Tour de France Preview

Series 110 of the Tour de France starts tomorrow so here’s a look at the overall contenders for the yellow jersey. It’s a 2022 rematch with Vingegaard and Pogačar clashing again and seemingly everyone else chasing the third step of the podium.

It’s hard to pick between Tadej Pogačar (UAE) and Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma). For fun I was wondering if this website could serve a pro-Pogačar preview to readers with IP addresses ending in an even number and a Vingegaard-victory version to those with an odd number but fear not, everything below is as normal.

We’re promised an enticing battle across three weeks with two riders who can operate on a level above the rest, each backed by strong teams. It’s brittle scenario though, great races can come down to a duel but it’s risky if they begin with one: look at this year’s Giro where Evenepoel was gone by the first rest day, or Liège-Bastogne-Liège were Pogačar crashed before he’d reached Bastogne. With four Saturdays to go until Paris, we’ll see what unfolds.

Let’s start with Jonas Vingegaard (Jumbo-Visma) as last year’s winner. He got a pasting in Paris-Nice this spring but ever since has looked stronger and crucially more confident, he’s attacking when he wants and shaping races through his actions. We saw this in April’s Basque Country tour with three stage wins. He was unchallenged in the recent Critérium du Dauphiné, and when wasn’t winning mountain stages or taking time on rivals in the time trial he was leading out his colleague for sprint wins. He comes with a very strong team on paper although we should note they weren’t dominant every day in the Dauphiné. This year there’s no co-leader, interesting as his triumph on the Col du Granon relied in part on him and team mate Primož Roglič making the old 1-2 attacks on Pogačar, a tactic they can’t try now. Calm and not that fussed by media duties he can handle sole leadership. Tactically his team will aim to apply pressure wherever possible and will bank on the Dane’s comparative advantage in the high mountains: as well as the Granon, remember Vingegaard put a minute into Pogačar on the Hautacam summit finish last year and won the Rocamadour TT. He’s not as punchy as Pogačar when it comes to the time bonuses and we’ll see how he races, does he put pressure on his rival in the opening week to test his injury and form, or wait for the high mountains in the third? If it’s the latter he’ll have to remain very close on time, easier said than done…

Tadej Pogačar (UAE) is back after breaking his wrist in Liège-Bastogne-Liège, an unwanted exit at the end of a dominant spring campaign that saw him winning stage races and Monument classics alike. The scaphoid injury isn’t sore anymore but he says he has reduced movement which isn’t normally a big problem now but could become sore after weeks of riding. Still he’s hardly a late entrant panicking for form, it turns out he even thought about riding the Dauphiné as a test. He’s just won the road and TT titles in the Slovenian championships and if the opposition wasn’t fierce, everything points to him being able to start the Tour fast, he’s even contender for the opening stage in Bilbao and if anything the long lay-off should leave him fresher. For years his UAE team wasn’t strong enough, decent but not at the level befitting Pogačar and a team backed by piles of petrodollars. Now they’re looking much more solid, typified by new hire Adam Yates who was the best of the rest in the Dauphiné and now, while notionally a co-leader, will surely work for Pogačar as long as the Slovenian champ is a contender but this time UAE can use Yates to make Vingegaard react. With the team strength corrected, there are two remaining challenges for Pogačar. The first is like one of those job interview replies where Pogačar would say his weakness is that he’s actually too hard working, it’s true because he’ll be hustling for time bonuses and stage wins from the start and so burning energy he’ll need later but it’s not like he’s showboating, his sprint means he can create time gaps and collect time bonuses, an advantage over Vingegaard and the rest to seize. The second issue could be heat, one of the factors behind his defeat on the Col du Granon was infernal temperatures so trying to predict his performance could involve forecasting the weather too but everyone can train to adapt to this. We can question the form, worry about the heat but he’s a dynamic rider who’s hungry for a third tour title.

