Tour de France Contenders Preview

A look at the overall contenders for the Tour de France. Unsurprisingly it’s Tadej Pogačar vs. Jumbo-Visma vs. the field but the route and misfortune could also have their say, the long first week promises to high wire act.

Tadej Pogačar (UAE) seems to play at cycling, making it all look so easy. He won the last two Tours, first by surprise, then by domination. He’s taken eight of his last nine stage races – the missing one was when he decided to play helper in the Basque Country – so if the past is any guide, he looks like the present and the future. That crushing win last year? It came after rivals crashed out. He’s got all the skills for a third win, while Roglič ably rode the GP de Denain to test the cobbles, Pogačar almost won the Ronde van Vlaanderen. He’s arguably the best in the mountains, sprints well for time bonuses and last year won the Laval time trial. Where’s the weakness? Heat perhaps and the long range forecast says it’ll be roasting in France but his rivals can’t rely on the sun gods. His UAE team used to look weak but they’ve gone on a shopping spree, hiring George Bennett and Marc Soler for the mountain stages. However they’ve lost Matteo Trentin to Covid and this is a big problem as Pogačar needs bodyguards for the opening, northern stages. It’d be flippant to say only Covid could stop him but we should address this risk: the virus can infect any rider, any time and GC contenders are just as prone so any preview comes with added risk.

Primoz Roglič (Jumbo-Visma) also has a fabulous record in stage races… except for those in France. He’s had a tendency to fade in a grand tour but this has come when he’s been winning races galore in the build-up. He faded in the 2019 Giro but only after bagging the UAE Tour, Tirreno-Adriatico and the Tour de Romandie; he faded on the Planche des Belles Filles in 2020 after taking the delayed national championships, the Tour de l’Ain and crashing out of the Dauphiné in the lead so you could see why he was tiring. To remedy this last year his team didn’t race him for months before the Tour to keep him fresh, only for a crash to take him out. Now they hope for a “goldilocks” approach, coming in fresh but still with reflexes sharpened by recent races. He’s even remedied his bad luck in France so far with wins in Paris-Nice and the Critérium du Dauphiné this year and if you’re superstitious, well the French say jamais deux sans trois, a version of good things come in threes. Excellent in the time trials, equipped with a searing sprint for summit finishes and time bonuses, he’s also got the strongest team in the race…

…where team mate Jonas Vingegaard is a leading contender. In the recent Dauphiné there was a moment when the Dane looked stronger. It was fascinating because it was so brief and uncertain rather than defining, the story was really how the pair were so far ahead of the rest of the field. Anyway Roglič had fared better in the time trial and was stronger on the Vaujany summit finish the previous day which was why he was in yellow. Presumably bored by repeated leadership questions, their mantra is the racing will decide. Perhaps Roglič takes time on Stage 1 but any incident de course can happen. Vingegaard is still an unknown quantity and can still surprise on the upside. He didn’t fare too well on the pavé back in March but maybe he was short of form rather than skills. Having two riders leaders is insurance against a crash or illness but how to use this on the positive side, to play their tactical cards? The “old 1-2” isn’t that helpful, attacking on a climb and forcing Pogačar to respond just risks being counter-attacked by the UAE rider, instead any tactical move would have to be more risky, think attacking on a valley road into a headwind, such that Pogačar really doesn’t want to respond and is instead forced to stew as one of them builds up a lead. Gambling’s not Jumbo-Visma’s style but if Pogačar proves to be the strongest, it’s on them to invent something.

Aleksandr Vlasov (Bora-hansgrohe) has been looking better and better all season and looked on track to win the Tour de Suisse… until he left with Covid. Covid’s now left him, but in what state? The form is unknown you don’t need to be a virologist to diagnose the clues, if he’s starting the Tour it’s not for experience and the team have picked some solid support riders while leaving sprinter Sam Bennett behind. It’s hard to see the Cyborg from Vyborg riding away on a climb or beating the names above in a time trial, let alone both scenarios which he’d probably need on his way to winning overall. But if it’s hard, it’s not quite impossible to imagine it, while all the names about to be cited below surely need a plot twist rather than a forceful pedal stroke to help get them onto the podium, let alone win outright. Vlasov’s got a strong team with plenty of bodyguards and mountain support with Lennard Kämna ready to help like he did with Hindley.

