified by last year’s Tour where got sacked on the Planche des Belles Filles, and this fade has happened other times too, just not with as much drama. Take a shorter time frame and the mystery comes from his preparation this year, in a bid to avoid fatigue and crash injuries he’s not raced this summer so the form is unknown and his summer sabbatical means he’s going to find the hectic start on the narrow Breton roads a test of his reflexes which aren’t the best, see the last stage of Paris-Nice. The course suits with two flattish time trials but the big Pyrenean stages late into the third week are the concern again. Also there are questions for Jumbo-Visma: out-muscling Ineos on the plains and in the mountains last year, this summer they’ve looked much less potent. Being able to control the race matters to Roglič as his jump at the end of a mountain stage nets him time bonuses but so many teams coming for stage wins  the early breakaway is going to be packed with power, likely to stay away and leave Roglič sans bonification. Steven Kruijswijk has been a GC contender for the team too but his 2019 podium a high point and he’s here to help, he can finish high again on GC all while Roglič gets to draft behind those “coat hanger” shoulders.

Who is the leader at Ineos? The rider who is leading, just look to 2019 when Egan Bernal took the initiative on the Galibier and suddenly became the number one. Neither Geraint Thomas nor Richard Carapaz look superior to Pogačar or Roglič but that’s on paper, tarmac is another and they’re not far off. Thomas has a consistent record in the Tour and is the steady pick of the pair while Carapaz looked at ease in the Tour de Suisse, following the attacks of Alaphilippe and van der Poel and making moves in the mountains if he can get a gap he’ll be hard to get back. Ineos have numerical superiority and nothing sophisticated is needed to exploit this, they can try to catch rivals out if they’re not at the front, or use the old 1-2 attack win the mountains where they take turns to attack will forces rival teams to decide whether to follow or not, if they do give chase then the other Ineos rider can hope for a tow across and then launch their move. But there’s a touch of palace intrigue as Thomas and Carapaz will want the other to make the sacrificial move while knowing that the one who takes the initiative stands to gain.

Ineos can try the 1-2-3-4 attack too. Rhird last year, Richie Porte is here to help Thomas and Carapaz, he doesn’t want the pressure and stress of it all. But he’ll be most helpful if he can roleplay as a GC contender rather than a mountain sherpa. Avoid accidents, do a good time trial and he can be deployed in the mountains to scare Roglič and Pogačar with his incisive attacks that will force the Slovenians to react and if they don’t, well this is exactly how he won the Dauphiné earlier this month. Tao Geoghegan Hart is a fourth contender, the Giro winner after all, but is likely to lose more time in the time trials and is here for the experience of riding his first Tour but can again make longer range moves that are riskier but will worry rivals. Talk of 1-2 attacks presupposes an easy logic of “if X, then Y” but as Mike Tyson paraphrased Carl von Clausewitz so well, “everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth” and for all the scheming we’ll see what the road brings. The team is talking about a more lively style of racing because they have to be inventive to take the yellow jersey but if they do, expect the  fortress tactics to make a comeback.

It’s hard to see past the Triglav tandem and Ineos but there are other contenders. The archetypal rider for this year’s course would be a rider who is excels in time trials and can climb with the best… only Tom Dumoulin (version 2018.7) isn’t here. So alas the rest of the preview vibes “here’s why they won’t win” but it’d be great to utterly wrong…

Wilco Kelderman (Bora-Hansgrohe) is in the Dumoulin mould, a lanky Dutch time trialler who is very steady in the mountains but he’s never shone as brightly. Third in the Giro last year, fourth in the recent Dauphiné he can be top-5 if his luck holds up but it’s hard to imagine him in the lead and resisting attacks in the mountains, or placing spectacular attacks either. Team mate Emanuel Buchmann has had a rough year, a podium contender a year ago now starting the Tour after crashing out of the Giro, he’s likely stage hunting but one to watch.

Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-Quickstep) can put in a good time trial and can climb well but his limits are in the high mountains. He had a good Tour de Suisse but the route was altered because of snow and then he left during the final weekend to witness the birth of his son, we never saw him trade attacks in the high mountains. His problem is riding two horses, to be punchy enough in the opening week to outfox Mathieu van der Poel et al – something he couldn’t do in Switzerland – and then trying to take on the big GC contenders later on from the Alps on. But, and this is only a small impression, he’s looking more diesel-like which means he could be better in the mountains than in Brittany and he’s been dropping subtle hints in interviews about the GC. A podium is a big ask, especially as he rides as a showman more than a spreadsheet.

