Pull your chilled drink out from the fridge and sit back for a Tour de France Preview Show on this week's Happy Hour on Instagram. A topic Graham is stoked to share, the Tour de France is off and cycling. So soak into your lazy boy and read below about this year's race.
Table of Contents
Were going to go through a couple of things today. We're going to talk about the route, some of the climbs, some of the teams that will be up at the front making things happen, and we're definitely going to talk about a few of the riders that are favorites for GC. Then at the very end, I am going to venture into the tricky art of trying to pick my favorite for GC at this year's Tour de France. In fact, it's not tricky unless you're trying to get it right. Which is the tough part.
Before we go any further, don't forget about this year's REXY's Awards. Check out more about this celebration here.
It is Tour de France time! Which starts tomorrow (29 August 2020) I'm very excited, I think cyclists everywhere are excited. This is the 107th edition of the TdF, it's going to be 3,407 km which equates to 2,156 miles. The French haven't done well at their own race in recent years, in fact, they've had quite the dry spell. Bernard Hinault was the last french winner back in 1985. But there are a couple of people that could change that for this year's race.
One that came pretty close last year was Julian Alaphalippe of Deceuninck–Quick-Step. Hopefully, he'll be trying to make things happen this year; there's a lot of question as to whether he can maintain that 3-week tour and not fade as he did in the final week like last year.
Let's jump into the route before we get into teams because its good to understand what these riders are up against, especially with COVID-19 concerns. The ASO, the governing body of the TdF has announced that if any team has 2 riders test positive, that team will be removed from this year's competition.
This year's tour is 21 stages long, like many of the previous editions. The earlier stages are a bit hillier than usual. So teams and riders hoping for an easier start will not have that luxury. Though "easy" still is by no means easy at Le Tour. Stage 2 and 4 are brutal with some big climbs. Categorized at 1 & 2. Stage 4 even has an uphill finish. So you have 5 categorized climbs with an uphill sprint to the finish line. It's something that can really split the race early and something that can be a challenge for those who are sprinters and not quite ready to take on hills. When it comes to the sprinters in the race, it is common that some of them don't finish the 21 days of racing because they simply can't make it over the climbs.
There are 9 mountain stages. Only 1 time trial in the whole race. This has been a trend over the previous years; less and less time trials throughout the race. The lone TT stage will suit the climbers and GC contenders still in contention for the yellow jersey which is the overall best time. If you cant climb you cant win the TdF, that's just what it comes down to at the end of the day.
- There are 29 unique climbs in this year's TdF, but no Mount Ventoux or Alpe d'Huez, these famous mountains have long been popular features in the race.
- Alpe d"Huez the most famous climb in the TdF has the names of each winner who has finished atop its peak memorialized on each of its 21 switchbacks
- TdF is one of the most-watched sporting events every year. 2019 had 7.3 million viewers.
Stages 17, 18, and 20 are looking to be quite fierce this year for their grueling hill climbs. But what makes them so unique?
Stage 17: it is the hardest day, known as the Queen Stage, and has the highest elevation point with an uphill finish in Col de Maribel. Which is a new climb to the race. Its a 22 km long climb with the last 4km over a 10% gradient. This is a hefty climb considering its eye-watering gradient and lengthy slope. It's also the highest point throughout the entire race.
Stage 18: Another huge day, featuring a new climb in the TdF that features some gravel riding. It's always fun to throw in mixed surfaces to make things a little more technical.
Stage 20: The only time trial. This is the true test for the climbers in the race and the pure GC contenders. The TT is a lightly rolling 36.2k (24.5 miles) finishing up a 6km climb known as La Planche des Belles Filles.
When it comes to teams to watch in the Tour de France there have been a couple of teams over the years, especially recently, that have really been the most notable teams to watch. For the past 8 years Team Ineos, formally Team Sky has dominated this race-winning 7 yellow jersey 7 and essentially owning a decade of the race. They have won with 4 different riders over that stretch including Bradley Wiggins(first Brit to ever win), Chris Froome (4 times), Geraint Thomas, and Egan Bernal. There was a minor controversy when team Ineos announced their TdF roster a week before the tour and both Froome and Thomas were left off.