Without the direct challenge of Egan Bernal and Richard Carapaz, Ineos still come with three leaders in Adam Yates, Dani Martinez and Geraint Thomas, who gets a promotion from road captain to GC contender following his Tour de Suisse win. Yates has been hit by Covid which raises questions about form but even in peak shape the amount of time trials doesn’t suit, he’ll need to make a surprise move along the way. Martinez instead is very consistent and the Tour of the Basque Country winner might be unproven as a grand tour leader but he’s been fifth in the Giro while pacing Bernal, he’s reliable across three weeks. His recent Tour de Suisse ride came after flying in from Colombia so he should be stronger now and could finish high but how to win? 2018 Tour winner Geraint Thomas, a podium in 2019 too,has seen his stock fall because of freak crashes but if he stays lucky he’ll be interesting to watch because he has plenty of experience and race craft, likes the cobbles and is useful in time trials but the mountains are his challenge, he doesn’t seem to have the climbing speed of his best years. The riders are openly acknowledging they’ve not got a Tour challenge in the conventional sense, it’s up to them to win stages and create opportunities to ambush rivals if they want the maillot jaune. The course doesn’t make ambushes easy, each mountains stage tends to resemble the next with few valley sections where Ineos could try and make surprise moves but it’ll be interesting to see whether they can abandon the mountain train way of racing and go rogue. Tom Pidcock might lead the way, he’s stage-hunting and that’s novel for the team.

Ben O’Connor (Ag2r Citroën) was fourth overall last year. Yes he lost time and was “allowed” to go in the breakaway to Tignes where a stage win and time back but he kept on climbing with the best after that. He looks to have improved since, he’s been very dependable in World Tour level stage races this year. Ag2r Citroën know this and want to back him for another high GC finish but matching last year’s result is a tall order and there’s a nervous feel to it, like watching a tightrope walker but he’s a fearless rider who’ll attack rather than defend.

Enric Mas (Movistar) had the allure of a punchy, dynamic rider when he finished second in the 2018 Vuelta but seems more of a steady diesel these days. It’s because he knows his limits, he could attack the cast of 2018 but taking on Pogačar and Roglič in the Tour is quite another thing, as he said only this morning: “It’s easy on your sofa to ask me to attack… ….If I haven’t attacked it’s because I couldn’t“. Sixth place is the Tour last year was strong, would he sign up for the same result again now? Arguably his team would seize this with both hands as Movistar are one of the teams that need UCI points to stave off relegation and a high GC finish brings beaucoup points. Mas has finished few races so the team may well want to wrap him in cotton wool and adopt a safety-first tactic.

Close your eyes for a second and can you picture Rigoberto Uran (EF Education) winning? Probably not but an aide memoire: a year ago he was sitting second overall at the start of Stage 17, having done the Alps, Mont Ventoux and three of the five stages in Pyrenees last year, only to fall ill and slip to 10th overall by Paris. That came after a stellar Tour de Suisse last year, he’s not looked sparkling this time around so the form might not be as good but he knows how to ride steady. Neilson Powless is in good form and Ruben Guerreiro is climbing well but less consistent, especially for the time trial.

David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) is the sole team leader – with Thibaut Pinot’s likely to ride the way he did in the Tour de Suisse, shedding time on flat stages so he can attack in the mountains, reculer pour mieux sauter. The “Little Prince of Brittany” is a darting climber who has worked to improve in the time trials – a rare GC contender who has increased their bodyweight – so even if this year’s route doesn’t suit because of the two time trials, he can hope to improve on his 11th place from last year but how far into the top-10? He can be an exciting rider, mentally tough, capable of winning a sharp uphill finish one day but also prone to a melt down the next, and is all the more exciting for this so trying to grind out a high GC result might sap the spirit.

Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic) still has GC ambitions but as his contract is up, he would say that, wouldn’t he? But remember he was fifth in Paris-Nice and fourth in Catalonia this year and he remains a classy rider with a long palmarès seemingly as ease in a crosswind as on a long climb but how to get a big result? His team would love a stage and a go at the mountains jersey. His form in the Route d’Occitanie was steady rather than spectacular although a crash mid-race took some of the shine off.

Team DSM say all their riders, including Romain Bardet are going for stage wins. But until he loses time he’s a GC contender and he tells L’Equipe this morning “I don’t want to hang around at the back of the class in the first week“, implying he’ll fight for position rather than dawdle around, but also says in the interview his form is unknown after his Giro exit and some holidays. Still as a preview for who wins, even if he’s got his Giro form or better, this year’s time trials just don’t suit and a repeat of his 2016 and 2017 podium finishes looks unlikely.

Israel-PremierTech’s best GC rider is Jakob Fuglsang, a consistent and experienced rider who seems a fixture of the Tour every summer but for all the trying, has only one top-10 on GC to his name in 11 starts and aged 37 would make the oldest Tour winner ever. Still he’s back and in form after a podium finish in the Tour de Suisse and will be aiming high, it helps his team get precious UCI points. Michael Woods is going for stages and we should see Chris Froome riding steady but even if he finishes, say, 20th he’ll gain UCI 50 points but this won’t make him one of Israel’s ten best scorers so either he delivers a giant GC result for pride and points alike… or he rides in support for Fuglsang and Woods.

Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) rode to a top-10 last year but without enthralling many crowds outside of Kazakhstan, he’s handy for stage wins too like in 2020 and the team really need a result after a near-invisible season.

Perhaps more keenly watched by Europol than fans right now Bahrain tandem Damiano Caruso was second in the Giro last year, and Jack Haig third in the Vuelta and both will look to ride steady for a high GC finish but as good as Haig’s ride was, he was seven minutes down on GC. The pair are on form with solid rides in the Dauphiné, they have the same style of nudging the top-10 each day and if they stay consistent they can place well into the top-10.

Tadej Pogačar
Jonas Vingegaard, Primož Roglič
Aleksandr Vlasov
Dani Martinez
Thomas, O’Connor, Yates, Uran

Comment: it was tempting to give nobody five chainrings because of the risks ahead. There’s always the glorious uncertainty of sport to start with. Plenty of yellow dreams were slaughtered in the opening week of last year’s Tour and that was just on the humdrum roads of Brittany, here first week is an obstacle course and could become a graveyard of ambitions. Some of the Danish roads are tiny and exposed to the wind, there’s the pavé to come and more so it’ll be a miracle if all the names cited above make it Morzine’s rest day intact. And that’s before we’re forced to confront Covid.

60 thoughts on “Tour de France Contenders Preview”

  1. I like Vlasov’s form as well. Quite rightly the fourth pick given a strong year to date.

    Be interesting to see where he is relative to Pog/Rog/Vin after the first week.

  2. As ever a very perceptive and balanced view.

    I dont think one can argue with the 5 rings for Tadej Pogacar, if he makes it to the bottom of La Planche des Belle Filles there or thereabouts, then allowing for the usual accidents or incidents, the top step in Paris beckons.

    Not sure about Jumbo Visma. It was noticeable in the Sky years that there was a laser like focus on winning the GC. Despite the success with Cav in 2012, never again did Sky go with a sprinter, a lesson Bora seem to have taken onboard. WvA’s ambitions for the green jersey are well and good but I cant see how they wont interfere with trying to win GC, some of his media comments about “wanting support to win stages” ring alarm bells.

    I cant see Ineos revisiting the “trident”. By his own admission, Adam Yates’ recovery from covid is unknown, maybe better to bring another domestique, or have team politics intervened? The results at the end of stage 1 should tell us a good bit about team hierarchy. It is perfectly possible to see either G or Dani Martinez with a reasonable lead on the other contenders after stage 5, keeping that lead is rather a different matter.