Don’t call it a trident. Movistar’s hire Miguel Angel Lopez (Movistar) is their mountain spearheadwho can climb with the best but “Superman” Lopez reverts to Clark Kent when for time trials. Enric Mas was fifth overall in the Tour and Vuelta last year because of consistency rather than flair, another steady confirmation would suit. 41 year old Alejandro Valverde got a Dauphiné stage win recently but his win rate has fallen a lot in recent seasons. Marc Soler is volatile, a Paris-Nice winner capable of turning tables one day, then being turned himself the next.

Simon Yates (Bike Exchange) can drop the entire field to win a summit finish solo, and by some margin. Only with the Giro in his legs he’s not an obvious pick for GC, he might prefer to hang back and take stage wins, just as he did in 2019, plus he’s got a focus on the Olympics. Team mate Lucas Hamilton can do the opposite, ride consistently for a promising top-10.

David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) starts with an invisible rucksack, one loaded with the weight of French expectation. Nobody expects an overall win, even his Groupama-FDJ team comes with a TGV of a sprint train so he’ll be fending for himself. But this is sort of the point, he’s been team leader several times this year and is growing into the role, there’s more pressure on Arnaud Démare to get a sprint win while Gaudu can do his best without too many assets committed to him. As a pure climber the route isn’t for him but he limited his losses in the recent Dauphiné so any success along the way is a bonus and he’s got a good kick.

Astana-PremierTech had a behind-the-scenes battle for control over the team that’s just gone public and you wonder if riders will be thinking about taking off… for a new team rather than launching on a mountain pass but what better way to shine on the jobs market than to thrive in the Tour? Jakob Fuglsang has ridden 15 grand tours and never finished better than 6th overall and given his record in one day races is better his thoughts may drift to Tokyo? Ion Izaguirre is time trialling well but won’t be outclimbing everyone. Alexey Lutsenko will find the third week too gruelling, besides he’s a strong contender for the Olympics and so may back off anyway.

The Bahrain team has been on fire for the last few weeks but the Tour is a bigger crucible. The team is another openly chasing stage wins rather than the GC and has left out Mark Padun despite his Dauphiné dominance. Wout Poels will be on the back foot after the time trial although the two TT stages needn’t be ruinous for him. While Jack Haig gets a big test but there’s no pressure, can he make the top-10, look for him alongside fellow Aussie Hamilton.

Rigoberto Uràn (EF Education-Nippo) had a great time trial in the Tour de Suisse but extrapolating to the Tour for three weeks and the heightened competition is a big ask but play it right and he can make the top-5 if he can time trial as well on the flat. Sergio Higuita is better in time trials than his gadfly build suggests but more likely to score stage wins.

There are other grand tour winners in the field. This year’s course isn’t for Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) plus he’s looking increasingly stale, the talk is aiming for stage wins and the mountains jersey and his team would sign with both hands for either. Vincenzo Nibali (Trek-Segafredo) is doubling up from the Giro and has an eye on the Olympics and selection too, he’ll need to do something to catch the Italian selector’s eye but we’re talking breakaways than GC and could also leave early. Chris Froome is the Israel team’s road captain, an explicit but indirect way of saying he’s not aiming for GC any more.

Primož Roglič, Tadej Pogačar
Richard Carapaz, Geraint Thomas
Porte, Kelderman, Alaphilippe, Lopez, Mas, TGH, Uràn


68 thoughts on “Tour de France Preview”

  1. When I looked at the course I just couldn’t rule out Alaphilippe. So he’s my pick to compete with Pog and Rog and ultimately prevail. Carapaz best of the Ineos fork. And hoping for a racers’ test in the early stages.

    • Brave pick but Alaphilippe does keep dropping hints, it’s subtle in interviews in French but also perhaps wishful from journalists / interviewers looking to fill the little spaces he leaves in his phrases. A podium is a big ask, especially with the Pyrenees to come.