It does feel like a duel for the win, and a second race for the third step of the podium. Absent Geraint Thomas, David Gaudu (Groupama-FDJ) was fourth last year but at 13 minutes and as hard as Netflix tried to ham up a podium battle, he was six minutes behind Thomas. If he hadn’t been fourth last year would be talking about him today? Yes, because he had an excellent Paris-Nice, kicking sand in Vingegaard’s face at times. Tables were turned and them some as he was on the receiving end in the recent Dauphiné, even joking he didn’t see Vingegaard as he was so far back, but the hestruggled to account for the lack of form. He had a relatively poor Dauphiné in the mountains the previous year too. Whisper it but perhaps not really a pure climber, sure he’s light but he’s punchy and arguably better at shorter efforts rather than 40-60 minute climbs, last year he was good on the finish above Mende, less so on the Galibier and Alpe d’Huez; this time he’ll like the Puy de Dôme and the Grand Colombier, he’ll fear the Joux-Plane and Col de la Loze. As this summer’s Pédale magazine put it, at least right now we can still dream of Thibaut Pinot winning, as once he’s retired this October no more. He’d like a high finish among his peers but and stage wins but having ridden the Giro we’ll see with the form across three weeks.

Jai Hindley (Bora-hansgrohe) was looking great in the Dauphiné, although still behind Adam Yates, visibly he seemed a touch beefier and less waif-like but that could just be . He’ll like this route with climbs and only one short time trial. His team look solid and as we’ve seen in the Giro he’s still handy deep into the third week but the Tour is a bigger challenge.

Ben O’Connor (Ag2r Citroën) finished on the podium of the Dauphiné and he and his team would surely sign today for the same in Paris. 4th in 2021, he was on the podium of the Dauphiné last year and came into the Tour with a lot of pressure. That’s reduced but there’s the still the feeling Ag2r Citroën are carrying a basket of eggs around France for the next three weeks, one slip and their Tour could turn into a mess although to mitigate this they’re after some stage wins from others too. On the plus side he’s an agressive rider, if he can attack at times he will and this means he can put daylight into rivals – à la Dauphiné – but other times it’s a boomerang move that sees him come back.

Richard Carapaz (EF Education-Easypost) is a pick on pedigree, not form. A Giro winner, he’s been on the podium before in the Tour too and his new employers crave a third place or more. At his best he’s a dogged rider who attacks when everyone else is trying to catch a breather but this year he’s been struggling after off-season tonsil surgery. Can he mount a sustained GC bid or is he going to end up stage-hunting? While the Pyrenees rush up quickly this year they’re not fierce so he’s got some time on his side before things get selective on the flanks of the Puy-de-Dôme. Team mate Neilson Powless could place high on GC but more likely from getting in a breakaway or two in the mountains rather than hanging out with the yellow jersey contenders; Rigoberto Urán can still aim for a high GC position too but aged 36 the odds of being a podium contender look long.

Simon Yates (Jayco-Al Ula) is another rider with a big palmarès but a stealthy profile right now. Close to winning the Giro in the past, a Vuelta winner, he’s DNF’d his last three grand tours. He’s proved an excellent stage hunter in July but that’s because dreams of the podium were rudely interrupted by fate. He left Romandie with Covid and hasn’t raced since but here’s a course to suit and at his best he’s an aggressive and tenacious rider.

For years you’ve read “Sky/Ineos come with a strong squad”, and once again it’s true but this time there’s a different feel, the days of winning the GC look old and behind the scenes the roster is having a big clear out. Egan Bernal just starting is a triumph after his crash but where will he finish? A top-10 is possible by riding steady. Dani Martinez was supposed to be the GC leader but a podium would be a big ask even if he’d won the Dauphiné, where instead he finished 23rd. Carlos Rodriguez was 9th in the Dauphiné and was riding high in the Vuelta before a crash saw him finish seventh overall in Madrid, he looked on the up of late. Tom Pidcock (pictured) is the curiosity, there’s talk of a GC bid but more in the sense of seeing how far he can go, a test both of performance but also concentration to grind out a result without making a mistake, it’s hard to see him going up against Pogačar and Vingegaard but his descending skills give him options few enjoy. We’ll see how the race, will the train formation of old come out or could they take some risks with these four?

Enric Mas (Movistar) had a poor time at the Dauphiné, finishing 17th overall and putting it down to diarrhoea. Otherwise he’s finished either fifth or sixth in the World Tour stage races he’s done this year, how to improve on that here in the Tour? He was second in the Vuelta last year and that kind of riding saw him distancing everyone but Evenepoel. Second in the Tour de Romandie, Matteo Jorgenson keeps on improving but he’s more likely to save himself for stage wins from breakaways, he was three times in the top-5 last July and sprints well so could convert this into a win.