    Whilst the longer term weather forecast is hot this weekend is more unsettled. Tomorrow afternoon in Copenhagen is forecast to be wet. Nyborg the forecast is for gusts up to 35km/h on Saturday afternoon and the wind over the sea is likely to be stronger. Whilst Tuesday in Calais looks sunny there is a forecast of a northerly breeze with gusts up to 30km/h. However it looks likely to be dry, warm & calm for the Pave. Might some of this play a big part in the outcome?

    Given how common the virus is currently and with the return of regular testing for the riders the chances of all the riders making to Paris without enforced withdrawals seems unlikely. These withdrawals are as likely to affect the yellow jersey as the lantern rouge….

    • On your last point about Covid, it really is that random. A rider can puncture because they’re racing badly, that to hold a wheel they’re slamming into potholes because they can’t think straight, or they crash because they’re distracted or tired… but the virus can just hit anyone, anytime. Teams can take all the measures they can but it need not be because someone dropped their guard.

      • I assume that the risk of Covid is not distributed completely equally. On the one hand, there seem to be riders who are not very strikt about precautionary measures (Sagan with his at least three infections seem to be such an example), on the other hand, the stage winners and leaders in GC are mainly due to the award ceremony and media commitments at higher risk because they will have more close contacts. That speaks even more than in other years for not taking over the yellow jersey too early.

    • I’m of the mind that the dual goals of GC and Green can cause problems for Jumbo-Visma.
      Having said that, and reading IR’s pertinent point about attacking Pogacar on the flat, Van Aert can certainly be a factor there.
      It brings to mind that opportunist attack by Froome and Thomas with Peter Sagan a few years back.
      For all criticism of Froome’s mountain train tactics, he was very good at sniping time from his rivals (20” here, 30” there) on other terrain, and this could be one way of getting at Pogacar.

    • J-V surely craves yellow, but WvA is probably their biggest star (one of the top 3 stars of contemporary cycling). But I am also of the opinion it can hurt them – Roglic led him out several times in sprint finishes before and if they try something similar here, is it a sign they don’t trust Roglic to beat Pogacar and / or Vingegaard?

  3. If the Jumbo Visma riders get 4 stars I’d be tempted to give Pogacar 6. If he finishes he’ll win. His biggest threat is covid. If he loses time in the early flat stages that’ll just make the latter stages of the race more entertaining for us.

    • We’ll see. Who picked Hindley for the Giro? The Tour tends to have less surprises given the deeper field and all that but for now it’s in the interesting part where we don’t know. The preview was getting long already but it’ll be interesting to see how Pogačar tries to race, what the breakaways do each day and what plans Jumbo-Visma have, is van Aert worth two riders for the team when it comes to help, or half as he’s got his own goals too?

      • Pogacar, I think, will be an opportunist. (would not be surprised to see him and Van der Poel pull off something). He’s good enough uphill to get a minute on everyone else before the long TT. Jumbo’s biggest problem will be to gain time on the flat or downhill, or they ride Ineoses coat-tails on the pavé and any other stages with cross-winds. I seem to remember that UAE were not too good at controlling who got in the break last year so if Pogacar’s in yellow early on that might be a problem.

  4. They are all quite likeable this year so it is hard to take sides.
    The only factor that seems take Pogacar look human is warm weather so it will be interesting to see if the weather plays a part.

  5. Sadly I fear a virus is going to have more to say about who wins in 2022 than the course, the weather, idiot fans with signs, bad luck, poor tactics, team strength, etc. It’s hard not to think back to 2020…each day on the lead-up to Le Beeg Shew we hear about another Covid positive guy who can’t race. Perhaps I write this because the f___king plague finally got me after dodging it for so long? My guess is I picked it up at an epoca event this past Sunday, despite wearing a mask at all the on-road stops, sign-up, etc.