  2. Hard to pick between the two Slovenians, but I’m going for Roglic as he did pick up some time on Pogacar in the mountains last year, and also let Pogacar away on a stage or two to my recollection. Also, JV will surely try to distance Pogacar on one of the many flat stages, unless there’s no wind.
    I think Ineos would be unwise to back Thomas as their sole leader if he is significantly ahead of Carapaz after the Stage 5 time trial. I can’t see Thomas staying with Pogacar and Roglic in the mountains, and I think Carapaz will finish higher than him. For Ineos rider to win, I think they’ll need some fortuitous situation if they are to distance both Pogacar and Roglic.

    • Very well written piece, unlike my comment above.
      I’m doubtful that Ineos will try many attacks – only Carapaz has the ability to launch anything that might trouble Pogacar and Roglic (Thomas and Porte are steady climbers, not attackers). However, I’m hoping that I’m wrong and that these attacks – or the fear of them – inspire Pogacar and Roglic to get their own attacks in early, especially as Pogacar will likely need to take time on Roglic outside of the TTs (never mind any difficult flat stages).

      • For the reasons you mention, I think it’s going to be very interesting to see Ineos’ tactical game here. Tactically they’re usually unadventurous, but I just can’t see how their train approach will win them this. Basically because Roglic and Pogacar are, like better versions of Thomas: great TTers, *slightly* better climbers but with more punch to take bonuses. I don’t see how Carapaz can win since he’ll probably lose 2 – 3 mins in the TTs so they’ll need to do something a bit craftier than riding threshold at the front… but what?

  3. Thanks Inrng. I reckon there is about a 70% chance that a Slovenian will win and a 5% chance that someone beyond Slovenia and Ineos will win.
    MVDP to win the first two stages. WVA to be in yellow after Stage 5.

  4. Triglav tandem 🙂

    A couple of things have struck me reading & listening to the various punditry doing the rounds. Far too many are refighting the last war. To give a football analogy, the commentator’s opening words “Barchester Rovers have not won at Anfield for 30 years”, as if that says something deep and meaningful, it doesnt, what happened previously is not particularly relevant to the current game. The fact that Ineos have not beaten Primoz Roglic / Tadej Pogacar for x number of years is of no relevance to the next three weeks.

    Even if the first week was just TTs and flat stages there would be various incidents & accidents. Given the nature of the first two stages and stage 7 this makes it even more likely that some of the top contenders and their teams will get to the start line in Oyonnax battered, bruised and behind the clock. This is going to have a huge influence on the race and how the three (possibly four) main GC teams approach the race. Discussions of what Ineos / JV / UAE’s tactics will be in the mountains seem completely moot at this point.

    I was struck by something Egan Bernal said, that he was very surprised about how overwhelming winning the Tour was and how it affected him. Tadej Pogacar does seem to be a very laid back character but given the situation much of the normal media pressure has been missing, at least up to now. Inevitably there will now be a big focus on him, I cant think that wont have an effect of some sort.

    Not sure about the Primoz Roglic / JV thing. For me the not racing thing betrays a certain nervousness. The team are not looking as strong as last year with some odd statements from WvA. I can see stage / yellow jersey hunting in the first week should not detract from the main goal but it must be a distraction and as Inrng has pointed out previously WvA’s stage hunting probably cost Primoz Roglic the tour last year.

    As always with Ineos it is very difficult to see what is spin and what isnt. Whatever was said at the press conferences etc it must be Geraint Thomas & Richard Carapaz leading with Richie Porte & TGH in super domestique roles, nothing else makes sense. The must be pressure on Geraint Thomas to produce a first rate TT on stage 5, not only in the GC standings but to establish his place as the “main man”. His TTing has not been consistent so far this year, perhaps betraying a certain over eagerness, as ever far too easy to spend too much time reading tea leaves!

    I dont think Julian Alaphilippe can be ruled out, especially with the closing TT.

    • Agree with a lot, everyone seems to have the same picks but it’s all based on retrospective things rather than current insight, let alone future events. It’ll be interesting to review picks into the race and as you say – I cut it out from the text above – the first TT is important for Thomas and Carapaz and their order. Thomas could still be ahead only for Carapaz to float up the road to Tignes but this will be harder if Thomas is in yellow.

      • I’d say they should still attack. Carapaz in a train is just a waste of talent, plus Thomas has plenty of protection from Porte and TGH.