Seeing dominance like that is impressive. Of course, you can argue that it gets a bit old to see the same team win every year but still, you have to get out there and make it happen. Once again in 2020, this is the team favored to win.
- Egan Bernal - Strong young rider who became the youngest TdF winner since 1909 last year at age 22! He is considered the favorite to win again in 2020.
- Richard Carapaz - Another young rider from South America. Carapaz proved that his legs could carry him to victory when he won the Giro d'Italia last season besting Primoz Roglic.
Jumbo Visma is also another team with great talent. This year they've really brought a strong team to the race and they have a couple of guys who can definitely contend for that top step. They should really animate the race and make the outcome more than a foregone conclusion.
- Primoz Roglic - Roglic was looking like he was in top form when he crashed at the Criterium de Dauphine leading up to the tour. Despite this, the 30-year-old Slovenian could easily win the tour if his injuries are minor. Only time will tell.
- Tom Dumoulin - Dumoulin has been close to winning the TdF. Had it not been for some bad luck or maybe a little more luck, he could have easily worn the yellow jersey in Paris! He's had a very winning career including an overall victory at the Giro and a world champions victory for time trialing.
EF1, Education First 1- which is an American Team. WOO! Truly one of the strongest teams in the race this year. I've been a fan watching them for some time now, probably because they're American and we don't have a lot of teams racing in Europe. They have 3 guys that could possibly be riding for yellow in this year's tour!
- Sergio Higuita
- Danny Martinex - interesting pick, just won the Daphne
- Rigoberto Uran
We have these giant teams that I've just mentioned, competing to get their best rider on the top step of the podium, some even have more than one contender for that spot. Other teams are maybe vying for the polka dot jersey (best climber), green jersey (best sprinter) or possibly looking for stage wins. A great example of this is team Bora Hansgrohe which has spent their recent years helping famous rider Peter Sagan win his record 7 green jerseys.
There are 21 chances to win a stage and one single victory could be a successful Tour de France for some of these smaller teams. Some teams will actually tailor their entire roster not to win the yellow jersey, but for specific stages. It's good to remember that every day is a new race so every day becomes a chance to win.
From Team Deceuninck–Quick-Step: Julian Alaphalippe - almost won last year's race.
From Team Jumbo–Visma: Wout Van Art - JV is loaded with talent. With Roglic's health in question, anyone of their riders could take on the tour!
Also from Team JV: Sep Kuss - American, very strong climber.
From Team UCI WorldTeam Groupama–FDJ: Thibaut Pinot - Pinot is another strong climber who could bring glory to France! The real question is can FDJ outduel team JV or Ineos?
So this is a tough call. Unlike previous years when it was a foregone conclusion that Ineos would just ride away with the jersey, we have a TdF that looks more balanced. Actually, I take that back. It looks like Jumbo Visma has the strongest team with a few other teams that could manage to finesse their GC contender onto the top step.
To make matters more confusing, my initial pick, Primoz Roglic of Jumbo Visma, crashed a week ago in a warm-up race. Without knowing how he's feeling I have to go with his teammate Tom Dumoulin who missed last season because of injury but looks like he may have formed. With that in mind, Roglic will lead Jumbo if he's up for it and I've wasted my pick.
My other pick may also surprise you but I feel like Richard Carapaz of team Ineos could be waiting in the wings to be launched if Egan Bernal doesn't perform well. Bernal, though still, the favorite to win hasn't looked like he did coming into last year's race forcing me to shy away from a second rider who could absolutely come into form in the tour and prove me wrong!
Anyway, that rounds out my preview of the tour and I hope you are tuning in to see some Tour de France racing this weekend! Tune in every Friday during the TdF for updates and to hear if my picks were wrong! Until next time, cheers!