The 2020 Tour de France is just two days away. Preparation is complete, press conferences and team presentations are underway, and riders throughout the peloton will be raring to go in Nice on Saturday.
Those men who will fight it out for the yellow jersey over the next three weeks are anticipating a tough first week, with forays into the hills and even two summit finishes on the menu.
Ranking them all now, before a wheel has been turned, is more art than science, but who better to do it than a man who has been there, done that and got the yellow jersey to prove it?
We've drafted 2010 Tour winner Andy Schleck to run his rule over the top contenders for yellow this time around. Read on about his picks.
★★★★★ – Primoz Roglic (Jumbo-Visma)
This is a different year with what’s happened because of the COVID-19 pandemic pause but from what I’ve seen from Roglič is that he’s one of the only riders to get better since lockdown began. It shows that he’s done his homework and on paper he’s the favourite.
We still need to see how his Dauphiné crash affected his condition and shape but I don’t think that the crash has broken him. I believe that if he’s on the startline at 95 per cent then he’s my main favourite for this year’s Tour de France.
He can do it over three weeks and you can see the progression that he’s made from last year to this year. He’s very stable and looks really confident. He can climb with the best and the last time trial is made for him. He gets five stars.
★★★★☆ – Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ)
It’s difficult to say who the next main challenger is but I would go for Thibaut Pinot. In the last few years he’s been strong and you start to pick him as a favourite half-way through the race but something happens.
We’ve seen riders like that in past, let's take Cadel Evans for example. He was up there for years, even wore the yellow jersey but in the last week he crashed or cracked. But then one year he didn’t and that was 2011.
I believe Pinot is getting more mature with each passing year and his time away from the Tour was good for him. I’d have him as a guy who can finish on the podium and challenge for the win.
★★★★☆ – Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers)
It’s not easy to come back and defend your Tour de France title. Not every rider can do it. He was young when he won and he’s the king of Colombia, but it’s not so easy repeating your success when you’re young and there’s a lot of pressure on your shoulders.
The glory is great and it pushes you forward in many ways but you also pay a price for it, and I’m not 100 per cent sure that he’s on the level or if he’s stable enough to pull it off again. I’d put Pinot ahead of him.
I don’t know that much about his back injury but we have to remember that he didn’t go in as a favourite last year. It was a bit like when I did the Tour early on with my brother Frank and Carlos Sastre. It’s totally different going in a bit under the radar than being the undisputed leader.
He had some bad days last year but he only lead the race for a few days. He has a strong team around him, but mentally I don’t think that he has the same edge as someone like Roglič or Pinot, who are both used to going into Grand Tours as the sole leader.
★★★½☆ – Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep)
I’m a big fan of Julian, and I wish him a podium or the yellow jersey in Paris, but I’m still not 100 per cent convinced because this is a totally different Tour than last year.
There are more mountains, the stages are tougher but I think he’s ready and possibly has more in his legs than he’s showing at the moment. He’s also got a new girlfriend, which is great and that’s good for motivation.
We’ll see him winning stages and I hope to see him in yellow because I think that he’s an amazing figure and good for cycling.
★★★½☆ – Tadej Pogacar (UAE Team Emirates)
He’s a huge talent, maybe one of the biggest young talents out there. He’s also shown that he’s come through lockdown in good condition but no one really knows where to place him right now because he’s not raced the Tour de France before.
I don’t know if he’s a winner or a podium contender or someone like Fabio Aru a few years ago, who could win a stage and then finish in the top ten.
★★★½☆ – Mikel Landa (Bahrain McLaren)
Landa has incredible class on the bike but you have never really seen consistency from him. One week he’s incredible but then next time you look at him he’s in the middle of the peloton and just cruising along.
He changed teams and he’s the main guy at Bahrain McLaren now but you just never know. He’s shown some good form in patches and maybe he can grow into the Tour even if he doesn’t have the best start. A lot will depend on how he starts the race and settles in over the first few stages.
★★★☆☆ – Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic)
I must admit, I’ve never really seen him as a threat to the yellow jersey but this is a different Tour in a very different season. He has a chance but it’s now or never.
His team isn’t like Jumbo-Visma, Ineos or Groupama-FDJ and he’ll be a lone fighter but he’s also someone who can do some real damage. He can be a contender but he has to wait until the last week and then make his move.
If he is in yellow too early then he doesn’t have the team to defend him. He needs to keep in contention until the final week and then make his move.
★★☆☆☆ – Rigoberto Urán (EF Pro Cycling)
He’s a bit like Landa in that one year he’s good but then the next year you don’t see him. He’s not always in the spotlight but I think he’s a classy rider.
I’m not sure where his form is but I’ve read a few articles and he’s said that he’s in the shape of his life. I think that he’s a top-ten contender but I can’t see him finishing in the top five this time.
★★☆☆☆ – Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo-Visma)
He might be on the wrong team if he wants to be on the podium because he could be at the Tour just to support Roglič, but if there are any questions over the Slovenian’s condition after his fall then we could see Dumoulin step up.
It’s been a long time since he’s done a three-week race, however, and that would be my only question mark at this point.
★★☆☆☆ – Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe)
We’ve not really seen him progress, and in my eyes if you finish fourth one year but then don’t really show a massive progression then I don’t see any logical reason as to why you’d improve in the Tour.
I think he’s a very good rider, but I also wonder what the aim of the team is going into the race. They’re half split with Sagan and I see Buchmann as a star for the future but I don’t see him in yellow this time around. Also, there are question marks over him and some of his teammates because of recent injuries.
When there are five or six guys left on a climb ‘Emu’ will be one of them, but he doesn’t yet have the horsepower to go with the very, very best.
★★★★★ Primož Roglič (Jumbo-Visma)
★★★★☆ Thibaut Pinot (Groupama-FDJ), Egan Bernal (Ineos Grenadiers)
★★★½☆ Tadej Pogačar (UAE Team Emirates), Julian Alaphilippe (Deceuninck-QuickStep), Mikel Landa (Bahrain McLaren)
★★★☆☆ Nairo Quintana (Arkéa-Samsic)
★★☆☆☆ Rigoberto Urán (EF Pro Cycling), Tom Dumoulin (Jumbo-Visma), Emanuel Buchmann (Bora-Hansgrohe),
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