Is Mattias Skjelmose (Lidl-Trek) the new Vingegaard? Not really but since he’s Danish, younger than Vingegaard and a stage racing talent you can see why the label gets applied. A revelation last season, a confirmation this season and he’s started winning big races. Take the Blondin dictum of “show me who you’ve beaten and I’ll show you what kind of rider you are“, he’s fresh from winning the Tour de Suisse ahead of Ayuso and Evenepoel. Being Danish helps as the media will be after his senior. He’s ridden a Giro but having a tilt at the Tour de France now is more than a step up so just a solid performance would do well and he’s on a team of attackers who can lend support but won’t be riding in train formation for him all July. Team mate Giulio Ciccone says he wants a stage and the mountains jersey so he’s likely to lose time deliberately – reculer pour mieux sauter – but he’s a gifted climber and if he’s got his Dauphiné form, why give up time too soon?

Romain Bardet (DSM) was sixth last year, a salvage job having exited the Giro after falling ill. Now with a bigger focus he could do better and the course suits here with a short hilly time trial and plenty of mountains. He says the build-up has been much better but comes with no set goals, a tilt at GC is the starting point but he’s after an “intense” race, he wants to get stuck in rather than follow wheels.

Bahrain come with a trident of sorts. Mikel Landa is an intriguing rider this time, yet to win a World Tour stage race but this year he’s been runner-up to Pogačar in the Ruta del Sol and runner-up to Vingegaard in the Tour of the Basque Country and so if he dials back the romantic attack-in-the-drops moves and plays the percentages he might not enchant the fans but could get a result here. Pello Bilbao has been top-10 in the Giro three times, once in the Tour too and can be an exciting attacker, this time he says he’s so excited by the start in his home region that he’s hardly looked beyond the opening weekend but there’s plenty for him to like once the race returns to France. Jack Haig joins your blogger in attempting the Giro-Dauphiné-Tour triology this year and just behind the keyboard it’s tiring but the one time Vuelta podium finisher will first aim to finish the Tour after two DNFs and is a wise, intelligent rider who might not try anything spectacular but offers a steady alternative to volatile Landa and Bilbao.

Any others? Guillaume Martin (Cofidis) is going for GC but a steady result rather than yellow, ditto Louis Meintjes (Intermarché-Circus-Wanty) although the former could show more. Alexey Lutsenko (Astana) was 8th overall in the Tour last year and the team would sign for this today, it’s hard to see more but he can poach stage wins on the way. Julian Alaphilippe (Soudal-Quickstep) has worn the yellow jersey the last three times he’s ridden the Tour but early in the race, the magic of 2019’s GC bid was surely exceptional.

Jonas Vingegaard, Tadej Pogačar
Mas, Carapaz, Hindley, Landa, Bardet
Yates x 2, Skjelmose, Rodriguez, O’Connor, Gaudu

37 thoughts on “Tour de France Preview”

  1. A lot of excuses are made for Pogacar losing last year’s race, but to me he just looked like the second-best climber.

    People are saying he mis-fed (as he claims) on Stage 11, and that he also fatigued himself on that stage chasing Roglic’s attacks.

    Possibly so, but he lost a lot of time. He also then lost a minute to Vingegaard on Stage 18.

    I suspect people are biased because Pogacar is such a brilliantly entertaining rider to watch. I dearly hope that he carries on like that, but I suspect we’ll see him attacking less early on in the race than he did last year precisely because that uses up energy for little time reward.

    I’ve no idea which of Pogacar or Vingegaard is better: I only hope that Pogacar is fully fit because, although I don’t care who wins, I really don’t want to see a one-horse race.

    • I don’t think that many people disagree to be honest?

      It’s just the hype bigging people up preTour.
      Pog is still the best all round rider in the world so easy to hype…

      Anyone who follows cycling knows that he’s been dropped by Vinny once on Ventoux 2021 and twice in 2022 – One of those could be attributed to Pog already having won so checked out psychologically but also true to say Pog’s not one to let people go up the road… One could be fairly attributed to poor tactics on his part when chasing Roglic last year on Granon whether the feed played a part of not. One could be attributed to the crash on the descent in the penultimate stage last year.