        The time gained by Carapaz would only force Pog & Rog to make mistakes.

        • I’m of the opposite view regarding the perceived strength of Ineos and, perhaps to a degree, we’re also basing this view on their (and Team Sky’s) past Tour achievements?
          If Ineos try to take on everyone, are they strong enough to withstand Roglic, Pogacar and their respective teams working *together* to fight back?
          The GC looks an extremely delicate balance.
          I think an unholy alliance of some kind is required, but between whom and to depose who is not clear.
          I had initially imagined it could be between Ineos and Jumbo-Visma to combat Pogacar, but perhaps the spirit of Slovenian partisan resistance may be seen if Ineos are too bold?
          There’s probably too many conflicting interests to see this developing into a race-long narrative – things change – and for this reason I think Roglic can be most consistent across all terrains.

          • I think that Pog, Rog and Ineos have earned their perceived strength tags based on results this year – no-one’s really touched them in stage races. I am curious whether Ineos will shoot themselves in the foot with their tactics. Thomas seems suited to steady mountain train slogs, so an attack or two from Carapaz or Porte could trigger a more explosive battle that could see an isolated Thomas dropped, and then ultimately Carapaz and Porte dropped by Pogacar/Roglic.

  5. For me, it’s odd that Simon Yates is here. I’d have thought focusing on the Vuelta (and perhaps the Olympics) would be his aim. Winning the Vuelta again would be far more impressive than picking up a stage or two here.

      • Maybe Simon doesn’t want to reset for the Vuelta and have to be in a position of racing against his brother on different teams. Win a Tour stage, top five Olympics and end your season early.

    • Totally odd. Must be under sponsor pressure. Its been a very quiet season for BikeExchange – surely going to the end of the TdF would compromise his Olympics? If I was him I’d duck out after stage 15 or 16

  6. Judging by the Netflix Movistar documentary, Carapaz won’t need a second invite to grab the leadership at Ineos. It could unsettle the team.

    Roglic for the win for me.

    • The difference for me is that at Ineos he can’t attack his team mates and defy team orders and end up on a team earning more money, Ineos can surely buy his loyalty in a way that Movistar couldn’t. But it adds some intrigue to it all.

      • I’d hope a guy like Carapaz values a Tour de France win a lot more than ending up on a team for more money and hope he’s not the only one . I also hope we see more than a battle between Pogacar and Roglic. I would be 🙂 thrilled to see Lulu on the top step of the podium in Paris – same for Uran….this “all-rounder” course could turn out to be good.
        OTOH I’m not thrilled that there are only 9 Italians in the race compared to 61 back in 1996 🙁

        • I’d say the odds of seeing Lucien van Impe on the top step of the podium are pretty slim. I just looked it up, and he is, after all, 74 years old…

          I have to confess though, as disappointed as I was after the route reveal, I’m still quite excited now. I would rate Lopez and Carapaz quite high for the mountain stages, but I can’t see them make up their deficit from the TTs unless we end up in a scenario like the 2019 Giro, where the big favorites are too afraid of each other to mark the attacks of outsiders.

    • Maybe, and it’s happened before at Ineos/Sky, but it’s kind of been ever-present and also not always emerged. Guess it depends on the riders’ characters, what actually happens on the road and team direction. I’ve only got through the first 3 episodes of the netflix series (to Carapaz’s Giro win) so yet to see how they handled (or probably not) the heavily foreshadowed fallout over Quintana in the tour. TBH i can’t remember what happened that year anyway.

      Great preview Inrng! The quality of your insight and prose keeps me coming back.

      • Not sure. The netflix show gives you some perspective from in the race director’s car and their team radio traffic, but the sense i got was that Carapaz’s attack was a surprise to the race director, but done when Mikel Landa was already in a hole and not able to respond/attack himself. The team then supported Carapaz and it was striking how Landa fell in with that shift, albeit ruefully. Crucially, i think Landa wasn’t competing for GC at that stage of the race, which created an opening for Carapaz, although Landa narrowly missed out on 3rd by the end.

        • Have to say, that’s what makes the sad Landa so adorable. His speech on the celebration dinner is quite interesting.

          Maybe his nature (well, and his pure bad luck) means he is not aggressive enough to be a true winner but he sure wins fans.