    • Like you Larry I fear a sadly diminished field by the end of week two, and already we seem to have riders dropping out almost hourly. Giving the hours riding in a packed bunch, sharing hotel rooms and all the close contact, teams with multiple leaders may have an advantage. The Ineos trio are not the best but they are numerous. Pogacar looks so strong but his team have less of a fall back position. Also for all the Tour de Suisse withdrawals: is it reasonable to expect them to have returned to full capacity so quickly?

      Interesting that Ineos have Pidcock going for stages. In the Sky days, and even with a team of nine, they wouldn’t have sacrificed a grafter to fit in an ‘électron libre’.

      The two Bahrein searches may well have found nothing but they must have provided some discouragement to those – and not just Bahrein – otherwise tempted to push the boundaries.

      • What’s unusual this time round is that the numbers of infected persons is going up so profoundly in Summer and during particularly hot weather.
        The team hotels are bound to have air conditioning, and this is an extremely ready means of spreading the virus.

        • The new (sub)variants are super-contagious, but they at least don’t seem more severe than the omicron variant itself. Surely, that’s barely a consolation for a rider who prepares the whole year for a race and then falls out because of an unfortunate infection (which he perhaps isn’t even aware of, being asymptomatic).

      • Yes, I got the virus during the 2020/2021 winter soon after x-mass which we spent at my mother-in-law’s countryside house. Every possible contact (about 5 people) tested negative multiple times afterwards – and the only other probable oportunity for contagion was a stop at a petrol station, where I spent just a minute or two inside (just paying) with a FFP2 mask on. Of course, there are other ways which the virus use, not just airborn transmission; but I was definitely pretty surprised that the subsequent test returned a positive result. 🙂

  6. Larry hope it hasnt hit you too badly. There is an element of complete randomness here, whatever precautions you take or dont take there is a chance of testing positive. Yes it could be that the race is decided by testing protocols not the racing (or the idiots with signs)

  7. this is such a great line: “while Roglič ably rode the GP de Denain to test the cobbles, Pogačar almost won the Ronde van Vlaanderen”

      • It’s true, Denain uses a gnarly sector compared to the more tame cobbles in Flanders. But Denain has more tarmac.

        We should watch out for Stage 5. The cobbles often come with hype but this year they’ve really gone for a lot of tough sectors, the ones that get big star ratings for Roubaix, rather than the usual format of using relatively easier sectors and counting on the mythology of Paris-Roubaix to bring in interest (no bad idea).

  8. I wonder if you could do a new chainring prediction list with an asterisk beside all those who have had covid in the last 12 months?! – might help my fantasy TDF team predictions! great blog by the way… first comment ever.

    • So good you posted it three times ;-). Welcome, I’ll tidy up the other comments. But we don’t know who has had covid and crucially how it has affected them. It’s possible to get it and never know, others have been floored for weeks by it and had part of the season ruined.

      • Very true, and we can always get it more than once, though it does give you a slight feeling of invincibility Larry T – if only for a few months afterwards. Thanks for tidying my trigger finger.

        • For me it was the risk/reward thing after epoca events like the one I attended have not been held since 2019. If I was 30 there’s plenty of years left to enjoy these things, but at my age how long am I gonna stay home/safe? I’m at the point where the old joke “Doc says cut out the smoking, drinking, rich foods, etc. Patient asks, Will that make sure I live longer? Doc says, Well, it’ll seem like it!” isn’t really a joke. So far I’m feeling like the later stages of a typical cold…with bronchitis as the final chapter as usual – annoying since I’m on a sort of working vacation, winding down our Piedmont Cycling Resort program at the same time trying to enjoy some of the great cycling in this area 🙁

          • Sounds like it was definitely worth it. Just hope the pesky bronchitis doesn’t drag for you 🤞. I’m on day 8 of my Covid and starting to feel more normal- might even get a short run in. I however caught mine with no Epoca to show for it! Still testing positive so can look forward to watching day 1 of TDF tomorrow rather than going back to work as a GP.