      All have mitigating factors but three starts to look like a pattern – hot weather, high climbs V has the edge which is why even without the wrist I think Jonas is the favourite this year and could possibly be the slightly better climber overall even if he does have a stronger team also to bruise Pogacar with.

      This year the wrist would be the excuse but in all honesty for a rider of such incredible talent and joy as Pogacar who cares if there’s an excuse, he gives endless pleasure to me and others watching just by turning up – I love him as a rider and cannot wait till tomorrow just because of him and how he approaches racing – even losing you know he’ll provide some fireworks which is more than can be said of almost all other Grand Tour winners/podium finishers recently – no matter how much I like them.

      Contador would give you something
      Nibali often would also despite his Tour win being dull.
      Froome is often harshly remembered despite being exciting when not winning.
      Roglic and Simon Yates usually gives you a story somewhere!

      Not sure who else is really exciting in recent Grand Tour specialists, I love Uran but he’s not really exciting, same with Bardet despite both nabbing podiums in Froome years. Dumoulin’s Giro win was spectacular but he sadly imploded after. Remco bores me to tears. Thomas is strangely more exciting when crashing and not riding full diesel in Grand Tours, again however much I like him.

      This year is exciting because of Pog and I’m so happy he exists.

      • Ok, but which of the two do you think could measurably improve from last year? As our host suggest, you can train to become heat (and altitude) adapted. I am Danish and want Jonas to be the top dog, but I think Pog just has a deeper pool of talent to build off. Either way, I hope it is a race deep into the third week.

      • Horner has some interesting views on the two stages last year.

        Pog definitely didn’t feed on Granon. Less because he forgot than the fact that he doesn’t have a team mate and just couldn’t get his hands on as much calories.

        The last mountain stage, the crash had less effect than the fact that he was tired out being forced to unsuccessfully attack Jonas for so many times over the race.

        • According to available data, Vingegaard is able to put more watt/kg on longer climbs than Pogačar, iirc? It’s sad it came to such knowledge determining expectations and I actualy hope Pogačar would catch up the Dane, but I expect Vingegaard to win rather conclusively, unfortunately.

  2. Impossible to look beyond Vingegaard and Pogacar. Assuming that those two aren’t affected by crashes or illness, I reckon that the only other person who could conceivably win is S Yates, if he could somehow reproduce his 2018 first two weeks Giro form for the whole three weeks – highly unlikely. My best bets for third are Hindley and Skjelmose.

  3. Hindley or Skjelmose the best of the rest for me, really interested to see how the latter does in his first run at GC in a GT. If I were them I’d base my whole race tactic around aiming for 3rd and then just hope Vingegaard or Pogačar fall ill.

    I think Pogačar will race more conservatively this year and hold it together thanks to his team being stronger, so less chance of an ambush ala 2022. Hopefully it’s a real battle come the final week, though, whomever comes out on top.

    • @ Bennn : Chainrings are for victory only, not for podium spots.
      Hope nobody crashes and we get a real dual – if another surprise winner joins the battle, why not ! Let’s do a 1989 Tour all over again – and the Puy-de-Dôme is here to prove it will be a great Tour. Hopefully we will see le Grand Fusil at the start of Clermont-Ferrand, and Darrigade in Dax, the day when Cav will win for him (with tears in his eyes – the old Cavendish likes to cry:) ) Like many, I would prefer Pogacar to win, but I think Vingegaard is the favourite.
      Vive le Tour !

      • I don’t know “Grand Fusil” Geminiani will be there for the TV cameras but apparently he’s booked lunch for the rest day with Christian Prudhomme. A fascinating character, a big personality as a rider and a manager. If he was a team manager today Netflix would home in on him for sure.

    • My money is on Gaudu being nowhere near third (just like last year time wise). I suspect it’ll be an all-Aussie battle between O’Connor and Hindley with Skjelmose chasing hard.

  4. Mr Inrng, I just want to mention your photography editing skills / visual taste is beyond categorisation. I am usualy in awe of the photographs you chose to supplement your brilliant texts.

    Concerning the race, I just hope everyone finishes as safe as possible and that Pogacar’s wrist won’t prove decisive. Also that Cav won’t devour the Canibal, frankly – but that won’t be a popular opinion I suppose. 😀

    And may the most daring rider win!