      • More that they thought it wouldn’t work and asked him to sit up rather than waste energy on the long uphill road to Courmayeur. I keep thinking of the climb to Tignes which is far from identical but similar in a way, the ideal place for him to go away. He won the Tour de Suisse with an attack and driving up a low % gradient to the finish in Leukerbad too.

        • Yes, and one thing very clear (it was a point made repeatedly and with great enthusiasm 🙂 ) when the move came off was the Movistar director’s opinion of Carapaz’s balls/Cojones. 😀 He’s an enthusiastic chap alright.

  7. For me its Thomas vs Roglic.
    Pogacar will be marked this year, unlike last and he doesn’t have the team to defend.
    I think there is an outside chance for Porte too – if they send him up the road to soften the others and he gains an advantage (like Bernal’s win in ’19 – when Thomas was really the team leader and could have won – he finished 2nd after all because he wasn’t allowed to attach his team mate – not saying he would have – but could have. They sent Bernal for an early attack knowing Thomas could sit on, get a tow to the final climb and take time – no way Bernal would have held that advantage on his own along the valley).

    I am surprised that people are taking Carapaz so seriously as a TdF contender. I think he is tremendously talented but I think he benefited from some luck/situation when he won his Giro – not getting chased down on that stage and gaining a large lead. I don’t yet place him on the same level as the others – especially with 58km of TT! Again – i’d go Porte over Carapaz – without pressure or expectation I think we are going to see that he is still one of the best climbers in the peloton.

    Alaphilippe to liven up the race for me – Quick Step to split the race in the cross wind – doing what they do best. Looking forward to the Tour! Thanks Inrng for the profiles insights and hosting discussions.

    • Agree with JEB that Porte could end up winning – however mad that seems now. Carapaz will need to do a great TT to avoid playing a lot of catch-up. But that still makes him dangerous in a way. I can’t help but think that this Tour is less about head to head and more about teams. Ineos, and probably JV, are surely going to do everything they can to rough up Pogacar at every opportunity and put time into him.

    • Came here to give the same picks – thomas, porte, roglic based on current form. Outside picks of carapaz,
      Uran, pogacar for a podium or win.

  8. I enjoy Carapaz’s style of racing and he’d be my preferred winner of the favourites, (plus I picked him up to win at 20:1, before he went on to win in Switzerland). I think Roglic will edge it though, providing he doesn’t come in too undercooked..

  9. I think that Roglic will be marginally better in TdF TT’s but (overall) can lose bonus seconds in sprint finishes over three weeks and this tour will be decided by very fine margins. It will not be a tossup at the end, and my bet is that Roglic will prevail.

    The only point of reference for performance of Roglic vs Pogacar is the Tour of Basque country. Apart from losing 28 seconds in the stage 1 ITT, Pogacar outsprinted Roglic in Stage 3. If he were not working for McNulty, would have been contesting for stage with Roglic and Gaudu in stage 6 (mountain stage). But even then it will be difficult to see Pogacar overhaul deficit to Roglic, so that was a comprehensive win for Roglic in the end.

  10. Pogacar-Roglic-Carapaz for me. I think Thomas’s career will move full time into ‘quirky social media presence’ phase after this Tour. Would like to see Alaphilippe in the mix for at least the first 2 weeks.

    Can’t understand why Bahrain have left Padun at home..?

    • According to Hammond, Padun was at the end of his program, and is now being saved for the Vuelta – presumably/hopefully for a serious challenge by Landa.

  11. I would put my 50p on Carapaz, in my opinion he’s the best place Ineos rider to benefit from a one-two combo. I don’t think G can drop Pog or Rog, and he’s not TTing well enough to win that way.

    Having said that, as INRNG articulated there are so many unknowns among the Slovenians and Ineos riders. I hope crashes and drama don’t rob us of the exciting racing we stand to enjoy in the high mountains.

  12. If Pogacar is strong having a weak team wont matter that much. If JV or Ineos do trains (TTT) for much of the tour Pogacar can sit in and draft and jump near the end of stages. Trains just burn out lesser GC contenders who arent real threats anyway.

  13. Looking forward to this edition of Le Tour very much. It’s an intriguing start list.

    I’ll be here every morning enjoying the reviews and previews and comments, admiring the sport and living in hope that Geraint Thomas can stay on his bike while not watching one of his teammates ride off up the road with the mailbox prize. Is he really only good enough for the third spot on the podium?