    • I have a feeling it’s the main contender to – his own – throne who is perhaps slightly better capable of finishing the race than any other rider. (Covid permits, of course…) It’s probably because the young king seems so comfortable and untouchable, the patron of the peloton at the age of 23, but of course, he is still human (as he showed for example in Slovenia recently – not just by being unable to shake Mohoric off his wheel on the closing climb of the last stage, but perhaps more significantly during the wet descent where he scolded his team’s new tyres while Majka seemed to advise him politely not to lock the rear wheel while cornering…

  9. G and team Ineos take 2.5mins in the first week and then gradually limit losses to concede a few seconds every mountain day until he loses the lead, only to regain it by 1 second in the final time trial.
    I think we’ve already had our British cycling fairy tail with Cav last year so two might be greedy.
    Surely all out war in the cross winds and pave is Ineos’ only hope. Shame no Kwait, but at least Rowe, Van Barl and Ganna.

        • Imagine that in Italian “bonking” is called “crisi di fame” despite the billions of people actually starving all over the world, that’s a real crisis -___-

        • People in Australia might not agree with the “bonking” description – I’ll leave it there 🙂
          Anyone else watching the Giro Donne? My gawd, there are women racing there on bikes with cable-operated shifting and old-time brakes that squeeze the sides of the rims!!! Don’t they know those things are death-traps that should be recycled right away??!?!
          I remember the time we saw Telekom (I think it was, sort of a 1/2 team combined with ZG?) at LeTour on bikes equipped with Campagnolo Chorus rather than Record or Super Record…some of our clients were aghast at just the thought!

        • That… but let’s return to racing cycling.

          (I am afraid war and sport has lot in common, not just the terminology – but sport can perhaps also unite, not just divide. So more attacking, flanking and probing during the war on the cobbles – followed by cordial emmbrace just as the one on the Planche in 2020 – and less absurd violence not just on the great East European Plain, but all over this madding world.)

  10. Inrng’s writing is always a delight, for the insights and the wordplay too. Isn’t today’s post particularly rich in the latter? To name but a few:

    Covid’s now left him, but in what state? (syllepsis)
    a plot twist rather than a pedal stroke
    seize with both hands… to stave off relegation
    the past… the present and the future
    crushing win… after rivals crashed out
    stock fall/freak crash
    tall order… high wire act… tightrope walker
    a nervous feeling/a fearless rider
    slaughtered dreams/graveyard of ambitions
    humdrum roads/an obstacle course
    heat, roast, stew; melt, grind, sap
    more keenly watched by Europol than fans

    • Well, I’ll sound a critical note, then: the Cyborg from Vyborg only rhymes (alliterates) to the ears of English speaskers. To everyone else it is a horrible mispronounciation, the kind that can make listening to most British or American commentators a minor torment.

      • For us it’s MAJOR, not minor. If there’s no Italian we’ll select French. There’s a chance I don’t understand enough of the stupid stuff those guys say vs English to be tormented but if it’s the only language available it’s ambient sound or MUTE.
        My nickname for Vingegaard is “The Cadaver”…he’s got sort of a gray pall IMHO. First time I saw him on TV I said, “This guy looks dead.”

        • I’m laughing really hard here because I thought I was the only one who defaulted to “mute” if faced with English as the only option!! I have to to say, though, that as bad as the current crop of English language commentators are, they’ve got nothing on the horror that was Phil Liggett.

          • Oh, I’m so happy that the Bulgarian commentators on Eurosport are brilliant. If it wasn’t for this blog and them, I would have missed out on the spectacle that is road racing, especially the grand tours.
            Usually Bulgarian sports commentators are dreadful. When I watch soccer, I go out of my way, to watch it with English commentary, even if it is a US, Canadian or Australian feed. All of them are a huge improvement on the Bulgarian ones. However, when it comes to road cycling, the Bulgarian commentators are really interesting and insightful. As I was biased against Bulgarian sports commentary in general, in the beginning I tried all the English-speaking options for cycling as well. None of them came even close to the Bulgarian guys. I feel really lucky in that sense.

            And I’m really thankful for this blog! If I haven’t managed to read the preview here, I tend to delay watching the stage for later. As I don’t know enough about the sport, the insight here about the routes, the contenders, the culture, the history, and the inner workings and a huge enhancement to my enjoyment while watching and keeping up with the racing.