    • Agreed, re the photo choices – the one of Yates (I believe from the Napoli stage of last year’s Giro) is particularly dynamic.

      I wouldn’t mind seeing Cav get his stage, though I am not especially partisan about any rider, but I feel like it’s more likely he doesn’t quite have it in this calibre of field and/or he misses the timecut on one of the many short mountain stages.

  5. JV worked over Pog last year with the 1-2 combo’s. I hope UAE try to do the same this year. Vingegaard looks vulnerable to being shaken up and panicking. A good test for him this year.

  6. Im excited, i think more so, about the 3rd place spot. Hindley seems like the best option but Skjelmose, and Gaudu seem to be right there in that same category with Hindley. Its hard to disregard Carapaz also for as a 3rd place contender. If Pogi rides smart and learned from his mistakes, I think he will win this years Tour. For what it is worth, my pick for stage 1 and first wearer of the yellow jersey is Julian Alaphilippe (wild card but I dont see any GC contenders taking that many risks one stage 1).

  7. Not a mention of Gino Mäder? his death must have an influence on the race, has it been forgotten so quickly? there are some stages with downhill finishes.

    Similarly the current situation in France could well have a part to play, there is talk (perhaps over excited right wing newspapers) of a “state of emergency” how does that fit with the worlds biggest sporting event? One of the joys of the race is how it is so deeply embedded in French society, you cannot divorce the race from the wider context.

    Whilst I am sure that the statements from UAE about Simon Yates being coleader are a (poor) attempt at mind games there must be doubt about Tadej Pogacer’s form, being away from riding on the road must be a negative no matter how talented he is.

    I must admit to being wrong about Jonas Vingegaard, I had him down as a “one hit wonder” and he is not. He looks to be in very good form and must be favourite.

    However for all the media hype, to reduce the race to a mano a mano contest between the two is simply wrong. It is a three week Grand Tour and there will be random things that happen, spectators with signs, potholes, viruses or badly piloted camera bikes amongst a myriad of other possibilities. There is a high chance that neither of the favourites will make it to Paris without, at least a significant time loss if not a forced abandonment. Those 2 or 1 ring (or even one not there at all) riders can not yet be written out of the script.

    • It’s quite a strange one isn’t it – no reflection on INRNG very much love previews but with incredibly sad case of Gino’s passing… what exactly do you say?

      It’s awful. But cycling is not a rich sport, it cannot make the riders much safer in that particular circumstance… I find sports like boxing and especially MMA impossible to watch because of the bloodlust and near threat of serious injury but I love cycling where deaths are more regular in truth? It’s an awful catch22, knowing there is not enough money to make riders safe without dramatically changing the sport so when riders die you either stop watching in protest or continue watching accepting the sad reality it will happen from time to time and hope for better despite knowing it won’t likely come.

      You’re right it might affect downhills a little in the Tour but in truth it’s likely not much and we and the sport will quickly move on – but just to highlight it is EXTREMELY sad and genuinely tragic such a lovely human being was lost from the peloton, I was genuinely affected by the news and like you are wrestling with what it means to me as a fan.

      I don’t know what to think or what to say.

      It comes down to – those who can must try harder, don’t lose faith, hope for better, cry but be realistic that change is far not near. Then decide whether to watch or not.

      • Adam Hansen said that ASO and the riders’ union had agreed safety measures for a couple of particular descents, which he will apparently be riding a few days beforehand, in order to upload a rider’s eye footage for the peloton.

    • No mention of Mäder? No as it’s a preview looking at the GC contenders.

      But that doesn’t stop any of us thinking of him the rest of the time. Note that his old team mate Pello Bilbao has said this evening he’s picking up Mäder’s idea of making a donation based on every rider he beats in the Tour, good for him.

      Once again a reminder that we don’t know the cause of Mäder’s death, there’s an ongoing investigation. I don’t really want to go down the route of saying “you may think you know but it also could also be attributed X,Y or Z” as this could only add to speculation and uncertainty which is the last thing anyone wants, think of it more just a request that people to hold back from inferences and assumptions when posting comments about what happened, that’s all.