    Vive Le Tour! May the best rider win. Cym on G!

  14. Looking for logical age-linked progression is always dangerous, but Pogacar should be a year better than last year while Roglic – at best – should be maintaining his qualities. If anyone can shift them it’s surely Carapaz, with Thomas and Porte managing slow decline, TGH never quite good enough, and all the other teams lacking strength in depth and support – but then I’m always wrong!

  15. Out of the Ineos fork I think Porte has the best chance. He’s the best at TTs and is good uphill. He just needs to pretend he’s not the leader as he’d then crack under the pressure.

    If Roglic can get through the first week unscathed then he’ll win

    Roglic, Pogacar, Porte is my top three 😊

  16. O’Connor as an outside call for a top 10 riding GC lead for AG2R?

    On that note, a good Tour this year for Australian cycling with Richie, Haig, Hamilton and O’Connor all supported riders on GC

    • Agreed that Ben O’Connor is a great outside shout for top10 GC. Ever improving form through this season, the climbs suit him and he’s a fairly decent time trialist. Plus won’t be seen as one of the leading contenders so might be allowed off the front, just like in the final stage of the Dauphine. Jack Haig too looks good for a top10 GC.

      I’m going Roglic, Pogacar, Carapaz in that order for the top3 final GC.

  17. Surely geraint. His main problem is bossing his teammates. When bernal went a couple of years ago he was trapped, then lost through mudslides. He’s underrated

  18. Don’t see much discussion about the crashes certain to occur.
    Not necessarily amongst the bog boys, but if the big boys don’t have their help, their job gets harder and the assumptions in the foregoing analyses change.
    Pressure and mayhem manifest in the contemporary peloton, no?

  19. I think it’s going to be interesting to see who controls the race. You would think that it’s not in Ineos or UAE interest really give Roglic has built many of his wins on harvesting bonus seconds. As everyone has pointed out JV don’t seem as strong and wil be reluctant to tow Pog/Ineos around France and therefore I wonder if we will see a race a bit like the Giro where the breakaway are given lots of freedom? If this happens you would suspect it would benefit a rider like Carapaz who could put in an explosive attack in the high mountains and gain actual time. What ever happens it’s going to be an interesting one and I hope for the race that Ineos aren’t in yellow at the end of the first week!

    • Neither Ineos or JV are going to tow Pogacar round this time (unless they’re very stupid). They’re more likely to hit him hard at every opportunity – maybe even joining forces to do that, especially early on.

  20. Pog and Rog tend to be lumped together – the top two favourites (justifiably for me), Slovenian, not raced much recently etc. But I think that Pog is actually far stronger: he doesn’t have any weaknesses, and has that awesomely impressive final week. Not a great team, it’s true, but stronger than last year. Rog, on the other hand, only just beat Carapaz, who had an oddly weak team, in the Vuelta, and has been known to have third week problems.

    Outside those two, I can’t see beyond Ineos. Thomas for the podium, without ever really looking like the winner. If I were a betting man, I’d probably go for TGH because of the long odds you can get on him – the guy has won a GT after all, and he seems to be coming into some kind of form after a difficult early season. He may just sneak into a break at some point.

    I have a terrible feeling that there will be some major casualties in Brittany – MVDP out of the Olympics, one of Pog and Rog crashing out, that kind of thing. Let’s hope not.

  21. Over the last or so I’ve come to the belief that the Team competition doesn’t reflect the race. At present it is based on a team’s best 3 riders times for each stage. This leaves much of emphasis on the mountain stages. What I would prefer a points system that treats each stage equally regardless of whether the stage is a time trial, flat, intermediate, mountain or even a team time trial. The reason for this is that cycling is a team sport where the individual gets all the credit. I am thinking of a sprint train or a mountain train have the same effect in working for the teams objective of the day.

    I would love to see a points system based on the F1 during the 1990s. 1st -10pts, 2nd-6pts, 3rd-4pts, 4th-3pts, 5th-2pts & 6th-1pt. Each stage has the same points. It is only the top 6 positions because it puts the emphasis on finishing very well rather than just being consistent. Plus it follows the bonus seconds for the first 3 in each stage. I will try to update the list each day to show how it could work.

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