        • You made my day with “the cadaver” monicker…
          Roglic should watch his back, there may well be a festival of the dead approaching…

  11. I think the 2 up challenger thing is underrated. I have only been watching for 15 years but i can think of 2 occasions where it has made a difference. So for me this degrades the POGS chances a bit against ineos and Jumbo a bit. The big thing is you have to have 2 riders in good form close on GC towards the end of the 3rd week and that’s the hard thing to achieve. It also helps if the single rider doesn’t have a super team (like ineos) who has domestiques setting too high a pace to attack.

    Sastre and Schleck brothers versus Cadel Evans.
    Bernal and Thomas versus Kruijswijk . Bernal attacked and Thomas sat on limiting Kruijswijk counter move for fear of Thomas attacking. This allowed Bernal to get away and win. Otherwise Thomas might have likely won that tdf. Without the shortened stage and the 2 up attack the GC times were so close That any weakness from the Ineos riders may have allowed Kruijswijk to challendge so it was important even if considered unlikely.

    • Very useful at the 2010 Giro, too (Asolo stage). Besides, it’s great to be able to be two guys up there at the very very very sharp end of things – you can work together and maximise impact/reducing risk of attacking, plus combining your strengths instead of suffering pressure where you’re weaker (for example, Vingegaard might not have the kick but Roglic has, so if they’re together in a selected group the pressure is on the rest while they can opt for the strategy which best suites them).
      Albeit neither very apparent nor as decisive, Froome and Thomas at the 2018 TDF also worked as an effective pressure strategy, like Contador-Leipheimer in the 2008 Vuelta.
      Landa’s presence at the 2019 Giro was relevant but perhaps not as decisive, not as a top GC man, anyway, even if he was finally fourth and pretty much tied on time with Roglic.
      Two historical occasion further back than 15 years but still in the 2000s when the double leaders strategy paid huge dividends were Giro 2004 (although one of the two leaders wasn’t very happy with that and then put it all at risk) and Vuelta 2006.
      Even further back in the 90s, the ONCE team used to leverage a lot on multiple leaders, although not often to great effects.

      However, to be fair one should also include those occasions in which having two leaders actually hindered the chances of one of them, to the point of quite probably losing the race.
      To start with, and only as it was cited, the Itzulia which Pogacar lost hadn’t the UAE roles as defined as Inrng recently commented. Pogacar surely wasn’t to be the only or main leader, even less so once McNulty got the jersey, but it’s not like he wasn’t trying to win, too. The doubt had him losing the race.
      Sticking to GTs, famous races literally thrown away in very recent years because of a two-leader strategy were the Giro 2020 for Hindley and the TDF 2015 for Quintana. I’d add the 2011 Vuelta, but it’s now an official gift to Froome (a real shame), so… To me, anyway, it’s still a good example, because strategy and its effects are about what happened on the road, irrespective of subsequent political games. Not as clear, not at all, but also the 2015 Giro could have a question mark on, concerning this specific subject.

      • Wasn’t the Giro 2020 thrown away by Sunweb because they actualy didn’t apply a two leaders strategy? (They didn’t let Hindley off the leash soon enough, but waited till Kelderman definitely cracked.)

        • That would apply… pretty much to any example above. In short, the idea is that having two potential leaders you both keep high on GC can generate doubts when fast decisions must be taken.
          Of course, theoretically it’s such an advantage that if such a strategy fails under proper conditions, one could always say (or nearly always) that it’s because “you didn’t play it right”, so actually they were *not* two leaders – was Quintana the true leader in 2015, if he wasn’t having a go in order to defend Valverde’s podium? Landa wasn’t the leader that same year at the Giro but they didn’t drop him to help Aru on Aprica, neither did they allow him to attack later on. The reality of the race is that tactics can be a mess and psychological elements also factor in.