      • Completely agree that speculating on the cause of the accident is inappropriate. However can we really say that this was some freak isolated incident? Every race there are accidents and in many races riders are carted off to hospital with broken collarbones and worse. This must give pause for thought over how races are organised and planned. I cant think of another sport where such a high level of serious injury would simply be shrugged off as “part of the sport”. Other sports face issues too, brain injuries pose an existential threat to sports like rugby & American football, how can football continue if heading is banned? Cycling is pretty unique and outside of the Tour most races struggle for money, concepts like putting ski race style fencing at the side of the road is a non starter. This will be a factor this first time the race hits a twisty steep descent.

      • I agree that we shouldn’t speculate but Pidcock’s comment about there being a strong tail wind and the corner tightening unexpectedly points to something. I wonder whether the inquest will take evidence from the riders.

  8. Pog v Vingegaard or UAE v Jumbo? Either way an interesting contest. For third spot on the podium? Too many to choose from! (although Bardet or Pinot would be “Netflix friendly”)
    (I did have an odd feeling in January that neither Pogacar or Vingegaard would win and some one in blue would … maybe, it was too many “nightcaps”!)

  9. I will go for my POG as my favourite. Aside from the addition of yates as a very capable helper i think POG and UAE learnt a lesson last year about doing to much work early in the race chasing stage wins and keeping everything thing tight. They had bad luck with teammates having to leave the race but to much work means that those that remain have less effort later. I expect a much less aggressive first week from UAE.
    I also expect a less aggressive rave from Jumbo this year so breakaways will have a much higher chase of succeeding.
    Simon Yates i see as my 3rd fav but there are many contenders for that spot with little between them at this point. I consider there is a reasonable chance neither POG or Jonas will win. Its easy to consider them in 100% form but that’s not how rider form always goes. And of course i hope there is none bad luck can happen (especially to ROGLIC). Just look at last year POG crashed on the last mountain stage and Jonas did his best to crash in the TT. They both could have easily not finished with high speed crashes.

  10. Just hope both make it through and one isn’t forced to abandon through a crash or illness. Failing that the best outcome would be that they both drop out and the GC is thrown wide open.

    • Hoping the TdF gets through too. With concerts cancelled here (Mylene Farmer…) to release police for riot duties the same logic could apply to the Tour.

      Hoping for a Pogi victory too though Vingegaard seems more likely.

  11. I’m looking fwd, as always, to Le Tour – with love for this blog also. Many thanks.

    I’m trying something different this year – watching it on the turbo trainer. Hopefully, this way I spend less time on the sofa and I’ll focus my watching more on the exciting parts rather than sleeping off lunch through long transition afternoons.

  12. Roglic, Evenepoel and Ayuso all not starting has to discount the race quality a bit and added to that is the doubt over Pogacar’s wrist.

  13. Don’t listen to him Landa! Don’t ever change your romantic ways; especially attacking in the drops – we love you for it.
    Jonas to win, because Wout is worth 4 of any other teammate.

  14. I hope Pogacar wins. I want him to be rewarded for his swashbuckling spring. The last thing we need is for him to come second and then be told by his team he can’t do one day races any more in order to focus on the Tour.
    As rightly pointed out though it looks like a straight forward two horse race at this stage plenty can and probably will happen. It’ll be interesting to see who best of the rest is and whether they end up fighting for more than that.

    • Don’t think anyone’s about to tell him what to do but I totally agree. I want this rivalry to continue for a long time and Pog winning this year is the best way for that to happen for everyone.

      Sadly I think Vin is a bigger favourite than people realise right now. I firmly expect him to take minutes out if Pog in the high mountains.

  15. For all the predictions and hopes that Pogacar will win this year I don’t see many suggestions to where exactly he should take enough time on Vingegaard.
    Fair enough he’s been the more explosive rider so far and therefore been able to collect time bonuses, but that doesn’t account for much when Vingegaard comes second, and has been able to bank minutes in the high mountains.
    Tactically I think it will be most interesting to see what the two teams comes up with this year as the ground for the one-two doesn’t exist this year. And no, I don’t believe in Yates as a card to play in such a scenario.

  16. I look forward to every July and the TdF and reading all the comments here. I just want a close exciting race. I’d also really love to see Egan Bernal getting somewhere close to his best, does he have a chance of a top 10 ?

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