          Back to 2020, not to defend that Bora would have won the Giro this way, but only to explore how complex things might become, let’s try an extreme example. Choosing the “wrong” candidate!
          During the Stelvio stage we must suppose that Ineos went all in – hard to imagine they’d go faster even without Hindley there with them, because Dennis gave it all precisely because Kelderman was behind. Now, if Kelderman wasn’t forced to chase alone but had full support by Hindley, he’d surely lose less than 2’18” (just check how much time a then-not-so-brilliant rival as Fuglsang eventually put into him). It’s also to be seen if the Ineos duo would have worked as hard in case of not opening so big a gap behind. Maybe yes, maybe no. But this is just a further detail of complexity.
          It’s reasonable to expect that if Kelderman and Hindley were working together instead of having the former in a desperate lone valley chase, they’d be able to lose a minute or so at most. And that’s pessimistic, even. Kelderman is in pink with 1’10” or so, not 12″.
          Then the same can be applied again to stage 20, with the added factor of a better recovery by Kelderman. Have Hindley just pace him as fast as he can, full stop. He’d surely lose less than 1’35”. We can very easily imagine Wilco and Tao entering the last stage separated by less than 10″, whomever has the advantage. That last ITT is now very less doomed than it was with Hindley facing Tao – and I actually can see Bora winning (or not).

          • I started my racing cycling obsession fairly recently, so I definitely lack your expertise and experience + I watched the 2020 Giro Sunweb “documentary” where their lack of decision was exposed pretty well. (It was Sunweb – not Bora, btw., although both riders switched to Bora of course…)

            I certainly agree with your analysis but it seemed Kelderman was broken mentally (maybe caused by the counterproductive team tactics, sure) and I amm not sure he would limit his losses that much – but, certainly possible, maybe even probable (I am perhaps too influenced by the “documeentary”).

          • Bora ROTFL, good lapsus. My point, anyway, let me stress it again, is not what might have happened or not in 2020, just show with a “forced” extreme scenario that situations can vary a lot just shifting the mere *focus* about leadership, and what might look as a win-win in multiple leadership isn’t always that straightforward. Actually, I’m not defending any strategy as such (see opposite examples above). I didn’t see the Sunweb doc, so I really can’t say, but surely you don’t crack as much with appropriate support; facts on the road, if I recall ’em right (as in “Bora” ah ah ah), show an impressive chase by K against a monstre and fully dedicated Dennis, so it took a good while for him to “crack”, and frankly after such an effort it’s even hard to establish if it’s physical or mental.

          • Yes, I get your point, we can discuss the merits of this or that with hindsight, but the riders and team staff don’t have such advantage during the race and may play the cards the right or the wrong way – without knowing all the necessary intel, context etc.

            In the documentary, there is a short clip from team radio (on Stilfserjoch, under the hairpins climbing the wall closing Trafoital) where Wilco is barely able to speak and says “I cannot follow” or something in that vein, and the DSs must decide what to do, in a moment of huge disappointment, of course… those documentaries are nice imho precisely because we are able to see such moments and therefore percieve the riders but also the team staff as actual humans, not some robots devoid of emotion.

          • Btw Bora also made a youtube “documentary” about Hindley’s travails – but of course, it’s not that good because it lacks the unhappy ending.

  12. Is there a TDF calendar available like the Giro one? Really appreciate all of the free content, this is my home for the next three weeks!

  13. I’ve got an awful feeling covid will totally decimate this race to such an extent it will be pointless carrying on. God I hope I’m wrong, been looking forward to this so much

  14. I love the eve of the Tour starting so much.

    The hype, intrigue and predictions that all add to the anticipation.

    Thanks inrng for providing the coverage!

    My only prediction is the Pogačar wins or he DNFs

  15. Uran? He sits back in 191 in UCI standings. Haig is at 438. Geraint at 793, there are almost 800 riders who have more points. It’s easy for the lazy to list past names who are fading than spot new, emerging riders (or comebacks).

  16. HERE. WE. GO!!!

    Thanks for your preview Inrng. Sadly too much on to follow this year’s race but will await your posts with baited breath.

    Vive le Tour

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